A St. Paul crowd salutes Mark Holsten

Attended the Mark Holsten appreciation gathering Tuesday evening
at the Holiday Inn East in St. Paul. A healthy crowd of probably
100 people turned out to thank Holsten for his several terms in the
state Legislature and the past eight years on sixth floor of 500
Lafayette Ave. From 2003 to 2007, Holsten was deputy commissioner
of the Minnesota DNR, and four years ago, then Gov. Tim Pawlenty
made Holsten the commissioner.

The crowd included dedicated DNR employees from all branches of
the agency, representatives of state conservation groups, and
several legislators. At least a dozen stood up and commended
Holsten for his leadership during some challenging times in
Minnesota. Highlights of the evening included Laurie Martinson,
Holsten’s deputy, describing the dedication her boss held toward
his staff and the teamwork atmosphere he fostered. Ryan Bronson has
worked for Holsten twice – once in the Legislature and once at the
DNR – and joked that he’s quit working for the man twice, then he
went and embraced his longtime friend and mentor in a big old bear
hug.

Five minutes before the program started, Joe Duggan of Pheasants
Forever asked if I wanted to say a few words. I jumped to the
podium and pointed out how satisfying it was to watch an initially
skeptical DNR staff embrace Holsten and rally around him. It was
equally satisfying to watch this former legislator – who sometimes
found himself in an adversarial role with the agency – embrace the
job and rally around his staff. From a newspaperman’s perspective,
the Outdoor News staff also always appreciated the easy
accessibility of both Holsten and his predecessor, Gene Merriam.
(Trust me, not all commissioners have been as accessible.) Finally,
though Gov. Dayton eventually chose someone else for the
commissioner post, it was pretty amazing the number of people who
recommended Holsten to remain as leader for the agency, even under
a Democratic governor. I’ve never seen a transition before where
that has occurred, and it speaks volumes about the quality of
Holsten’s leadership.

Among attendees it was great to see past commissioner Merriam on
hand and chortling up a storm with his former deputy. During his
comments, Holsten thanked Merriam for mentoring him throughout his
career. As an observer, it was great to see these two guys together
and enjoying some relaxed camaraderie. This scribe didn’t agree
with many of Gov. Pawlenty’s natural resources decisions his last
two years in office, but he appointed two fine DNR
commissioners.

What now after eight whirlwind years of hard work? Holsten told
attendees that he’s enjoying some time at home with family while he
determines the next step of his career. After his wife, Mary, gave
a heartfelt thanks to the crowd, Holsten spoke briefly and admitted
he’s led an unlikely path. He described himself as an out-of-work
school teacher and coach who ran for office, followed his interest
and love for natural resources, and turned it into a gratifying
career. He left the group with some inspiring words: “Never be
afraid to make an aggressive mistake. You never want to look back
and regret an aggressive mistake you didn’t make.” 

Those words of wisdom came from a still relatively young man.

Pheasants Forever’s Joe Duggan emceed the evening, and a number of
conservation groups helped host the fairly impromptu event. All
deserve thanks and credit for putting it together.

From the staff at Outdoor News, good luck in future endeavors,
Mark!

 

Categories: Rob Drieslein

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