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Lt Governor Carol Molnau

Page history last edited by Steve Escher 13 years, 6 months ago


      Lt. Governor Carol Molnau

       (Photo by Northfield.org)

Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau has been described many ways in the press—mother, farmer, arm wrestling champion, city council member, Minnesota House Legislator, head of the House Transportation Finance Committee, and Lt. Governor. Governor Pawlenty called her a “one-woman SWAT team” when he appointed her to be Mn/DOT’s Transportation Commissioner, and, on February 28, 2007, her latest title became former Transportation Commissioner.


It was in her role as Transportation Commissioner that Molnau caused the most controversy. Molnau was appointed Commissioner in 2003, but was not confirmed by the Minnesota Senate until May 2004 in a 38-28 vote. She continued to serve as Commissioner after Pawlenty’s reelection in 2006, but without a Senate confirmation. Senator Steve Murphy, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said this year that "he would not hold confirmation hearings on Molnau because she probably would have been rejected, exacerbating the existing divisions in the Senate on transportation issues." [1]


Since she began her unusual dual role in Minnesota’s government, she was frequently been at odds with the DFL members of the state legislature over how transportation projects should be funded. According to Senator Murphy, “This is a problem that we’ve had with having an elected officer serving as a commissioner. Commissioners are supposed to be advocates for their department. We’ve known for many years that the department has been underfunded and we don’t have an advocate at the top.” [2]


In the months after the 35W Bridge collapse, accusations of ineffective leadership and mismanagement began to be heard along with issues about her ability and suitability to lead Mn/DOT. One issue was that a non-engineer was running Mn/DOT, an engineering department with 4,500 employees and a $2 billion budget.


Shortly after the bridge collapse, Murphy said he no longer had confidence in her abilities. [2] Democratic Rep. and House Transportation Finance Chairman Bernie Lieder is critical of her leadership and said she has been “conspicuous in her absence.” [3]


State Senator Sharon L. Erickson Ropes (Winona) said, “Even township officers and people who live in my district in southeast Minnesota…have been feeling the impact of her leadership. Mn/DOT projects are plagued with delays and there’s all sorts of organizational mismanagement that people are upset about at the local level. I think it was a good decision simply based on the fact that she hasn’t had a good track record as a financial and organizational manager.” [4] 


Transportation Finance Committee member and Democratic Representative Alice Hausman said that Mn/DOT employees have secretly contacted legislators about transportation needs. Because of Molnau’s no-new-tax stand, they can't ask for money because Molnau doesn't allow them to. [3]


But not everyone has negative comments about Molnau. Pawlenty said, “I think she’s done a good job. Anyone who jumps to conclusions…with respect to the bridge, without awaiting outcome to the NTSB investigation I think should be cautious. We don’t even know what happened here.” [2]


Republican Representatives Mary Liz Holberg and Bill Kuisle said respectively, “She’s a very hard worker with a lot of stamina,” and “I’ve talked to regional district engineers, and none have any complaints about how she’s run the department.” [3]


In response to the Sonia Morphew Pitt findings, House Speaker Margaret Kelliher’s office released a statement: “The findings raise fresh doubts about the ability of those in charge to handle the challenges facing the Mn/DOT. For some time now, I have advocated for the change in leadership that would give the department a new start. I believe it is time for Governor Pawlenty to become actively involved in charting a new course for Mn/DOT. Minnesota needs transportation leaders who are not busy deflecting criticism, but rather working to ensure a system of safe road and bridges." [5]


In late February, the Minnesota State Senate scheduled a confirmation hearing for Molnau. She was removed from the position by a vote of 44 to 22. After Molnau’s removal as Commissioner, Bob McFarlin was named acting Commissioner. McFarlin was replaced on 21 April 2008 when Governor Pawlenty named the new Commissioner, Tom Sorel. 


Molnau said being Commissioner was one of the best experiences of her life.







1. StarTribune.com, Gas tax increase appears certain. Retrieved 8 April 2008.

2. Minnesota Public Radio, Bridge collapse arms Molnau critics. Retrieved 8 April 2008.

3. StarTribune.com, Molnau fends off fresh criticism over her ability to lead MnDOT. Retrieved 8 April 2008.

4. New York Times, Minnesota Transportation Chief Is Out. Retrieved 8 April 2008.

5. Politics in Minnesota, Molnau Must Go: Sonia Pitt Edition. Retrieved 5 April 2008

StarTribune.com, Senate DFLers plan to vote today to oust Molnau. Retrieved 8 April 2008.

WCCO.com, Gov. Looks For New MnDOT Head After Molnau Out. Retrieved 8 April 2008.






































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