New DNR chief will not tolerate arrogance
ST. PAUL -- The new Minnesota Department of Natural Resources commissioner wants to make sure the agency does not appear arrogant.
"I will not stand for arrogance," Tom Landwehr said Thursday, shortly after new Gov. Mark Dayton announced his pick.
Landwehr, who just left a lobbying position, said that Dayton had mentioned an arrogance problem, but he needs to talk to his new boss to hear the details.
"Tom's mandate from me is to bring out the best in the agency and all of its people," Democrat Dayton said.
The research biologist and conservationist said that surrounding himself with the right people will be his first job, right alongside starting to figure out how a $6.2 billion budget deficit will affect his department.
Dayton named Landwehr commissioner of the massive department that does everything from regulating hunting to managing forests. Senators must confirm him if he is to stay in office.
Landwehr worked for the DNR in the 1980s and soon became the agency's wildlife manager and later its Wetland Wildlife Program leader. He has been director of the Minnesota and Iowa chapter of Ducks Unlimited and was No. 2 in the Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota Nature Conservancy chapter.
While working for the conservation groups, he lobbied the Legislature.
Dayton said no agency directly affects the lives of more Minnesotans than the DNR.
A key Republican lawmaker said Landwehr is a good pick, although not the person a Republican governor would have selected.
"He is a strong appointment," said Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, the House natural resources committee chairman. "He will be good to work with. He certainly is not only a professional in the arena, but very much interested in the outdoor area issues. ... He hunts and fishes and enjoys the outdoors."
McNamara has a Monday appointment to get to know Landwehr better, but said he expects to be able to work with the commissioner on issues important to Republicans such as finding ways to help business get permits quicker and reduce regulations.
Landwehr said he understands the importance of expanding mining in northeastern Minnesota and other business-oriented changes. State law restricts what he can do, he said, but he does plan to do what he can to halve the time it takes the DNR to issue permits and to take other actions.
"It is just going to be critical that we find ways to make mining acceptable," said the new commissioner, whose department considers approving new mines.
Landwehr, who said he and Dayton will be in northwestern Minnesota next week, plans to talk to people around the state affected by the DNR to discover what changes may be needed. However, he added, overall the department appears well run.
He said he only expects some personnel "tweaks."
One change he wants is more use of technology, such as computers, to speed the time it takes to serve customers. As an example, he talked about a website that allows Michigan residents to get well permits immediately.
Once "we have time to catch our breath next summer," Landwehr said, he will turn his attention to improving DNR's customer service.
Dayton noted Landwehr's insider's knowledge and outsider's perspective of the agency.
Landwehr, who has a wildlife management master's degree, served seven years on the Shoreview City Council.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.