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More than half of Walz's cabinet picks are women with one left to be chosen

Gov.-elect Tim Walz named some of the last picks to join his cabinet Friday, Jan. 4, in Minneapolis. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

MINNEAPOLIS -- More than half of those picked to lead Minnesota departments and agencies are women.

The announcement came Friday, Jan. 4, as Gov.-elect Tim Walz filled out his cabinet, naming his picks to lead key state economic and labor posts.

The seven picks for departments that lead economic development, commerce, labor and industry and state revenue leave the administration with just one commissioner slot yet to be filled and they fleshed out a tapestry of diversity in terms of gender representation, ethnicity and geography.

More than half of the 23 commissioners slated to serve are women, one in five is a person of color or is indigenous and 20 percent live in Greater Minnesota.

Lt. Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan said an extensive application, interview and community listening process helped the administration build "a cabinet that truly represents and reflects what One Minnesota looks like."

Walz said he had not yet decided who would run Minnesota IT Services and invited anyone interested to apply. The post is an especially important one to fill as the leader there will be tasked with resolving ongoing problems at the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System, known as MNLARS.

"I understand that we will be judged very early in this administration about our ability to tackle issues like MNLARS and most importantly to set a plan forward that something like that never happens again," Walz said.

One hire announced Friday, for the Department of Veterans Affairs commissioner, will mark the first combat veteran who's served in current and existing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to lead the department. Larry Herke served 31 years in the U.S Army and Minnesota National Guard and was deployed to Tallil, Iraq.

"I love veterans," Herke said. "I just enjoy spending time around veterans and hearing their stories."

Here are the commissioner appointments for the positions:

Department of Employment and Economic Development: Steve Grove

Grove, 41, helped found Google's News Lab and worked with the company until 2018 when he and his family returned to Minneapolis. In that job, Grove led the push to create the Google News Initiative. He also worked with YouTube to build the company's first news and politics team and wrote for the Boston Globe and ABC News.

Department of Labor and Industry: Nancy Leppink

Leppink, 60, is a branch chief for the International Labour Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. In that role, she has helped guide discussions between governments and worker groups. Prior to that, Leppink served as an assistant attorney general in the Minnesota Attorney General's Office and later worked with the state Department of Labor and Industry before she was appointed by the Obama administration to serve at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Department of Commerce: Steve Kelley

Kelley, 65, works as a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Kelley served 10 years in the Minnesota Senate and four in the state House of Representatives. He has also practiced commercial litigation throughout his career.

Department of Revenue: Cynthia Bauerly

Bauerly, 47, was reappointed to the post, in which she has served since January 2015. She joined the department in 2014 as a deputy commissioner and prior to that, she worked with the Department of Employment and Economic Development. She also has served in federal leadership and management positions and has worked in private law practice.

Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board: Mark Phillips

Phillips, 68, was reappointed to the position after serving as commissioner under Gov. Mark Dayton's administration. Phillips grew up in Eveleth and went on to work as a business development director at Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. and as Minnesota DEED commissioner before joining the IRRRB.

Department of Public Safety: John Harrington

Harrington, 62, began his career in policing in 1977 when he joined the St. Paul Police Department. He worked up the ranks to become chief of police and served in that role for six years. Harrington later served in the state Senate and in 2012, was appointed to serve as the Metro Transit Chief of Police for the Twin Cities area.

Department of Veterans Affairs: Larry Herke

Herke, 55, is the Minnesota Office of Enterprise Sustainability director and helps guide 24 state agencies to use sustainable strategies. Herke served 31 years in the U.S Army and Minnesota National Guard and was deployed to Tallil, Iraq while serving in the National Guard. He earned the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and Combat Action Badge for his service.