Longtime Hennepin County Courts Administrator Mark Thompson is leaving the judiciary to oversee county corrections and public safety.
Thompson, 55, has run the 4th Judicial District, the state’s largest and busiest court, with more than five dozen judges on the bench and 800,000 cases filed each year.
He will now become the assistant county administrator, serving under administrator David Hough. In the position, which is new, Thompson will oversee six public safety departments.
Having worked in the court system for nearly 30 years, Thompson said it was time for something new.
“I like the challenge,” he said. “I don’t do government service because I want to rest on my laurels.”
He believes he accomplished what he set out to do in the courts: establish a positive work atmosphere, integrate new technology and make Hennepin one of the best courts in the country.
Now, Thompson hopes to transfer some of the successes from the court system into the administration, including the development of an adult equivalent to the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.
The widely praised program works to find alternatives to incarceration for juveniles and has successfully slashed lockup rates for teens.
At the county, Thompson said he will be able to work with social services agencies for help with offenders, determining what programs might be most helpful for them. He said the county spends more than $300 million annually on its criminal justice system, including $250 million from property taxes. That’s a sizable chunk of the county’s $1.8 billion annual budget.
Leading public safety, Thompson will oversee the county attorney, public defender and sheriff’s office as well as county court functions, the Department of Corrections and Radio Communications Fund. Corrections, at $105 million, is the biggest chunk, followed by the sheriff at $91 million.
Hough said the hiring was consistent with his consolidation of the county’s 32 departments under five assistants. He said the public safety position is “critical.”
Thompson’s key goal is to enable the computer systems and programs from the agencies, departments and courts to work together to share information.
The county has four other assistant administrators overseeing operations, human services, health and public works, and they work closely with the seven County Board members.
Although he was the courts administrator for Hennepin County, he was a state employee because the state runs the courts.
Thompson is a Twin Cities native and has two sons.