MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s been a summer of turmoil inside the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The agency has been rocked by criticism over misspending, data security and, in mid-July, the sudden departure of former Commissioner, Tony Lourey.
On Monday, Gov. Tim Walz announced Lourey’s replacement, someone he is confident will steady a rocking ship.
In making his selection, Walz explained “those employees over at DHS, their workloads and what they’re doing, did not change because the leadership changed.”
Former Commissioner Lourey left the agency in July just days after his two top deputies, Chuck Johnson and Claire Wilson suddenly resigned.
Replacing Lourey will be Jodi Harpstead, who for the past eight years has been president and CEO of the nonprofit Lutheran Social Service.
Prior to that, Harpstead was a senior manager with Medtronic, overseeing 6,000 employees in the company’s cardiac pacemaker division.
“I am particularly proud to join the dedicated people of the department whom I know to be the same caring and competent people that I have worked with at LSS,” Harpstead told reporters Monday morning.
In March, the Office of the Legislative Auditor found “pervasive” fraud in a state-administered child care program. In addition, Republican lawmakers have criticized the agency for misspending and data security flaws.
Harpstead will be tasked with restoring confidence among the agencies 1 million clients and 6,800 employees.
Acting Commissioner Pam Wheelock said the problems within the agency are not without solutions.
“Our job is to identify those issues and deal with them properly, capably and move forward to find solutions with the best of our skills,” Wheelock said.
On Tuesday, a joint Senate committee will hold a hearing to probe the recent problems within the agency.
Jodi Harpstead will assume full management of the Department of Human Services on Sept. 3.