ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Former Minnesota National Guard leader Larry Shellito is returning to state government after a three-month absence as Gov. Mark Dayton’s pick for a Veterans Affairs cabinet position.
Dayton’s office announced the appointment of the 65-year-old former adjutant general of the Guard on Wednesday.
Shellito headed the Guard for seven years before his voluntary departure from the position last year.
He was the only person Dayton interviewed to lead the agency that oversees state veterans benefits and veterans homes. The Associated Press obtained the finalist list for the position through an open records request.
“I know General Shellito has a deep personal commitment to improving the quality of services for all Minnesota veterans and to increasing access to them,” Dayton said in a release.
Shellito stepped down from the Guard job at the end of October. Then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, installed Major Gen. Richard Nash as the new Guard head.
While adjutant general, Shellito helped shape the pioneering “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” support programs for deployed soldiers and their families. It encourages employers and others to provide a network of assistance to service members and their families during and after deployments.
As a U.S. senator, Dayton helped persuade Congress to duplicate the Minnesota program on the national level.
Shellito’s tenure in Guard management makes him a familiar face among Minnesota military members. He was considered the governor’s top military adviser for the state’s 14,000-member Guard, which was among the largest in the nation.
He served during a period of repeated and prolonged deployments into war zones. Some soldiers and airmen were tapped more than once, accounting for 18,000 deployments in all under Shellito. He has visited troops in Iraq four times and twice in Afghanistan.
Shellito held the rank of major general at his appointment. Prior to taking on that role, he served as president of Alexandria Technical College in northwestern Minnesota.
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