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Walz, Flanagan announce first five picks for their administration

Minnesota Governor-elect Tim Walz announced the first five hires to his administration Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 at the Capitol. DANA FERGUSON / FORUM NEWS SERVICE1 / 6
Jennifer Ho was selected to become the next Commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. Governor-elect Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor-elect Peggy Flanagan announced the hire Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 in St. Paul. DANA FERGUSON / FORUM NEWS SERVICE2 / 6
Alice Roberts-Davis announced Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 that she'd been promoted to commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Administration under Governor-elect Tim Walz. DANA FERGUSON / FORUM NEWS SERVICE3 / 6
Minnesota Commissioner of the Office of Management and Budget Myron Frans on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, told reporters about Governor-elect Tim Walz's decision to keep him on in his position. DANA FERGUSON / FORUM NEWS SERVICE4 / 6
Margaret Anderson Kelliher, center, told reporters about her appointment to lead the Minnesota Department of Transportation Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 at the Capitol. DANA FERGUSON / FORUM NEWS SERVICE 5 / 6
Maplewood Mayor Nora Slawik on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, was appointed to serve as chair of the Metropolitan Council in St. Paul. DANA FERGUSON / FORUM NEWS SERVICE6 / 6

ST. PAUL — Governor-elect Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor-elect Peggy Flanagan on Tuesday, Dec. 18, announced the first picks for their administration, opting for two holdovers from the Dayton administration and selecting three others that had served in federal, state or local government.

The pair said the picks help illustrate their vision of building a state government that better represents the people it serves and shouldn't be construed as the third term of Gov. Mark Dayton's administration.

"I think it's an acknowledgment that there is a vision that we laid out during the campaign that was predicated on some of those very shared values that Gov. Dayton had," Walz said. But now, the DFL governor-elect said, there is "a different vision of where Minnesota goes, building on those platforms."

The selections also signal a desire to bring the fight for road and bridge improvements to a top post, with their selection for Commissioner of the Department of Transportation bringing a track record of passing the state's last gas tax hike in 2008.

The five were chosen from a pool of more than 500 who applied to fill 23 department leadership positions. Walz said he would announce the 18 other appointments in coming weeks. Along with the appointees, Walz and Flanagan announced the names of finalists considered for the jobs.

Two Dayton Administration hires will have jobs in the Walz administration, Walz and Flanagan announced.

Current Commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Finance and Budget Myron Frans is set to keep his job as long as the Senate confirms his appointment. And Alice Roberts-Davis will lead the Minnesota Department of Administration. Roberts-Davis is currently the assistant commissioner there. Current Commissioner Matt Massman was a finalist for the position.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, a former DFL Minnesota House Speaker, was tapped for commissioner of the Department of Transportation. While serving in the Legislature, she helped build a bipartisan coalition that overrode then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto on a $6.6 billion transportation plan, which included a gas tax hike.

And as Walz prepares to pitch a transportation plan, Kelliher said she was ready to help make the case to lawmakers.

“This is really about finding ways we work with the partners in the Republican caucuses as well as the business community to be able to bring those votes forward,” Kelliher said.

Walz and Flanagan picked Jennifer Ho to lead the Housing Finance Agency. Ho previously served as a senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama Administration. And Maplewood Mayor Nora Slawik, who served seven terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives, was appointed to chair the Metropolitan Council.

The first picks, which included four female appointees, showed the incoming administration's commitment to hiring a more diverse cabinet, Flanagan said.

"We're not just doing diversity for diversity's sake," Flanagan said. "We want to make sure our leaders reflect folks who are going to get the best results for our state."

Members of the Minnesota Senate will have to confirm the appointees to their positions, but they can begin work prior to being confirmed.

More about the appointees:

Commissioner of the Department of Administration: Alice Roberts-Davis, 47, currently serves as the assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Administration and previously worked in leadership positions at Target Corporation.

Commissioner of the Department of Transportation: Margaret Anderson Kelliher, 50, served 12 years in the Minnesota House of Representatives, including two terms as House Speaker. Anderson Kelliher helped lead a 2008 legislative push to increase transportation funding in 2008.

Commissioner of the Housing Finance Agency: Jennifer Ho, 53, served as a senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama Administration. Prior to that, Ho served as deputy director at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Chair of the Metropolitan Council: Nora Slawik, 53, is the current mayor of Maplewood and previously served seven terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Commissioner of the Office of Management and Budget: Myron Frans, 68, served as commissioner of the Office of Management and Budget under Gov. Mark Dayton and prior to that served as Minnesota commissioner of revenue.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com.