The headline of our daily e-mail politics newsletter asked a rhetorical question last week.

Enjoying your new job, Chris Schmitter? we asked. Schmitter is the chief of staff to Gov. Tim Walz, appointed right after the election.

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By all accounts Schmitter is a quick study, and he won praise from lawmakers during the legislative session. He and the Walz team are also smartly calling people who have done this work before to get their advice.

But with the lawmakers gone until February, a new and in some ways much more difficult job of governing comes into view: managing people.

Schmitter, who managed campaigns and practiced law before this gig, got a taste of managing people — and managing crises — in the past couple of weeks.

First, two deputy commissioners at the Department of Human Services quit. That left the $17.5 billion agency without some key institutional knowledge. Then DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey and his chief of staff resigned. The deputy commissioners returned.

A DFL source familiar with state government told me Walz was warned that Lourey, who came from the Legislature, may not be a good fit. “You can’t steer an aircraft carrier if you don’t have experience on an aircraft carrier,” as the source put it.

And then late last week, Sarah Walker, a Capitol fixture and the deputy commissioner of the Department of Corrections, also resigned under a cloud.

Running a government agency is not like running a business. Still, as my colleague Lee Schafer has pointed out — citing Myles Shaver of the Carlson School of Management at the U — the Twin Cities has a rich corporate headquarters ecosystem. There’s a lot of expertise around the metro about how to manage people.

Seems like a vein worth mining.

By the way, Schmitter got back to me: “In answer to your question: Yes, I love my job — thanks for asking!”

Trump to the rescue

What a difference a few weeks make.

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar recently faced difficult questions about her taxes and marital history. Then President Donald Trump came to her rescue.

“As long as the fight is [Omar] vs. Trump,” a DFL source told me last week, “her personal issues are irrelevant and the Fifth District will rally around her.”

That seems exactly right. Republicans strengthened her hand in her district, just months after speculation was rampant that she would face a DFL primary challenger after she made remarks widely viewed as anti-Semitic.

Republicans further helped Omar on Wednesday at a North Carolina rally for Trump where the crowd chanted “Send her back!”

When all was said and done, Omar’s fellow Democrats had united around her.


J. Patrick Coolican 651-925-5042 Twitter: @jpcoolican