Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday appointed one of his policy advisers to oversee railroad safety as Minnesota’s next state rail director.
Tenzin Dolkar, currently the governor’s chief policy adviser on transportation and agriculture, replaces Alene Tchourumoff, whom Dayton picked earlier this year to serve as chairwoman of the Metropolitan Council. Dolkar’s responsibilities will include overseeing rail safety and infrastructure improvements while working with rail companies and communities that are home to rail lines.
In a statement, Dayton said Dolkar, who has served in her advisory role for two years, worked with her predecessor on a variety of rail-related issues.
“Her experience working with Minnesota’s rail companies and with farmers, who need to get their commodities to market, has prepared her very well to serve as the State of Minnesota’s Rail Director,” the governor said.
Dolkar was born in a Tibetan refugee settlement in eastern India and came to the U.S. at 17. She earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies and social work from the University of St. Thomas and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota. She has worked as the legislative liaison and public affairs specialist for the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, as a domestic violence advocate at Asian Women United of Minnesota and as a research assistant for the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse.
An announcement from the governor’s office said Dolkar speaks at least four languages; she is fluent in Tibetan and Hindi, and conversational in Oriya.
Dayton created the rail director position in April 2016 in an attempt to better oversee the Bakken oil trains that pass through or near Minnesota communities. The governor said at the time that he wanted the rail director to help the state improve its emergency response plans for a potential derailment or explosion and monitor rail movements more closely.