MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Governor Tim Walz on Wednesday picked a former police chief as Minnesota’s top police officer and one of the Legislature’s top tax experts as his chief tax collector.
The Democratic governor announced six appointments altogether to fill out his cabinet as he prepares for his second term. Most of their agency heads are coming back, but six slots were open — mostly due to commissioners retiring or taking other jobs.
Bob Jacobson, former New Brighton Public Safety Director and Chief of Police, will take over as Commissioner of Public Safety. He will replace John Harrington, who helped lead the state’s response to the violence that followed the police killing of George Floyd in 2020. Since leaving office in New Brighton in 2016, Jacobson has held a range of other positions, most recently as premier of state. As Interim Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Human Services and Interim Chief of Police and Emergency Management Director in Stillwater.
Outgoing House Tax Committee Chairman Paul Marquardt of Dilworth will become Revenue Commissioner. Marquardt opted not to seek re-election to a 12th term in the Minnesota House, where he was one of the leading Democratic voices on tax issues, serving four years as Speaker.
Former St. Cloud Area Public Schools superintendent Willie Jett was named education commissioner to replace Heather Mueller, whose agency was rocked when a $250 million fraud in pandemic feeding programs for school children was revealed. Jett currently teaches leadership development at the University of Minnesota College of Education.
Ida Rukavina, executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools, will become commissioner of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, an economic development agency for northeastern Minnesota. She is the daughter of State Representative Tom Rukavina, a colorful and powerful figure in Iron Range politics, who died in 2019.
Nicole Blisbach will become permanent as commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry after serving as the temporary head of the agency since August.
While cabinet positions are subject to confirmation by the Minnesota Senate, this is not likely to be much of an issue in 2023. Senate Democrats will have a one-seat majority when the Legislature convenes on Jan. 3. The outgoing Senate Republican majority fired or forced some members of Walz’s original cabinet to never give him an up-and-down confirmation vote, maintaining an advantage over most of the rest.
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