Two deputy commissioners leaving DHS

Two top officials in the Minnesota Department of Human Services are leaving the agency.

The departures of deputy commissioners Chuck Johnson and Claire Wilson were confirmed Thursday in an emailed statement from DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey.

"I am grateful for the decades of service from Deputy Commissioners Chuck Johnson and Claire Wilson, and for their willingness to stay in their positions through the transition from the Dayton to Walz Administration,” said Lourey. “Their guidance, leadership and wisdom was invaluable during the legislative session. We are working to identify an interim deputy commissioner of policy and hope to announce that information in the coming days.”

Wilson's last day is Aug. 1 and Johnson will stay on for a month or two, according to the department. DHS did not say why the two deputy commissioners are leaving. The departures are happening seven months into the administration of DFL Gov. Tim Walz, who appointed a slew of new commissioners and retained others to run two dozen state agencies as part of the transition from the previous administration.

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Johnson has worked for DHS in some capacity since 1989, working on early welfare reform efforts and eventually rose to deputy commissioner of operations, overseeing the agency's budget development. DHS is the state's largest agency and receives the second largest slice of the state budget. The department is in charge of overseeing a broad range of health care services, from welfare and economic assistance, to services for the elderly and people with disabilities.

Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said the departures seem "unplanned" and "hasty."

"I'm very concerned about this. It leaves a very big hole in the leadership of DHS," said Abeler, who chairs the chamber's Health and Human Services Policy Committee.  "He takes a lot of institutional knowledge with him. It's a big agency with all kinds of tentacles. He knows all of the ins and outs."

Wilson has been with the department since 2016 and was appointed deputy commissioner for policy by Lourey  this year. She oversees the department's policy administration and equity work.

"She really has a lot of credentials in caring with people with disabilities and a lot of credibility with me," Abeler said. "I don't know how they replace that."

Brian Bakst contributed to this report