Martinson named DNR deputy commissioner

By Joe
Albert
Staff Writer

St. Paul — Mark Holsten, who began earlier this week as head of
the DNR, didn’t have to look far to find his deputy.

Laurie Martinson, who was named to the post last week, is a
former director of the DNR’s Trails and Waterways Division and has
been acting assistant commissioner since August. As deputy
commissioner, she’s filling the role Holsten vacated when he was
chosen to succeed Gene Merriam as commissioner.

“I’m overwhelmed and excited to have the opportunity to serve,”
said Martinson, 46, of Eagan.

Martinson appears to be the highest ranking woman ever to serve
in the agency. Five women have held the post of assistant
commissioner, but a woman never has been either deputy or
commissioner, according to agency records.

She served in Trails and Waterways from 2003 until 2006, and was
DNR field operations manager between 1999 and 2003. Before that,
she worked on water quality issues at the Minnesota Pollution
Control Agency.

Martinson has bachelor’s degrees in environmental studies and
economics from Bemidji State University and a master’s degree in
public administration from Hamline.

In taking over as deputy, she’ll be the commissioner’s “right
hand,” Holsten said. She’ll be responsible for carrying out the
decisions made at the Legislature and other directives from the
commissioner’s office.

“That’s where her strengths really lie,” Holsten said. “Her
attention to detail and strong management skills come into
play.”

The deputy commissioner traditionally has been the DNR’s face at
the Legislature, but that’s changing. Instead of Martinson, that
role will be shifted to Bob Meier, the DNR director of legislative
affairs.

Some Capitol observers were surprised to hear Martinson wouldn’t
be at the Legislature as much as previous deputies.

“I’ve never seen a deputy from DNR not up to their neck in the
legislative process between January and May,” said Gary Botzek,
executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation. “I
don’t think they can break the history on that.”

Instead of legislative matters, Martinson said she will be
concentrating more on managing the department and working on key
issues such as all-terrain vehicles and the 2007 Farm Bill.

Late last week, soon after she was named deputy, Martinson was
in her office poring over budget information, and Holsten walked by
and told her, “That’s why you’re here,” she said.

Holsten will be the “big picture” guy, and Martinson will be
responsible for the actual implementation.

“I’m hoping I can lead some of the more strategic direction so
when we are implementing programs we are thinking about where we
are going with them,” she said. As deputy, there’s “a real
opportunity to lead the department to meet the challenges we see,
and to get us ready for the future.”

Some of those challenges include changes in hunting and fishing
participation rates, climate change, water quality, and
fragmentation.

And off-highway vehicles will continue to be an issue the agency
is spending a lot of time on.

“I think we are moving in the direction of managing ATV use on
trails,” Martinson said. “It’s a huge effort and it takes a lot of
energy.”

Martinson has been in the middle of ATV discussions during her
time at DNR, and did a good job of balancing their recreational
value and the need to regulate them, Botzek said.

“(Figuring out how to manage ATVs) is one of the toughest jobs
in Minnesota right now,” he said.

As field operations manager, Martinson worked with all of the
DNR divisions and worked on their programs and issues. That
experience was key in Holsten choosing her for the deputy role.

“That gives her across-the-agency breadth,” he said.

Both Holsten and Martinson began in their new positions on Jan.
2.

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