By John Linc Stine, Freshwater executive director
As a former political appointee, I was oft reminded of the phrase, “elections have consequences.” Of course, this refers to the reality that the majority has the right to its ideas and agendas and the minority party must find new ways to achieve their goals.
One of the election consequences is that the governor appoints a cabinet of officials—a set commissioners and administrators who serve at the pleasure of the governor and who must stand for confirmation by the Minnesota Senate. Two of these commissioners—DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen and MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop—are on the list of chopping block names for the Republican-controlled Senate. (Sarah Strommen is the first woman appointed as DNR commissioner.)
Today, anticipating the Republican-controlled Senate would cast a “no” vote on the confirmation, Commissioner Laura Bishop resigned, rather than be evicted from office. Commissioner Strommen’s fate is yet to be determined. These are two very real consequences of the Minnesota Senate elections.
Strommen and Bishop are champions for clean water, tackling climate change, a healthy outdoors and clean air for all Minnesotans. They both have exemplary public services records improving the timeliness of permitting reviews while maintaining strong environmental standards. They do not deserve to be pawns in the political fallout of the 2021 legislative session. Senate Republicans are smarting over their losses and compromises and now seek to exact some payback on Walz by evicting one or more of his commissioners. My words: shameful and cowardly. These leaders deserve to be commended, not evicted.
The job of being a commissioner is a tough one filled with precedent-setting regulatory decisions and lawsuits, financial restraints, and complex management competencies. Strommen and Bishop fully understood the risks and rewards as they considered accepting Walz’s appointment. Heaven knows they didn’t take the job to win any popularity contests. To my knowledge, there’s no performance-based scar to support their eviction—only political payback. The people of Minnesota and the hundreds of public servants in the DNR and MPCA demand a better answer from Senate GOP leaders. Otherwise, politicians need to remember the axiom, “see you at the ballot box!”