UPDATE: Walz names Sarah Strommen to lead Minnesota DNR

Sarah Strommen speaks at a news conference today after being tabbed as the new DNR commissioner by Gov.-elect Tim Walz (far left). (Photo by Javier Serna)

Gov.-elect Tim Walz named new leadership to several state agencies on Thursday, including new DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. The former mayor of the City of Ramsey and a current assistant commissioner with the DNR, Strommen becomes the first woman to lead the agency.

At a noon press conference near Hastings today, Walz and Lieutenant Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan also announced that Thom Petersen would lead the state Department of Agriculture, Laura Bishop will head the Minnesota Polution Control Agency, and Jan Malcolm will tackle the Department of Health.

Strommen’s bio on the DNR website details her role in the Dayton administration as an assistant commissioner for the Division of Parks and Trails and the Division of Fish and Wildlife, as well as the agency’s work with LCCMR and LSOHC.

Previously, she worked as an assistant director and acting deputy director with the Board of Water and Soil Resources since 2012. Prior to that, she worked in the nonprofit sector as associate director of the Minnesota Land Trust and as policy director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. She holds a B.A. from Grinnell College, where she majored in biology and Latin American studies. She used a Fulbright research scholarship for post-graduation field work in Costa Rica and subsequently earned an MEM degree in environmental management from Duke University.

Walz offered the following comments on his new DNR selection: “As a sportsman and lifelong member of Pheasants Forever, I know firsthand the importance of this agency and being a steward of our land. Sarah Strommen built her career integrating science and policymaking across sectors and has a deep understanding and appreciation for our natural resources.

“She embraces our vision for one Minnesota and will work to build consensus among citizens and stakeholders alike.”

In a release from the gov.-elect’s office, Joe Duggan, a former Pheasants Forever vice president, said, “With a deep appreciation for Minnesota wildlife and natural lands, Sarah brings experience, passion, and integrity to the DNR. She’s an innovative and energetic conservation leader, and I look forward to working with Sarah in her new role to conserve Minnesota natural resources.”

Early on Thursday, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr confirmed with Outdoor News that he would not be returning to the role under new DFL Gov. Walz. Landwehr had served in the role for eight years under Gov. Mark Dayton and applied to stay on under the new administration.

In a letter to colleagues shortly after Thursday’s press conference, Landwehr wrote, “While I am disappointed to not continue as Commissioner, I am very pleased that Sarah will be now assuming the mantle starting next week. She is highly qualified, dedicated, and well known in the conservation community.  I wish her all the best, and solicit your support.”

Landwehr, who has a couple of kids in college, said he intends to keep working, preferably within the state conservation scene in some capacity.

“I just found out about this yesterday, so I’ve been processing this for less than 24 hours,” Landwehr said. “Minnesota is a great state to be in for conservation and hunting and fishing, and I’m hopeful I can find something in the state to continue working on the projects we love.”

Landwehr worked for the DNR from 1982 through 1999, primarily with wetland wildlife conservation programs. Later, he directed the Ducks Unlimited conservation programs in Minnesota and Iowa before becoming assistant state director for The Nature Conservancy. A serious hunter and angler, he also is an adjunct instructor of a course on wetlands conservation at the University of Minnesota.

Working in arguably the most scrutinized job in all of state government, Landwehr called the job “an honor.”

“I’ve served alongside so many incredible people doing great work,” Landwehr said. “We’ve had outstanding staff from the deputy commissioner on down.

“We’ve done a lot of great things over past eight years, and I’ve been so honored to be a part of it,” he said.

Editor’s note: While Strommen will be the first woman to serve as DNR commissioner, Laurie Martinson served as acting DNR commissioner from Jan. 4, 2011 to Jan. 5, 2011, between Mark Holsten and Landwehr.

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