Gov. Dayton’s higher education mystery

Maybe there’s a reason the naming of Sen. Larry Pogemiller as the new director Minnesota Office of Higher Education came in a news release instead of a news conference. Otherwise, someone might’ve asked what the deal is with the old director?

Sen. Larry Pogemiller got the job, apparently because he “sat on committees on Education, Rules and Administration and Taxes,” according to the release, which describes him as the “perfect choice for the Office of Higher Education.”

That might be interpreted as a slap against the choice Gov. Mark Dayton made nine months ago. Sheila Wright actually had experience in higher education.

“Her nationally recognized leadership in education will help guide our administration’s efforts to restore Minnesota to its former position of national leadership in making higher education more accessible, more affordable, and more responsive to the needs of Minnesota’s college students,” Gov. Mark Dayton said at the time.

Eight months later, she was gone, nobody said why, and few people are asking now.

At the time of her exit, the Star Tribune reported that a spokeswoman for her office said Wright cleared out her office, thanked the staff for their service and said goodbye in a move described as “fast, but cordial.”

wright main.jpg Gov. Dayton’s spokesman, Bob Hume, delivered the word to the media that Wright was out, but refused to answer the question whether Gov. Dayton asked her to resign. That sort of non answer usually is code for “yes.”

There’s no indication Gov. Dayton was ever asked about the odd resignation in the month since it occurred, and if she was forced out because she wasn’t right for the job, what does that say about the process that got her the job in the first place?

But even his political opponents haven’t made any hay out of what appears to have been a bad appointment, indicating they either don’t know (unlikely) or they’ve agreed to keep silent about the reasons.

The only criticism of Pogemiller’s new position, appears to have come from a member of his own party — Rep. Mindy Greiling.


She may have a point, with the appointment of Pogemiller, Dayton’s cabinet becomes more white and more male. Only six of 25 cabinet members are women.

Pogemiller’s appointment as the “perfect choice” because of his legislative experience suggests he’ll get along better with the Republican-led Legislature. But it’s no secret that Pogemiller has rarely been the best pal of his political opponents, although he may have more time in his new job to take them bowling.

Photo via Hamline University