Minnesota health commissioner, 3 cabinet members step down

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, who faced the difficult task of managing the COVID-19 pandemic, will not seek reappointment to the post, the governor’s office said Wednesday.

Three other cabinet members announced they are stepping down. They are Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, Education Commissioner Heather Mueller and Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Commissioner Mark Phillips.

“Working with Gov. Walz and his team to help Minnesota navigate the COVID-19 pandemic was the most challenging and meaningful work I’ve done in my career,” said Malcolm, who has led the health department under three different Minnesota governors.

Malcolm was first appointed as the state’s health commissioner from 1999 by former Gov. Jesse Ventura. Then in 2018, former Gov. Mark Dayton called on Malcolm to fill a vacancy by Ed Ehlinger resignation over criticism of a backlog of elder abuse complaints. Malcolm stayed on when Walz took over in 2019.

Despite Republican criticism about the Walz administration’s handling of the coronavirus, the governor said Malcolm helped Minnesota lead the nation with COVID vaccine and testing policies. Malcolm also led an effort to modernize and expand the system for overseeing long-term care facilities, Walz said.

“I think that she will go down as one of the greatest commissioners of health in the state’s history,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Walz said he’s grateful to cabinet members for their years of service to the state.

Trisha Ahmed is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Trisha Ahmed on Twitter.