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DHS deputy commissioner reverses decision, will resign after all

Claire Wilson will leave the department this Friday.
Claire Wilson DHS

One of the two Minnesota Department of Human Services deputy commissioners who submitted their resignation last month, only to backtrack, has announced she'll be leaving the department after all.

The DHS confirmed to BMTN on Monday that Claire Wilson, its deputy commissioner for policy, will be leaving on Friday, Aug. 30, after the news was originally reported by the Pioneer Press.

In a memo sent to staff, Acting DHS Commissioner Pam Wheelock said she'd asked Wilson to stay on after former Commissioner Tony Lourey left, with his resignation coming just a few days following Wilson initially submitting her resignation.

Wilson agreed to this, "knowing that it would provide stability and continuity during a time of leadership change," per Wheelock, but Wilson has since decided that when Wheelock leaves her acting post, she will step down too.

The news DHS Commissioner, Jodi Harpstead, is due to start her role on Sept. 3.

"Claire ... has demonstrated a deep appreciation both for employees of DHS and for what it means to be part of this amazing organization," Wheelock wrote. "I know that wherever life takes her next, she will continue to pursue the same impactful goals, with the same authentic passion, in an effort to improve the lives of others."

Chuck Johnson, who announced his resignation at the same time as Wilson last month but who also reversed the decision upon Lourey's departure, will stay on in his role under Harpstead.

In a message to staff, Wilson said the last several weeks "have been personally and professionally difficult," but noted it was a "privilege" to work under Wheelock.

"Of the work we have done together, I am especially proud of our efforts to advance equity, including championing the implementation of the agency’s Equity Policy. Dismantling institutional racism remains central to our work to improve the human services system and it must remain a priority," she wrote.

"It is very difficult to leave DHS behind, and especially difficult to leave staff because so many of you have like family to me. But I know this is the right decision for me, and I believe it is important for the agency to have a fresh start with Commissioner Harpstead."

She concluded: "I do not know what my next step professionally is, but I do know that wherever I am in this world I will be cheering you on and loving you for the work you do and the people you are."

Her departure heaps more pressure onto the Walz Administration to provide greater scrutiny on the department, following a series of controversies and resignations in recent months.

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