Two finalists emerge to be new MnDOT commissioner

  • Blog Post by:
  • December 6, 2012 - 3:17 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton will interview Bernie Arseneau, a state transportation agency veteran, and Charlie Zelle, CEO of Jefferson Lines, as possible commissioners of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

He will meet with both on Friday, according to the governor's office.

The two candidates to replace Thomas Sorel, who left state employ to become the head of AAA Minneapolis, come from very different backgrounds.

Arseneau has been with MnDOT for nearly three decades and has served a wide variety of roles in the agency. He is currently the acting commissioner. Like Sorel, who had also served as the commissioner under Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, he has a public transportation agency background.

Zelle is as steeped in business as Arseneau is in the agency. He began his career working for Merrill Lynch in New York but left that world behind to help his family's business Jefferson Lines when it fell on tough times three decades ago, according to an alumni profile of him at the Yale School of Management. The businesses is again flourishing, boosting record ridership and expansion.

Zelle has donated more than $40,000 to state political causes in the last decade, including $16,000 recently to the successful campaign against the marriage amendment. He's given money largely to Democrats, including $1,500 to Dayton in 2010. He also gave money to Margaret Anderson Kelliher and R.T. Rybak who ran against Dayton in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. In 2002, he gave $750 to Pawlenty's gubernatorial campaign.

The state campaign finance board does not list any political contributions from Arseneau.

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