ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Resources official steps down

ST. PAUL -- The state's top natural resources official is among three top Minnesota administrators leaving their posts in a reorganization Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced Thursday, one month after his re-election victory.

We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL -- The state's top natural resources official is among three top Minnesota administrators leaving their posts in a reorganization Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced Thursday, one month after his re-election victory.

Resources Commissioner Gene Merriam said he will retire Jan. 2. A former state senator who was active on outdoors issues in the Legislature, Merriam was one of the highest-ranking Democrats in the Republican governor's administration.

"Minnesota's natural resources are state treasures," Pawlenty said in a written statement. "Preserving and improving them require a long-term strategy and Gene Merriam has been instrumental in leading and advancing our natural resources strategy."

Merriam said a leading accomplishment over the past four years was the state's acquisition of land for a wildlife habitat program.

A key lawmaker on outdoors issues said Merriam was a good match for the position.

ADVERTISEMENT

"He's a hunter and fisherman, and he likes the outdoors," said Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, who next year will be vice chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Budget Division.

More importantly, he said, Merriam was an effective administrator who led the department through tough budget times.

"Because of some fiscally sound discussions by him, things weren't hurt as bad as they could have been," Saxhaug said.

Merriam's replacement wasn't named Thursday. Deputy Commissioner Mark Holsten, a former state representative from Stillwater, is considered a possible successor.

John Tuma of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership said Merriam "has been a very positive person ... for green causes."

If Holsten replaces Merriam, however, Tuma said he "would not engender a lot of excitement in the environmental community."

Tuma said the new natural resources commissioner needs to lead the way on issues such as dedicating part of the sales tax for conservation uses.

Also in the Pawlenty administration shuffle, Finance Commissioner Peggy Ingison is leaving to take a job with the Minneapolis school district. The governor picked Mahnomen native Tom Hanson to replace Ingison.

ADVERTISEMENT

Hanson, who for two years has been Pawlenty's deputy chief of staff, said Thursday that Pawlenty joked with him that Ingison helped pull state government out of a $4.5 billion deficit and "Tom better keep us there."

"I'm excited that the governor would pick me and honored," Hanson said.

Also on Thursday, Pawlenty:

* Appointed senior policy advisor Chuck Noerenberg to the new position of state methamphetamine coordinator. He will oversee anti-meth initiatives.

* Named Ward Einess to become Revenue Department commissioner. Einess has been serving as acting commissioner of the state Department of Employment and Economic Development. He will succeed Dan Salomone, who will serve as deputy Revenue Department commissioner.

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.