Walz's latest Cabinet picks focused on taxes and business

Gov.-elect Tim Walz nearly finalized his administration picks
Gov.-elect Tim Walz nearly finalized his administration picks on Friday, Jan. 4, at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, unveiling leaders for departments that connect his administration to workers and businesses across the state.
Briana Bierschbach | MPR News

Gov.-elect Tim Walz all but filled out his Cabinet on Friday ahead of his swearing-in next week, unveiling his Cabinet picks for departments that connect his administration to workers and businesses across the state.

Walz announced department commissioners for employment and economic development, commerce, revenue, and labor and industry, as well as three others agencies. He will name his pick for Minnesota IT Services, the government's internet technology agency, later.

The final Cabinet members will be at the center of Walz's tax policy, insurance and other business regulations and economic development across the state, as well as lead agencies that work with veterans and public safety officials.


Walz selected Cynthia Bauerly to continue as his chief at the Department of Revenue, a huge agency with 1,500 employees that oversees tax filing and the collection of more than $20 billion in revenues annually. Bauerly was appointed to the post by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2015.

She will have to lead a particularly tricky filing season this year, after lawmakers failed to align state and federal tax codes last session.

Other finalists were veterans of tax policy and the department, including Jenny Starr who has worked at the department since 2007 in legal services and is an assistant commissioner, and Ann Lenczewski, a former state legislator from Bloomington who chaired the tax committee in the House. The other finalist was Matt Massman, the current commissioner of the Department of Administration.

Employment and Economic Development

Walz went with a new face for DEED, the state's leading workforce development agency that administers grants to businesses across the state each year. His pick, Steve Grove, is the director of Google News Lab whose family owns a landscape business in Northfield, Minn.

The other two finalists were Hamse Warfa, an author and technology and software developer, and Patrick Seeb, director of economic development for the Destination Medical Center project in Rochester, Minn.


Walz picked Steve Kelley to lead the department that regulates major industries including insurance, real estate and major financial institutions. Kelley is a former DFL state senator who developed expertise in health care and energy issues during his time in office.

The other finalists were attorney Michael Krikava and Jacqueline Gardner, a former deputy commissioner of the department, who served under former Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Labor and Industry

Walz picked Nancy Leppink to lead the agency that oversees workers compensation programs and workplace safety and health. She served under President Obama, leading the wage and hour division of the United States Department of Labor.

The other finalists were Brandon Rettke, who has worked with Education Minnesota, and Jessica Looman, who is currently the commissioner of the Department of Commerce under Dayton.

Public Safety

John Harrington will lead the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, an agency that has come under fire in the Dayton administration for technical glitches related to a state vehicle licensing and registration system — known as MNLARS.

Harrington is a former DFL state senator who currently serves as police chief for Metro Transit.

The agency's responsibilities touch many areas of enforcement, including licensing, gambling, alcohol and fire safety.

The other finalists were former Itasca County Sheriff Pat Medure and Jack Serier, the outgoing Ramsey County Sheriff

Veterans Affairs

Walz, a retired master sergeant in the Army National Guard, picked Larry Herke to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, the chief outreach agency for veterans in the states and connects them and their families with state and federal benefits. The department also operates five veterans homes in the state.

Herke currently serves as the director of the Office of Enterprise Sustainability in the state. He's a retired colonel who served 31 years in the U.S. Army and the Minnesota Army National Guard.

The other finalists were Mike McElhiney, chief of staff in the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, and Eddie Frizell, a Minneapolis police inspector who was recently a finalist for the police chief job in Seattle.

Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board

Mark Phillips will continue to lead the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board under Walz, the state's lead economic development agency that administers grants and loans to businesses in northeastern Minnesota.

Phillips has been commissioner of the agency under Gov. Mark Dayton since 2015 and previously served as its director of economic development in the 1980s.

Finalists included deputy commissioner Mary Finnegan and Itasca County Commissioner Ben DeNucci.

Walz announced the latest appointments at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange Building in Minneapolis, the original historic headquarters of the state's largest business organization, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and a marketplace for grain producers and millers since the late 1800s.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.