Analyzing a week of staff turnover at the capitol with Blois Olson

A commissioner and deputy commissioner have stepped down at 2 agencies, two other resignations rescinded

WCCO Radio Newsroom
July 19, 2019 - 4:19 pm

It was a tumultuous week at the capitol in St. Paul.

Two top aides at the Department of Human Services rescinded their resignations after Commissioner Tony Lourey himself resigned. Friday, Corrections Department deputy commissioner Sarah Walker stepped down, indicating in her resignation letter that she wants to return to advocacy work.

There are reports that Walker's resignation came following complaints about unspecified conduct, which is being investigated.

"My sense is there is more to this resignation of Sarah Walker," WCCO political analyst Blois Olson said. "I think it has to do with relationships at the governor's office and perhaps some frustration on Walker's behalf with the way in which the agency was being run. She's a veteran of state government and I think her frustrations grew to a point where it was time to move on."

Gov. Tim Walz and his administration are taking a more hands-on approach at the agencies compared to Governor Dayton, Olson reports.

"My sources are telling me that the Walz administration, and the governor's office in particular, are much more engaged in agency operations, meetings and strategies," he said. "That's created a culture where people may not have felt like they could do their job as they wished and I think they've decided that it's time to move on."

RELATEDState human services inspector general on leave following critical audit

He added that it's not easy for new administrations to build a team, while combining new appointments with longtime employees.

As far as the political fallout, Olson says starting Monday he expects the Walz administration to face more pressure for more information about the resignations. 

"I certainly think these are kind of the first dents in the Walz armor from a governance standpoint," he said. "I think people will continue to question and will try to seek some answers on what's going on and why people are leaving."

Olson says the governor, who addressed the media earlier this week after Lourey's resignation, has been "accessible" and "transparent." 

"I think he needs to be careful, though, because if there are real, deep issues or more dramatic issues that caused these resignations and that later comes out, the idea that he said, 'I don't do drama. There is no scandal,' is going to be in the eye of voters," Olson said.

Hear Blois Olson on his "Beers with Blois" podcast. 

Comments ()