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Martiga Lohn, Associated Press Writer, Published July 25 2009

Pawlenty’s chief of staff leaving for corporate job

ST. PAUL – Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be relying on a new lead adviser during his final year in office because his chief of staff is beating his boss to the exit.

The University of Minnesota said Friday that Matt Kramer, one of the mainstays of Pawlenty’s administration, will take a corporate relations position starting Aug. 17. Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the governor hasn’t picked a successor but plans to do so within a few weeks.

Kramer – Pawlenty’s fourth chief of staff in seven years – marks the highest-level departure in the administration since May. The Republican governor announced publicly in early June that he wouldn’t run for another term.

There has also been recent turnover in Pawlenty’s legislative affairs department, including the loss of that operation’s director.

Pawlenty said in a statement that he’s sorry to see Kramer leave state service.

Kramer, 47, has been with Pawlenty for all but a few months of the governor’s time in office. He started out as the appointed head of the state’s economic development agency and later served as leader of the now-defunct Department of Employee Relations. Between the two, he briefly took a private sector job. He was named chief of staff in late 2006.

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Compared with some other chiefs, Kramer has kept a low profile. He seldom spoke with reporters and hardly ever traveled with his boss. He helped develop the JOBZ rural economic development program, one of Pawlenty’s favorite initiatives and a target of criticism from Democrats.

One of the few times Kramer came to the fore was during the 2008 legislative session. He was accused of threatening retribution against a project in the House majority leader’s northern Minnesota district because the legislator criticized Pawlenty’s frequent travel.

The governor’s office acknowledged Kramer told the lawmaker, Tony Sertich, D-Chisolm: “Cheap shots are cheap, but they’re not free.” But the office said the remark was made at Pawlenty’s request and denied it was connected to a later veto of the project.

In his new job, Kramer will lead the University of Minnesota’s Academic and Corporate Relations Center, which seeks to fill businesses in on university research and match campus job- and career-training programs with companies’ needs.

The university has been under a hiring “pause” that requires a management review when new people are brought aboard to fill vacant positions. Kramer’s hiring was authorized by Vice President Karen Himle and approved by President Bob Bruininks to fill a job recently vacated by a retirement, said university spokesman Dan Wolter.

He will make $145,000 a year, compared with a salary of $118,870 under Pawlenty.

Associated Press writer Brian Bakst contributed to this report.