Meier a new assistant commissioner

By Joe
Albert

Staff Writer

St. Paul — Since he began at the DNR in 2004, Bob Meier has been
one of two men – Mark Holsten, now commissioner, was the other –
consistently working the legislative halls on behalf of the
agency.

Now, Meier is The Man.

As he continues to round out his administration, Holsten last
week named Meier, 43, the DNR assistant commissioner for policy and
government relations. He’ll be the agency’s point man at the state
Capitol.

Meier’s promotion is based on both performance and need.

“We need somebody who’s got that strength there right now,”
Holsten said. “I can’t be there as much as I had been. Bob can, and
Bob has the skill sets to be able to do that, and the respect (at
the Legislature) to do it.”

Meier is no stranger to the Legislature. He’s been the DNR
director of government affairs since he’s been with the agency, and
for 10 years previous directed legislative affairs for the state
Office of Environmental Assistance.

The deputy commissioner, Holsten’s former position, in the past
has represented the agency at the Capitol, but responsibilities
have been juggled and new deputy Laurie Martinson will focus
elsewhere.

Since 2004, Holsten and Meier had worked in tandem at the
Legislature, with Holsten taking the lead and working on things
like bonding and other high-profile issues. Meier started taking
more of the load last session, and will have full responsibility
this session.

“I’ll be over there about 24/7, or at least available to
legislators all the time,” said Meier, an avid hunter and angler
who lives in Oakdale.

Presentations on the agency’s budget proposals are just around
the corner, and issues like forest fragmentation, land protection,
and the Clean Water Legacy will be high priorities, Meier said.

He’s spending a lot of time bringing new legislators and the
chairs of the various committees up to speed on the DNR’s target
issues.

“I have a lot of meetings on my calendar – meeting with
legislators, answering their questions, briefing them on our
issues,” Meier said.

He’ll take on additional responsibilities outside the
Legislature, too. He’ll cover community relations and work with
local units of government to try to strengthen the agency’s
relationship with them.

“(I’ll be) trying to understand the concerns they have and
strengthen our relationship so we can work together more
effectively to meet the goals of conservation, habitat protection,
and recreation,” Meier said.

Meier holds a master’s degree in public administration from
Hamline University, a bachelor of science degree in natural
resource and environmental studies from the University of
Minnesota’s College of Agriculture, and a bachelor of science
degree in agricultural sciences from the University of
Wisconsin-River Falls.

One more hole to
fill

Holsten plans to hire one more assistant commissioner to replace
Brad Moore, the former assistant commissioner for operations who
now heads the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

All of the agency’s division directors will report to that
person.

When Gene Merriam became commissioner (Holsten was his deputy),
he downsized the commissioner’s office by letting go of Kim Bonde,
who was assistant commissioner for administration. For the next
four years, Moore was the lone assistant commissioner.

Special assistant
hired

Mark Matuska has been named as special assistant to the
commissioner. Matuska was a biology teacher and school principal,
and most recently worked as district director for Congressman Mark
Kennedy.

Before leaving last May to become DNR regional director in Grand
Rapids, Craig Engwall was special assistant.

“That role is working across divisional lines and managing
special projects and high-profile conflict resolution,” Holsten
said.

Engwall, for example, was heavily involved in all-terrain
vehicle discussions.

Matuska will spend some time getting familiar with the agency,
then jump into issues like energy and the federal Farm Bill, which
will be written in coming months. As it relates to the Farm Bill,
Matuska will be the commissioner’s office point person for
congressmen and others in Washington, Holsten said.

John Schroers, president of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage
Alliance, said he is familiar with both Meier and Matuska, and
supports their appointments.

“In both cases they are very good moves,” he said. “They can
only help the sportsmen.”

Categories: Hunting News

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