ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Forest Resources Council has yet to name a new full-time executive director after firing its old one three months ago.
The council quietly dismissed its last executive director, DeAnn Stish, by a split vote in November. Council chair Pete Aube, who has since assumed some of Stish's responsibilities, said the council expects to hire her successor sometime this quarter.
Emphasizing that the council was moving quickly, Aube said "we’re going to hire the best executive we can find."
The 17-member council meets bi-monthly and exists to develop recommendations for all levels of Minnesota government on the management of the state's forests. It receives approximately $836,000 in state general fund appropriations, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State's website.
Members are most often appointed by the governor and come from a range of different backgrounds in forestry. Some members represent the interests of other state and federal government agencies or environmental groups.
The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council appoints its own representative as well.
As executive director, Stish led the council's staff of four and answered to its appointed members. According to her profile on professional networking site LinkedIn, Stish served as executive director of the council from 2017 to 2019. Her profile states that she previously worked as executive director of the Minnesota Utility Contractors Association and as director of congressional affairs for the American Forest and Paper Association before that.
According to the minutes of its November meeting, the council moved to dismiss Stish "because a change in leadership is warranted at this time." Stish, who according to the minutes did not attend the meeting, had been offered the chance to resign prior to the vote, which immediately ended her appointment.
Stish declined a request for comment. Aube, formerly the manager of the PotlatchDeltic lumber mill in Bemidji, declined to elaborate on why a leadership change was thought to be necessary.
"I think those minutes explain what the sentiment of the council was," he said.
Since Stish's dismissal, Aube said he and state Department of Natural Resources Forestry Director Forrest Boe, who also serves on the council, have shared the responsibilities of executive director. Reached by phone, Boe said he could not comment in the Stish's dismissal.
Aube added that Mike Kilgore, head of the University of Minnesota's forest resources department, has helped to support the council as well.
Kilgore said he has mostly helped the council's staffers to manage their office and facilities. He himself served as the council's executive director for several years in the mid-1990s, and the council's staff continues to work out of the same St. Paul office building as the UMN forest resources department.
Even without a full-time boss, Kilgore said the staff seems "to be doing quite well." He said he is not involved in the hiring process for the new executive director and could not recall another time where the council went this long without one.
According to a December job posting for the position, qualifications included a degree in science, knowledge of forest management and managerial skills. Pay for the job ranges from approximately $80,000 to $150,000 a year, according to the posting.
A DNR spokesperson could not immediately say how many people applied for the job. Asked about the number of applicants, Aube said only that there was "good interest" in the job.
Aube said that several applicants have already been asked to interview for the position again and that the council's next step will be to invite one or two of them back for a confirmation vote. He said the council will not weigh private sector experience more heavily than public sector experience, or vice versa, in the hiring process.
Vetting and hiring a new executive director, Aube said, is the council's main priority at this time.