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Scott Rall: Ushering in the new guard

BY SCOTT RALL

The Globe outdoors columnist

Change is a constant in our lives, and in nature. Some changes come so slowly that you cannot recognize they are happening.  

Water quality can deteriorate so slowly that 30 years later everyone just thinks that is the way water is supposed to look. Some changes occur so rapidly that we act surprised by the event.

Natural resources management is one of the things that changes before our eyes.

It was my privilege to know Tom Landwehr.  Tom served as the Department of Natural Resources commissioner for the past eight years.  

I met Tom when he worked for the Nature Conservancy before he became the commissioner. We became friends and spent lots of time together in the field chasing roosters. He was named to the post when Gov. Dayton won election eight years ago, and he stayed in the role when Dayton was re-elected for a second term.

With the election of Tim Walz as our new governor he, too, has the responsibility of naming the department heads who will manage the state government under his tenure. He looks for individuals that share his vision and management style.

He spoke at the DNR Round Table last Friday and I listened to him with the hope of understanding the general direction he would be taking with the state’s resources. He spoke about collaboration with agencies and stakeholders.

He has named Sarah Strommen as the new DNR commissioner.

I met Sarah back when she was working for the Minnesota Land Trust. She then served as assistant director at the Board of Soil and Water resources. Tom Landwehr then named her assistant commissioner overseeing the Fish and Wildlife and Parks and Trails divisions. She was also the mayor of the city of Ramsey Minn., until she stepped down in 2018.

She is the first woman in Minnesota history to serve in this role. Sarah spends her free time with her family hunting, fishing, hiking and snowmobiling as often as she can. She now has the job of naming her management team.

She has many important posts to fill.  They will most likely be a mix of current staff members and a few new ones. I imagine this is one of the most difficult things to do in such a short time.

It has been said that running the DNR is one of the hardest jobs in state government, and I certainly agree with that statement. You make a decision and some constituents love the outcome.  Others will totally hate it. Make decisions all day long for four years and you can see how hard it might be find balance.

The job falls under the saying, “You can please some of the people some of the time but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.” The hunting and fishing community have such a wide swath of what it takes to satisfy them because of he great variety of different habitats in the state -- forests up north and prairies down south.

You need to have a broad base of talents that range from personnel management, policy making and interpretation and lots of political savvy to navigate the seas Sarah is sailing in.

I have every faith that she is well qualified and capable of doing the job.  Her predecessor, Tom Landwehr, is not retiring and will find a new spot in resource management that can use his knowledge.  

His second in command was Dave Schad. I have known Dave for a dozen years, and he is looking forward to putting his feet up in retirement and working on some of his wildlife habitat land he recently acquired. I have offered to help him out.

I wish both of the great guys the very best.

As sportsmen and sportswomen in Minnesota, we need to get behind the state’s new leadership. I think the best way we can do it is to interact with the department and share our ideas of what we think will make Minnesota and its natural resources the best they can be.

Sarah said she would be a listener commissioner. I believe her. I look forward to interacting with Sarah and her new guard. I wish her the very best of luck in her new role.