Gov.-elect Mark Dayton‘s transition staff named three additional state agency appointees Friday morning:
- Brenda Casselius, a veteran of the Minneapolis and Memphis school systems, will be the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education.
- Dr. Edward Ehlinger, the director and chief health officer at the University of Minnesota’s Boynton Health Service, will head the Minnesota Department of Health.
- Paul Aasen, most recently a director at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, will be commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
The Aasen appointment is likely to prove the first controversial pick of the seven Dayton has made so far. (The others: Tim Pawlenty holdover Tom Sorel at MnDOT, Pawlenty deputy commissioner Jim Schowalter at Minnesota Management and Budget, Dave Frederickson at Agriculture, and Ken Peterson at the Department of Labor and Industry.)
Rumors of the Aasen pick have already generated some blowback from Republican activists and bloggers, who imagine that the former enviro lobbyist will try to derail GOP plans to cut regulations and to ensure a green light for non-ferrous metals mining in northern Minnesota. Aasen was already a marked man in those circles for supporting cap-and-trade.
Ehlinger has also been at odds with conservatives on health care policy. He penned a riposte to conservative commentator Jason Lewis in the Star Tribune’s op-ed pages this fall. Ehlinger has long been part of the policy firmament in support of the single-payer health insurance model. In 2009, he testified at the Capitol in support of Rep. David Bly and Sen. John Marty’s Minnesota Health Plan.
The press bios contained in the release:
Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Department of Education:
In her 20-year career as a classroom teacher, administrator and superintendent in school systems both in Minnesota and Tennessee, Dr. Brenda Cassellius led reform, redesign and change efforts that put students first, focused on achievement, and have resulted in better outcomes for all students. Dr. Cassellius believes that change can happen quickly if it is purposeful, collaborative, and grounded in effective strategies.
“Dr. Casselius brings proven leadership in education innovation in both Minnesota school districts and in other states,” Governor-elect Dayton said. “Her experience will enable her to bring together the different education stakeholders and policymakers with differing viewpoints to build the consensus that public education in Minnesota has been lacking for too long.”
“This is a great privilege and responsibility,” said Dr. Cassellius. “I look forward to working with Governor-elect Dayton in tackling the challenges facing education in Minnesota, as well as supporting the many things we do well. The Governor-elect and I share a commitment to our state’s children and families, and I am eager to get to work in making a better and stronger school system for every child in Minnesota.”
Dr. Cassellius is currently the Superintendent of the East Metro Integration District, where she leads an achievement agenda with the 10 district superintendents. Previously, as an Associate Superintendent in the Minneapolis Public Schools, she led 19 middle and high schools and was responsible for the implementation of the Minneapolis Secondary Redesign. As the Academic Superintendent of Middle Schools in Memphis Tennessee under the leadership of former Minneapolis Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson, Dr. Cassellius was responsible for middle school and districtreforms that led to accelerated gains and the narrowing of achievement gaps among students in Memphis.
Paul Aasen, Pollution Control Agency (MPCA):
Paul Aasen brings diverse policy and management experience to the role of MPCA Commissioner. An experienced policy leader and advocate, Aasen brings a deep understanding of the need to both promote job growth while simultaneously protecting the environment. His experiences give him an excellent ability to accomplish this delicate task.
“Mr. Aasen has assured me of his commitment to enforcing Minnesota’s environmental laws, as they are written, impartially and efficiently,” said Governor-elect Dayton. “He shares my view that the agency’s mission, and I believe its name, should be changed from “Pollution Control” to ‘Pollution Reduction.’ At the same time, Mr. Aasen’s training, from his Master’s Degree in Public Health at the University of Minnesota to six years as an Environmental Scientist at the Metropolitan Waste Control Commission, provides him with the qualifications to be an objective and fair environmental regulator.”
“I am honored to again have a chance to serve the citizens of Minnesota,” said Aasen. “Our state faces the difficult task of recovering from the Great Recession while maintaining our clean water and air – all with fewer resources to go around. Three top issues in the next few years are dealing with air quality in the metro area, continuing the clean-up of our lakes and rivers by wisely using the constitutional amendment funds, and making sure the agency moves at the speed of commerce as it does its work.”
Aasen has held positions as the Executive Vice President at Global Volunteers, as Director of Government Relations and Policy in Gov. Jesse Ventura’s office, as Assistant Commissioner in the Department of Public Safety, as Division of Emergency Management Director, as Minnesota Emergency Response Commission Executive Director, and was an environmental scientist at the Metropolitan Waste Control Commission. He most recently was Advocacy Director for the MinnesotaCenter for Environmental Advocacy.
Dr. Edward Ehlinger, Department of Health:
Dr. Edward Ehlinger brings years of public health experience and savvy to the Minnesota Department of Health, as well as strong relationships throughout the medical community. He currently serves as the Director and Chief Health Officer at Boynton Health Service at the University of Minnesota.
“Dr. Ehlinger’s long experience in public health and in leading a key Minnesota health facility position him well to lead the Minnesota Department of Health and to restore our state’s former preeminence in national health care initiatives,” said Governor-elect Dayton.
“This is a thrilling opportunity,” said Dr. Ehlinger. “I take nothing more seriously than the public health, and look forward to working with the Governor-elect in finding new and creative ways to better ensure that Minnesotans are healthy, happy and prosperous.”
Dr. Ehlinger has been Director and Chief Health Officer at Boynton Health Service since 1995. Previously, he served as Director of Personal Health Services for the Minneapolis Department of Health from 1980 to 1995. He is winner of the Albert Justus Chesely Award from the Minnesota Public Health Association, the Advancement of Justice Award from the Hennepin County Bar Association, recipient of the first Ed Ehlinger Award (named in his honor) from CityMatCH (Urban Maternal and Child Health Directors), and the Physician Communicator Award from Minnesota Medical Association.