The lawyer late Gov. Rudy Perpich asked to lead the state's first Racing Commission is the new CEO and executive director of the troubled Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA).
Rick Evans, 68, of Medina, had been retired and on vacation in Southeast Asia when he heard about the recent troubles of the government agency that runs U.S. Bank Stadium. By the time he returned, the board's leadership had resigned. Although they'd never met, he called interim MSFA Chairwoman Kathleen Blatz to offer his services in the top staff job and she liked him immediately.
"There was something about him," Blatz said Friday of the first phone conversation. "He's really sharp. He's really buttoned down, into details. I need someone I have a lot of confidence in."
The duration of Evans' tenure is uncertain because bills are advancing in the Legislature to restructure the MSFA after the Star Tribune reported that former MSFA Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen used her position to control access to two luxury suites as well as skip the seniority line to claim some of the best Minnesota Vikings seats on the 50-yard line for herself, friends and family. She and departed executive director Ted Mondale as well as the remaining board members — except Blatz — used the two taxpayer-owned luxury suites to entertain friends and family.
The proposal in the Legislature would increase the number of board members to seven, disperse who will appoint them and put the new board in charge of hiring an executive director.
Evans said he will stay on with the MSFA as long as he's needed. When she introduced him Friday, Blatz called him a person of the "highest integrity" with "extensive private and public experience."
He was assistant attorney general for a decade under Warren Spannaus and Skip Humphrey. He has 20 years of business experience as corporate counsel at Metris Cos. and Green Tree Financial.
Blatz nominated Evans for the executive director job at the monthly MSFA meeting. He received unanimous approval from the board.
MSFA Board Member Tony Sertich, said he was impressed by Evans' management and legal background. "And he's just a good guy as well," Sertich said.
Evans took the microphone to introduce himself, first facing the board, acknowledging them, then turning to face the public audience at the meeting. He enthused about the stadium, calling the $1.1 billion public-private project a great man-made state asset.
To the extent that the board's integrity has been damaged, Evans said he'll work to restore it.
He knows how to navigate a prickly path.
When Minnesota voters approved pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, Perpich turned to Evans in 1984 to create the Minnesota Racing Commission. The DFL governor didn't like gambling so he wanted strict regulatory authority, Blatz said, adding that it worked. "There's never been a scandal," Blatz said of Canterbury.
Attorney Doug Kelley said he hired Evans, a longtime professional acquaintance, to help oversee the stock sale of Fingerhut in the aftermath of owner Tom Petters' financial collapse and conviction. "He was magnificent," Kelley said, noting they recovered $170 million from the sale.
He will be paid the same salary Mondale received, about $165,000.