Minneapolis/ Politics & Govt
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Published on July 10, 2024
Heidi Welsch Makes History as First Female County Manager of Dakota CountySource: Facebook / Dakota County Government

Dakota County is setting a new precedent in leadership as Heidi Welsch has been selected to take the helm as the county manager, becoming the first woman to occupy this prominent role. According to an announcement by the Dakota County Board of Commissioners, Welsch is currently in salary negotiations before she formally steps into the position. With an extensive background in administration and a solid tenure as Olmsted County's administrator, Welsch is poised to bring a wealth of experience to the table.

Welsch’s appreciation for the opportunity was clear when she said, “I'm grateful and excited for this opportunity to return to Dakota County." Her statement, obtained by the official Dakota County website, also emphasized her ability to guide the team responsible for delivering services to the residents of Dakota County. 

The role of the county manager is pivotal, as it encompasses leadership over a staff of more than 2,000, steering day-to-day operations, making consequential budget recommendations, and executing the policy decisions laid down by the county board. Welsch's track record for innovation and consensus-building played a significant part in her selection from a competitive pool of over 50 applicants and five finalists who were interviewed in June, as per Joe Atkins, Dakota County Board Chair.

Atkins lauded Welsch's career, remarking, “Dr. Welsch has an extraordinary record of success, innovation and consensus-building in every position she has ever held." Welsch will officially begin her duties following Labor Day, succeeding Matt Smith, who retired in May. Her academic credentials, including a doctorate in public administration from Hamline University, also add to her laden portfolio of qualifications that assure Dakota County of a leader with both practical and theoretical prowess.

With the governance of Dakota County, which boasts a population of about 447,000 and sits as the third-largest county in Minnesota, the impact of Welsch's role will be far-reaching. This change in leadership is one of the key transformations for Dakota County as it strides into a future where barriers are continuously being dismantled and diverse leadership is increasingly celebrated.