Governor transition off to smooth start as Pawlenty and Dayton exchange smiles, handshakes and banter

Gov.-elect Mark Dayton and Gov. Tim Pawlenty were all smiles today.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Gov.-elect Mark Dayton and Gov. Tim Pawlenty were all smiles today.

Transitions aren’t always warm affairs.

There always have been rumors, for example, that when Arne Carlson succeeded Rudy Perpich someone from Perpich’s staff had removed one of the legs on the governor’s desk chair. The new governor sat back. Boom. Down he went.

The Carlson-Jesse Ventura change also was low on warm embraces. Carlson seemed deeply offended that he could be replaced by a pro wrestler.

Ventura, on the other hand, was “gracious,” Gov. Tim Pawlenty said today about the transition when he moved into the office eight years ago. Ventura even took Pawlenty for a high-speed ride in his new Porsche.

Pawlenty praises Ventura for his smooth transition
While they were zipping far ahead of the Highway Patrol, Pawlenty said Ventura told him, ‘Look, I know how tough this job is. … I’ll try to be respectful [and not second-guess].”

Pawlenty didn’t go so far as to say he wouldn’t be second-guessing Dayton, but he went on at considerable length about how much he appreciated the way Ventura “befriended me.”

The current governor doesn’t have a Porsche, but he treated Gov.-elect Mark Dayton with big smiles, handshakes and promises to help in any way he could as Dayton moves toward taking over the office on Jan. 3.

Pawlenty said he was especially grateful that Dayton did not bring his two German shepherds along for a tour of the mansion that Dayton received from him and his wife, Mary. The governor said that if Dayton had, his dogs might have snacked on the Pawlentys’ 9-pound Yorkie for lunch.

And Dayton showed his respect of Pawlenty in an even bigger way.

He announced that he was keeping Tom Sorel as commissioner of the state’s Department of Transportation.

Dayton hadn’t planned on making any staff or commissioner announcements today but said the move to retain the well-respected Sorel had to be done quickly because he “had opportunities elsewhere.”

Retaining Sorel, who succeeded Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau as the head of the massive department following the collapse of the I-35W bridge, was a sign, Dayton said, that he will try to surround himself with the best possible people, not political cronies.

“It’s a credit to him [Pawlenty] that he appointed him,” Dayton said. “He’s a consummate professional.”

Some Dayton appointments imminent
Dayton would not say if other commissioners were even seeking the opportunity to stay on in the new administration. Nor would he say if current legislators have applied for cabinet positions.

(At least one current legislator, Rep. Mindy Greiling, has applied to become commissioner of the Department of Education. Interestingly, though, Greiling told the Dayton transition team that she thought the new governor would be best served by following the Ventura model for appointing commissioners and other administration leaders. Because he had no real political party, Ventura, as an independent, concentrated on finding the best professionals possible. Pawlenty, she said, appointed far too many political people — former legislators and party activists — to key posts.)

When reporters kept pressing Dayton on who other appointments would be, Dayton turned biblical, more or less citing a verse about “revelations tomorrow.”

But it seems more and more likely that Tina Smith will become Dayton’s chief of staff. She rushed out of the Capitol room where Pawlenty and Dayton staged their symbolic joint news conference, doing her best to avoid reporters’ questions.

Most who have followed Dayton closely believe that his chief of staff will be crucially important to the success of a Dayton administration. Dayton is a hard — and often impatient — worker. He can burn up staff. His chief of staff likely will have to be a buffer between the governor and those who work for him, not to mention be able to act as a diplomat between Dayton and the new Republican majority.

Both the old governor and the new acknowledged they have philosophical differences. But, they each said that this wasn’t a day for either political rhetoric or debate.

What was the day about?

“The peaceful transition of democracy is a beautiful thing,” Pawlenty said. “We celebrate that grand tradition.”

Pawlenty and even Dayton were playful at times.

For instance, at one point, a reporter started a question saying, “Governor …”

“You talking to me?” responded Pawlenty as Dayton stepped back with a smile on his face.

As for that title, “Governor,” Dayton said he’d had lunch recently with former Gov. Al Quie.

“He told me that it would take about six months before somebody would call me ‘Governor’ and I wouldn’t look back over my shoulder,” Dayton said.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 12/10/2010 - 01:04 am.

    Anybody notice the color of the tie each gentleman is wearing?

    Coincidence or was it all choreographed? 🙂

  2. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 12/10/2010 - 07:17 am.

    “Do not suffer fools gladly…” Oscar Wilde’s dog.

    It has been said that dogs often resemble their masters and considering the interesting comment by T-Paw on his Yorkie in relation to the two canines soon to be residing in the governor’s mansion, I cannot help but wonder, why tall men prefer small canines; in this instance, the Yorkie?

    So I consulted with my friend, Diego who said…
    ” I wouldn’t want to speculate on the lap-dog angle but…they do tend to be incessant barkers to a point of absurdity at times…however, one should not think of them as a toy with a loud squeaker, no.
    And we would never hurt a poor Yorkie…we may step on them inadvertently maybe… however as Oscar’s dog said.. we do not suffer fools…”

    And Diego continued…” the German Shepard is considered the most intelligent of dogs with the black Lab and Norwegian Elkhound coming in a close second.”

    “A most honorable evaluation” I say.

    Again Diego continues…”The Yorkie is more prone to attack without sufficient reason while the German Shepard responds well to human touch and thrives on appropriate discipline, as is its natural inclination to be respected for its ability to distinquish the difference between friend or foe and size up the situation without drawing false conclusions…thus limiting the excessive chatter in the form of barking with no justifiable reason.”

    “It is often assumed they bark to compensate for lack of control of a situation; its barking having a touch of paranoia or self grandiosity in its empty yelping”

    “Wise words, indeed” I briefly respond.

    Dakota and Mesabi will surely be well received as new residents of the Governor’s house.

    (collaborative points-of-reference for this article…Sheba, Gretchen, Heidi, Kari, Tobi, Diego; black and tans, but not necessarily a qualifying criteria)

  3. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 12/10/2010 - 12:28 pm.

    Beryl (@#2), that was an exquisite post. Thanks.

    The symbolism and the psychological (philosophical) configuration behind each of the two individuals is stark and undeniable.

    From where I stand (and I may think I’m unbiased, but I’ not,) I am not surprised at the choice of pet for Mr. Dayton and Mr.Pawlenty.

    German shepherds are more sensitive and actually have (mental) telepathic powers. There is a lot of gentleness and love, but also seriousness, and diligence. German shepherd = worker dog.

    Yorkies can be adorable, but they are full of shout and braggadocio even when they don’t need to be. They seem self-centered and unsympathetic or sensitive to their surroundings. Yorkie = talker dog.

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