Alene Tchourumoff, chairwoman of the Metropolitan Council, appears to be the front-runner to become the next Ramsey County manager.
The Ramsey County Board, meeting Wednesday for the first time since interviewing the six candidates for the position, formed a consensus on two picks: Tchourumoff and Matt Kramer, a University of Minnesota vice president and former president and CEO of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.
But Kramer withdrew his name from consideration late Wednesday afternoon, saying he did not feel it was the right position for him at this time.
Tchourumoff on Thursday sent an e-mail to Met Council members and staffers, telling them that she was a finalist for the Ramsey County job but that she planned to remain on as Met Council chairwoman through the end of the year.
“I have been very clear about my availability to Ramsey and regardless of the outcome of these discussions, I am committed to fulfilling my term,” she wrote.
The next manager will replace Julie Kleinschmidt, who is retiring at the end of June. The board wants to leave as small a gap between managers as possible.
The County Board had planned to invite Tchourumoff and Kramer back for a second round of interviews. Instead, the board will meet Friday afternoon to decide if it wants to begin negotiating a contract with Tchourumoff or another candidate.
The other candidates are Amy Dellwo, government and external relations director at the Minnesota Department of Human Services; Reginald Edwards, Brooklyn Center deputy city manager; Kevin Lindsey, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights; and Ryan O’Connor, Ramsey County’s deputy manager.
Before Kramer dropped out of the running, County Board Chairman Jim McDonough said that the candidate field couldn’t have put the county in a better situation.
“These six are as strong [a group] of candidates as we’re ever going to see,” he said.
All seven commissioners said they were confident that Tchourumoff had the vision, experience and personality to run the day-to-day operations of a county government with more than 4,000 employees and a $734 million annual budget.
She leads the regional agency that runs Metro Transit, treats wastewater and oversees land-use planning for the seven-county metro area.
She was appointed Met Council chairwoman only last summer by Gov. Mark Dayton, but her tenure there may be short-lived regardless of what happens with the Ramsey County position.
That’s because Dayton isn’t running for re-election, and the next governor taking office in January is likely to bring in his or her own people.
As Met Council chairwoman, Tchourumoff has worked impressively well with the county, said Commissioner Toni Carter.
“We have two major focuses, on community engagement and lifting equity,” Carter said. “I was very impressed by her knowledge of us and that this is work she’s already doing in this region. She has a diverse background, working in business and government of all levels.”
Tchourumoff has an extensive background in transportation planning. She has advised the Federal Railroad Administration in Washington, D.C., among other consulting roles. Before joining the Met Council, Tchourumoff oversaw planning for Hennepin County’s Public Works Department.
She became the state’s first rail director in early 2016, a role created to better coordinate rail issues across state agencies.
McDonough said Tchourumoff was a proven leader who collaborates and builds consensus.
“She has an effective style that almost teases things out of people,” he said. “She gets people to buy in.”
Kramer has deep ties to both public and private sectors. A former chief of staff for Gov. Tim Pawlenty, he led the St. Paul chamber for nearly seven years. Since February 2017, Kramer has been the U’s top lobbyist and led its marketing and public relations efforts.
Staff writer Eric Roper contributed to this report.