Don't be surprised if Minnesota gets a new U.S. attorney next year.
B. Todd Jones, who's completing his second four-year tour in the job, has been commuting between Minneapolis and Washington for the past year as he pulls double duty as acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Jones, a former Marine and veteran of Operation Desert Storm, was tapped to run the ATF in August 2011 after its "Operation Fast and Furious" investigation into Mexican drug cartels went awry. The agency was embarrassed when hundreds of weapons sold undercover were lost and some later showed up at crime scenes.
Jones reorganized the ATF leadership and set about trying to restore agency morale before the inspector general's scathing report on the operation was released in September.
Jones, 55, has acknowledged in recent months that holding two full-time jobs has taken a toll on him and his personal life. He and his wife still have a 17-year-old at home.
So which job would he prefer, U.S. attorney or head of ATF? Jones said this week that he'll go wherever he's needed most, adding that he hasn't even discussed it with his boss, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Jones said that he spends about half of his time at the ATF and that the U.S. attorney's office is run in his absence by a cadre of experienced professionals. "We have a good crew here. And so the challenges here pale in comparison to the challenges of running a federal law enforcement agency that's got responsibility for guns."
Jones might be on tap for another appointment. He has close ties with "Main Justice," where he sits on a committee that advises Holder. Some say he'd make a good federal judge. But so far, there are no openings in Minnesota.
Jones has worked at several top Twin Cities law firms and could return to the private sector. But he's said that public service is in his blood. So expect to find him wherever President Obama says he's needed most.
Dan Browning • 612-673-4493