MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources is getting its first female commissioner.
Sarah Strommen was appointed to the lead the agency on Thursday, four years after joining the DNR as the assistant commissioner. She was with the state Board of Water and Soil Resources before joining the agency and previously spent seven years on the Ramsey City Council and served two terms as mayor, The Star Tribune reported.
Strommen, 46, has also held high-ranking positions at two environmental advocacy groups: Friends of the BWCA and Minnesota Land Trust. And she played a key role in Gov. Mark Dayton’s agricultural buffer strip initiative meant to clean up polluted surface water around farms.
“She knows the ins and outs of the department,” said Gov.-elect Tim Walz. “She spoke with a passion that spoke to me.”
Kris Larson, executive director of the Minnesota Land Trust, said Strommen’s knowledge of state government allowed her to quickly produce high quality work at the organization.
“She listens first and tries to understand,” Larson said. “But she’s a doer. She gets things done.”
Eran Sandquist, the Minnesota coordinator for conservation group Pheasants Forever, said Strommen has a strong conservation background and has based her decisions on science.
Democratic Rep. Rick Hansen, who chairs the House natural resources committee, said Strommen is well-qualified with her ideas, skills and problem solving abilities.
“I think Minnesotans are going to like her,” Hansen said.
The DNR has about 2,700 employees and a $1.1 billion biennial budget. Some big issues Strommen will face as she takes over the department include chronic wasting disease in deer, a controversial proposal for copper-nickel mining, and a drop in hunting and fishing participation.
“If hunters and anglers decline, who is going to fund our conservation work?” Strommen said. “Even more broadly, who is going to care if people don’t have that connection” to the outdoors?