Phillips to Continue as IRRRB Commissioner

Updated: January 04, 2019 06:26 PM

Gov.-elect Tim Walz has appointed Mark Phillips to continue as commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

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Phillips was one of three finalists for the position.  Walz had also considered Mary Finnegan, current deputy commissioner, and Ben DeNucci, a commissioner in Itasca County.

In announcing the decision, Walz said Phillips is dedicated to helping the Iron Range not just survive, but thrive.

Phillips said he made the decision to re-apply for his job under the Walz administration after attending the governor-elect's listening session in Hibbing.

"You have to be totally aligned with the boss on these commissioner roles," Phillips said.  He was "all in" after hearing Walz's vision, he said.

Phillips, a native of Eveleth, has served in the role for four years, having been appointed by outgoing Gov. Mark Dayton in January 2015. He had also worked as the IRRRB's director of economic development from 1983 to 1988 and also worked for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

He joked that Friday is his wife's birthday, and he was so nervous about the press event, he forgot to say, Happy Birthday!

The Iron Mining Association sent a statement: "We look forward to continuing our work together to advance our region and economy," said IMA President Kelsey Johnson.

There are other ties to the Northland in the Walz-Flanagan cabinet. Mary Cathryn Ricker, the new commissioner of Education, is from Hibbing. And the new leader of Higher Education, Dennis Olson, Jr., is from Cloquet.

That's in addition to Tony Lourey, who was named commissioner of Human Services. He's a state senator from Pine County.

A few folks were finalists for jobs in the administration. Pat Medure, former Itasca County Sheriff, was a finalist for the public safety post. And Erik Simonson, of Duluth, was a finalist for the MPCA Commissioner.

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