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Pawlenty names heads for agriculture, commerce
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Gene Hugoson also was the agriculture commissioner under Govs. Jesse Ventura and Arne Carlson. Before his appointment to commissioner in 1995, Hugoson served five terms in the House from 1986 to 1995. (MPR Photo/Brandt Williams)
Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty has appointed Glenn Wilson as commerce commissioner and reappointed Gene Hugoson agriculture commissioner. Pawlenty says Wilson and Hugoson have the experience and skills necessary to run the departments, which together employ over 800 people and oversee budgets of nearly $500 million. However, the state's projected 4.5 billion dollar budget deficit will challenge the two appointees.

St. Paul, Minn. — Gene Hugoson served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives for nine years before then-Gov. Arne Carlson first appointed him the state agriculture commissioner in 1995. Hugoson, who also runs a family farm in Martin County, was reappointed by Jesse Ventura in 1999.

Gov.-elect Pawlenty says he searched far and wide for agriculture commissioner candidates, but he says it was evident to him that Hugoson is still the best candidate for the job.

"He is somebody who not only has dirt under his fingernails, but he's also somebody who understands and appreciates the need for new markets and uses for Minnesota's crops and the importance, the continuing and increasing importance of trade and economic expansion for our products and for agriculture in Minnesota," he said.

Lt. Gov.-elect and fellow farmer Carol Molnau praised Hugoson as a "friend to agriculture." And she announced that Hugoson will serve as the president of a national association of state agriculture department heads starting in January.

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Image Glenn Wilson

Pawlenty also says he's glad to reappoint Hugoson because he has experience in streamlining the ag department, particularly by making some of its services available to farmers via the Internet. Hugoson says he knows the state's large budget deficit will force him to make cuts to programs.

"The types of things -- the decisions we'll have to make --will be to decide what are those things that are good to have versus what are those things that are absolutely necessary to have and so those kinds of decisions will have to be determined together with the Legislature over the next six months," Hugoson said.

Pawlenty says that despite the state's budget troubles, he is committed to fulfilling his campaign pledge to not raise taxes. That leaves Pawlenty in the position of asking people to fill positions in departments where they will most likely have to cut programs, services or personnel.

However, Pawlenty says none of his commissioner candidates has shied away from the challenge. He says his choice for commerce commissioner, Glenn Wilson, is an example of the type of person who works well in difficult situations.

"The people we're looking for, we want change agents. We want people who thrive in change. You've got somebody behind me here who took two companies from near-death experiences and turned them around to profitability and brought them back to stability," according to Pawlenty.

Pawlenty is referring to Wilson's tenure as CEO of Knutson Mortgage between 1988 and 1999. The governor-elect says Wilson helped turn a $500,000-per-month loss into a $1.5 million-per-month profit.

Wilson was appointed by Ronald Reagan to head Ginnie Mae in 1985. He is expected to resign as the first vice president of U.S. Bank Home Mortgage, where he has worked since last year.

The commerce department regulates banking and insurance agencies throughout the state. And Wilson says that as the new commerce commissioner, he wants the department to continue to serve consumers and business alike.

"We want to build an environment where it's competitive," he said. "I think business, as well as consumers, benefit from that. But we need to do that without compromising any of the regulatory obligations."

Wilson and Hugoson are Pawlenty's seventh and eighth commissioner appointments so far.

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