News broke Monday morning that Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey had abruptly resigned.
Drama for political types? Certainly.
Immediate crisis for humanity all across the state? Hardly.
So does it really matter that the Department of Human Services honcho (as well as his top two deputies) have resigned? Yes and no.
Why it matters
1. State’s largest agency. Needs a head. Ever seen a chicken run with its head cut off? Now imagine an elephant. (Gov. Tim Walz appointed policy veteran Pam Wheelock to serve as interim commish.)
2. The commish carries out directives of the governor and, on occasion, lawmakers. Example: Think health care is too expensive? Both parties heard you. Bipartisan lawmakers and Walz plan to create a task force to look into it. The DHS Commish is supposed to appoint said task force.
3. Protecting children. Battling opioids. Helping the mentally ill. Regulating or administering health insurance for those who can’t get it through work, or are unemployed, or poor, or old, or disabled. Investigating fraud. These are among the things DHS does, and its commissioner is supposed to be the one most accountable.
Why it doesn't matter
1. Nothing changed. Everybody will still go to work Tuesday (except Lourey), child care centers won’t shut down, insurance questions will be fielded, and Medicaid payments will continue to be processed. This shakeup is a soap opera that means little to people who actually provide and rely on the services each day.
2. DHS has about 6,800 workers. We’re talking about one. Sure, the commish is the top dog, but ask yourself this: If your CEO, or your boss’s boss didn’t show up for work tomorrow, could you still do your job? Only folks in small organizations would say no. A ship of 6,800 will steam along just fine without someone at the helm for a bit. (Isn’t the knock against big government bureaucracies that they’re impossible to change course for?)
3. The real work hasn’t even started. Lourey was commissioner during the legislative session, when the department’s two-year budget was being set. That two-year cycle just started July 1. Implementing any reforms can start now. Well, as soon as a permanent commissioner is appointed …