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Charlie Zelle, head of Jefferson Lines, to be MnDOT commissioner

Zelle will remain CEO of Jefferson but recuse himself from any MnDOT business with the bus company.

Gov. Mark Dayton has selected Charlie Zelle, the head of Jefferson Lines, to be the new commissioner of the state Transportation Department.

He replaces Tom Sorel, who resigned Dec. 1 to head CEO of AAA Minneapolis.

Zelle was one of two finalists for the job; the other was Bernie Arseneau, a veteran MnDOT engineer who is acting commissioner until Zelle takes over Jan. 15.

Zelle has run his family-owned business, based in Minneapolis, for 20 years. He’ll retain the title of CEO of Jefferson but will recuse himself from any MnDOT business involving the company.

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Zelle’s got quite a resume of transportation and business policy work:

He is chair of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Corridors of Opportunity Policy Board and a member of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. This year he was appointed by Governor Dayton to the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee. As a founding member of the Itasca Project, Zelle is co-chair of the group’s Transportation Task Force. He is also a board member and chair of the Policy Committee of the American Bus Association in Washington D.C. Additionally, Zelle has served on the executive committee of the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies and chaired the American Bus Association.

His philanthropic and volunteer work includes: chair of the board of the Jerome Foundation, an organization supporting emerging artists in Minnesota and New York City; he has also been president of the boards of the Minneapolis Club, Guthrie Theater, Meet Minneapolis, and the St. Paul Academy.  He was inducted into the Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine’s Twin Citian Volunteer Hall of Fame in 2002.