Gov.-elect Tim Walz filled out most of his Cabinet after an exhaustive process that included more than 500 applicants for jobs that include running departments with billion-dollar budgets and thousands of employees.
Despite succeeding another Democrat, Walz is mostly relying on new faces to lead his agencies, with picks from the private sector, labor unions, nonprofits and other government departments.
More than 50 percent of the commissioners are women, 20 percent are people of color and 20 percent live in greater Minnesota.
Walz has yet to select a commissioner for the embattled Minnesota IT agency; he said he will fill that role when he finds the right candidate.
Something to watch: A number of the new commissioners have no experience leading large, complex institutions.
Myron Frans, Management & Budget
Credentials: Facing a Feb. 19 deadline to propose a budget, Walz retained Frans, who spent eight years as Gov. Mark Dayton’s revenue and then budget director.
Challenges: After bruising partisan battles with Republicans, Frans may need to mend relationships in the Legislature.
Cynthia Bauerly, Revenue
Credentials: Bauerly is another holdover from the Dayton administration, bringing vital experience after four legislative sessions in which taxes have been a major battleground.
Challenges: Minnesota’s tax system could be due for a major revamp following the 2017 federal tax changes.
Tony Lourey, Human Services
Credentials: Lourey is leaving the state Senate after more than a decade in which he focused on health and human services issues.
Challenges: The agency is responsible for a vast array of programs and services and a rapidly growing budget due to exploding health care costs.
Sarah Strommen, Natural Resources
Credentials: An assistant DNR commissioner, Strommen has expertise in fish and wildlife and parks and trails. She was a mayor of Ramsey for nearly six years.
Challenges: Copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters will test her ties to environmental groups.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Transportation
Credentials: The former speaker of the Minnesota House was most recently the executive director of a technology trade association.
Challenges: Kelliher is the last House speaker to pass a gas tax increase into law, but faces a dramatically different political landscape.
Mary Cathryn Ricker, Education
Credentials: Ricker spent a decade in the classroom but is better known as the executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers.
Challenges: Ricker will face skepticism from Republicans given her union ties and pressures from allies to boost education spending.
Dennis Olson Jr., Higher Education
Credentials: Serves as executive director of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and was commissioner of education for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
Challenges: Higher ed remains a flash point in Minn. as colleges and universities struggle to stay affordable and relevant.
Laura Bishop, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Credentials: Chief sustainability officer for Best Buy was tasked with reducing the company’s carbon footprint by 60 percent by 2020.
Challenges: The environmental threats are numerous, the resistance from business often fierce. Can she adapt to a big agency bureaucracy?
Thom Petersen, Agriculture
Credentials: He was most recently a lobbyist for the Minnesota Farmers Union, making him a known quantity to both farmers and legislators.
Challenges: Strengthening the farm economy as bankruptcies are on the rise in the face of a commodity slump and a trade war.
Nora Slawik, Met Council
Credentials: Slawik is stepping down as mayor of Maplewood to take the job at the Met Council. She previously served seven terms in the state House.
Challenges: Many suburban Republicans are deeply skeptical of the agency, which is a frequent target of partisan political attacks.
Jennifer Ho, Housing Finance
Credentials: Worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a policy adviser in the administration of President Barack Obama.
Challenges: Must tackle the growing demand for affordable housing across the state as developers look toward more profitable projects.
Paul Schnell, Corrections
Credentials: Schnell has served as a police chief in several metro-area cities. He teaches criminal justice-related courses around the Twin Cities.
Challenges: Taking the helm of an agency shaken by the deaths of two corrections officers and recent labor unrest over staffing levels.
Steve Kelley, Commerce
Credentials: Kelley is a former state lawmaker who is now a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Challenges: Kelley will lead a state agency that focuses on protecting consumers. He has unsuccessfully sought statewide office.
Steve Grove, Employment & Economic Development
Credentials: He founded and ran Google’s News Lab and worked on countering violent extremism for the Obama White House.
Challenges: Employers are hungry for workers. The demands for subsidies are endless. How will he work with legislators?
Jan Malcolm, Health
Credentials: Walz will be the third governor for whom she has served, following stints for Govs. Dayton and Jesse Ventura.
Challenges: Malcolm is still cleaning up the backlog of elder abuse cases, while turning her attention to Minnesota’s aging population.
Larry Herke, Veterans
Credentials: Served 31 years in the Army and National Guard. While in the National Guard, he was deployed to Tallil, Iraq.
Challenges: Walz, a National Guard veteran, made veteran affairs his signature issue in Congress. In other words: No screw-ups, no excuses.
Nancy Leppink, Labor and Industry
Credentials: Currently with the International Labour Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, Leppink served in President Obama’s Department of Labor.
Challenges: Labor had a great election in 2018 and will expect results on issues like wage theft. Republicans are sure to be skeptical.
Rebecca Lucero, Human Rights
Credentials: The outgoing public policy director at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits previously worked at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.
Challenges: Given Walz’s theme of “one Minnesota,” he’ll expect a lot from this agency that investigates discrimination.
Janet Johnson, Mediation Services
Credentials: An agency veteran, she has served in several roles until her appointment as the first female commissioner.
Challenges: The agency is little known but at the center of the state’s ongoing labor battles. A growing economy creates more complex labor issues.
Mark Phillips, IRRRB
Credentials: Phillips is a holdover from the Dayton administration who previously served as commissioner of DEED.
Challenges: The Iron Range faces stiff economic and demographic challenges, and fewer allies in the DFL than ever before.
Alice Roberts-Davis, Administration
Credentials: Roberts-Davis is a holdover from Dayton’s administration. She previously served as an assistant commissioner in the same department.
Challenges: The department keeps other agencies running, handling their contracts, purchasing and keeping facilities in order.
John Harrington, Public Safety
Credentials: Harrington is the Metro Transit chief of police for the Twin Cities area and the former St. Paul police chief.
Challenges: Building trust in law enforcement, especially in the wake of high-profile officer-involved shootings, will be a top priority.