Tom Sorel new transportation chief


Tim Pawlenty today appointed Tom Sorel to head the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Sorel leaves his post as administrator of the Minnesota division of the Federal Highway Administration.

Pawlenty chose Sorel over Bob McFarlin, the acting commissioner, who'd been in the job since the state senate fired Lt. Governor Carol Molnau from the post in February. The appointment requires senate approval, but the vote doesn't have to be held until next year's legislative session.

Early returns from the state senate are encouraging. Sen. Steve Murphy, chair of the state senate's transportation committee, didn't immediately return a call. In a statement, he had this to say:

“I look forward to working with Mr. Sorel in his new capacity as Transportation Commissioner. He has a long and distinguished career in transportation, with a civil engineering background and 30 years of experience within the Federal Highway Administration. I’m optimistic that his technical expertise and leadership ability will continue to move MnDOT in a new, positive direction.”

Sen. Jim Carlson, the DFL vice chair of the transportation committee, said he was happy to see Sorel's training as an engineer. Looking over Sorel's resume, Carlson remarked that he's "more of a can-do leader. He's getting things done. That's what we need. We don’t need someone to throw an anchor out."

Carlson also had kind words for the outgoing McFarlin, who he said "changed the complexion" of the senate's dealings with the department.

If nothing else, the change may make the folks at the Star Tribune happy. McFarlin was a strong critic of the paper's hard-hitting coverage of MnDOT last year, accusing the paper of seeking to "perpetuate the myth" that MnDOT engaged in a pattern of hiding information from the public.

UPDATE: Senator Murphy tells CP that "As long as your attitude is we're going to fix our roads and bridges, we can work with that." Unable to resist a dig at Molnau, he adds that she "did not have that attitude."