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Minnesota Gov. Walz Names Permanent MNIT Commissioner

Tarek Tomes has been selected as the next commissioner of Minnesota IT Services, taking over from Acting Commissioner William Poirier.

Gov. Tim Walz has named Tarek Tomes as the next commissioner of Minnesota IT Services (MNIT), a job he will begin April 29.

This marks Walz’s final cabinet appointment. Tomes will replace Acting Commissioner William Poirier, who assumed the temporary role after the departure of Brig. Gen. Johanna Clyborne in January 2019.

Tomes is the chief innovation officer and former chief information officer at the city of St. Paul. He also served as the assistant commissioner for the agency that would later become MNIT for five years and at British Telecom for more than a decade.

Walz credited Tomes with repeatedly demonstrating “a commitment to developing and delivering customer service focused technology.”

“That’s what Minnesotans should expect from their government. That’s what they should expect from the technology that we’re employing. And that’s what Tarek brings,” the governor added during an April 15 press conference.

The department has a somewhat troubled past, namely for the bumpy rollout of a new vehicle registration system known as the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS).

Earlier this year Walz formed a Governor’s Blue Ribbon Council on Information Technology made up of both public- and private-sector experts to advise the governor, the MNIT commissioner, lieutenant governor and state Legislature on issues related to data privacy, cybersecurity and “modernization projects” like MNLARS.

Walz said during a press conference that he was looking for a commissioner with a deep knowledge of technology, as well as the ability to bring about cultural re-organization and the political skills to work with the state Legislature.

“This is someone who inspires me to a vision. The competency is very clear. And it’s someone whose openness to hearing from the people who work there, and the constituents and the customers he serves. It is simply exactly what we were looking for,” said Walz.

The soon-to-be commissioner said he welcomes a chance to build relationships not only across the network of state government, but also the Legislature, and inspire the agency to think boldly without the fear of failure.

“The fear of failure doesn’t mean that you’re going to fail,” Tomes advised, in comments at the press conference. “The fear of failure means that you may not bring forth the appropriate solutions to maybe change people’s lives."

“The 2,300 state IT workers are as devastated as anyone by the very public issues that MNLARS has had,” he continued. “And we want to make sure that they don’t retreat. We want to make sure that they’re not afraid to continue to put forth bold solutions. And we want to make sure, from a leadership perspective, that we have the processes and methodologies in place to support decisions, and also protect them.”


Tarek Tomes
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.