In a surprise move, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development [DEED] Commissioner Mark Phillips is stepping down on Friday. Katie Clark, who is the head of the Minnesota Trade Office within DEED, will become the new commissioner.
Both Phillips and Clark have been in their positions since the beginning of Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration in January 2011. Dayton’s office issued a news release saying Phillips is leaving “to pursue opportunities in the private sector.” Phillips was most recently in the spotlight as the point person in Dayton’s administration for setting criteria for selecting economic development projects to be paid for by a new, $47.5 million grant fund that was appropriated in the bonding bill. The situation, which Dayton and Phillips both said was less than ideal, was unusual in that the Legislature gave money to the administration to make decisions on projects.
The main beneficiary of the money, a ballpark for the Saint Paul Saints, became the subject of controversy earlier this month when it was revealed that local officials gave the contract to the Ryan Cos. construction company without a competitive bidding process. The city of St. Paul this week reversed course and decided to seek multiple bids.
When asked during a conference call if either the contract controversy or DEED’s rankings of the economic development projects was a factor in Phillips departure, Dayton’s chief of staff Tina Smith said “absolutely not.”
Clark, 31, has a background in business at Target and National Wind. She was also finance director for Dayton’s 2010 campaign.