ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Gov.-elect Mark Dayton pulled from his campaign Friday for a senior administration staff that includes prominent Democratic strategist Tina Flint Smith as chief of staff.
Smith previously served as chief of staff for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, one of the people Dayton outlasted in his bid for governor. She moved to Dayton's campaign after he won the party primary and months after Rybak dropped out of the race. She will head a slate of key leaders chosen by the incoming governor.
Dayton touted Smith's experience in announcing her hire.
"She is widely known and respected not only as a strong, seasoned leader, but also for her ability to build bridges and reach common ground," he said in a written statement.
Smith has a marketing background and is deeply rooted in Minnesota politics, counting Walter Mondale among her past bosses. She also served for a time as a top official for the regional Planned Parenthood operation.
Few women have held the chief of staff position. Lynn Anderson served a few years as chief of staff to then-Gov. Rudy Perpich in the late 1980s. Connie Levi filled a one-month stint in 1991 as then-Gov. Arne Carlson looked for someone to replace the chief of staff who resigned.
Dayton's three deputy chiefs of staff will be Dana Anderson, Andrea Mokros and Michelle Kelm-Helgen. All three helped Dayton during parts of the recent campaign, Anderson as campaign manager and the other two in advisory roles.
Of the three, Kelm-Helgen will have the most direct contact with legislators as the point person on legislative affairs. She previously was the lead adviser to Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller.
Under the governor's office compensation plan, salaries for the positions range from $87,000 to $128,000.
Katie Tinucci, who was named press secretary, said Dayton would leave it to others to assess the significance of having all women in the top positions.
"I wouldn't say that it is an accident completely," Tinucci said. "There will be other senior staff named next week that will include some men."
The picks are part of a rapid build-out of Dayton's administration, which will take the reins on Jan. 3. Dayton became the governor-elect this week when Republican Tom Emmer conceded the race toward the end of a recount.
Given the quick turnaround, Smith said Dayton won't move his team into a government building where transition space had been set aside. His lease on his campaign headquarters runs through Dec. 31. State law doesn't require him to relocate and sets aside a $162,000 budget for his transition.
On Thursday, Dayton said he was retaining Tom Sorel as Department of Transportation commissioner.
Dayton planned to keep a private schedule Friday. Tinucci said he was interviewing people for other prominent positions in the first Democratic administration in 20 years, including possible agency commissioners. He has said his priority is to fill positions at the state budget and tax departments.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)