MnDOT chief steps down to run AAA Minneapolis

Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Thomas Sorel is leaving the 5,000-worker agency that he has guided since April 2008, and on Dec. 1 will become the new leader of AAA Minneapolis, a 200,000-member auto club.
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Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Thomas Sorel is leaving the 5,000-worker agency that he has guided since April 2008 and will become the leader of AAA Minneapolis, a 200,000-member auto club. Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Bernie Arseneau to be acting commissioner, the Pioneer Press reports. Arseneau has been with the agency for about 30 years and is currently MnDOT's current deputy commissioner and chief engineer.

Here's the press release from AAA Minneapolis:

MINNEAPOLIS — (Nov. 1, 2012) — AAA Minneapolis has named Tom Sorel, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), as its new president and chief executive officer.

Sorel will join AAA Minneapolis effective Dec. 1, 2012. He will replace current President and CEO Steve Frank who plans to retire Jan. 31, 2013, and will serve in an advisory capacity to the club and to Sorel prior to that date.

Sorel has served as the commissioner of MnDOT since April 2008, assuming responsibility for the department during a time of crisis following the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis. Working for two different administrations, he has led an agency of 5,000 people committed to creating a safe, efficient and sustainable transportation system for the future.

“I see this as a phenomenal opportunity and I’m honored to be selected to build on the strong legacy of my predecessor, Steve Frank,” said Sorel. “I look forward to working with the AAA Minneapolis team to serve the members of the organization in a positive way. I respect the past of this fine organization, and look forward to building its future.”

Frank began his career with AAA Minneapolis as a recent college graduate in 1974, rising through the ranks to become president and CEO in 1997, a role he has held ever since.

Since 1931, AAA Minneapolis has been headed by leaders like Frank who have come from within the organization, making Sorel’s appointment historic, noted AAA Minneapolis Board Chair Rick Burrock.

“The Board of Directors and staff are pleased to attract a candidate with the qualifications and experience of Tom Sorel,” Burrock said. “Tom’s demonstrated leadership in his past employment gives us great confidence that the 200,000 members of AAA Minneapolis will continue to be well-served by their club.”

Established in 1902, AAA Minneapolis today is one of the preeminent auto clubs in the U.S., serving 200,000 members throughout Hennepin County and parts of Anoka County, including Columbia Heights, Hilltop, Fridley and Spring Lake Park. AAA Minneapolis provides a variety of auto club and related services, from roadside assistance to travel planning and insurance — all designed to enhance, simplify and support its members’ lives. The club is part of the AAA network of more than 50 affiliated auto clubs with more than 53 million members.

Prior to his current post, Sorel worked for 30 years in numerous positions around the country with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). He served as the division administrator for the FHWA Minnesota Division Office, the major project team leader in Washington, D.C., the DOT Intermodal Liaison for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, and the director of planning and program development in FHWA’s Regional Office in Albany, N.Y.

Sorel holds a master of business administration degree from Thomas College in Waterville, Maine, a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from State University of New York in Buffalo, and has completed the Wharton Transportation Executive Program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. A noted transportation leader, Sorel currently serves on the board of directors with the Intelligent Transportation Society of America and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

As he retires early next year, Frank leaves AAA Minneapolis in excellent shape. Under his leadership, nearly 26 percent of households in Hennepin County now have an AAA membership, up from 19 percent, and put it to use in a variety of ways including using their mobile device to find discounts and approved repair facilities, and to request towing services. AAA Minneapolis still provides face-to-face service to members through local offices and is available 24/7 from its St. Louis Park, Minn. headquarters to respond to members’ questions and to provide assistance when they have car trouble. Under Frank’s leadership, the club has expanded its product lines, added new levels of membership, and worked to protect the safety and interests of motorists, including improving teen driver education and fighting distracted driving.

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