The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth

Volume 16 • Number 1 • Winter 1999


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Elaine Hansen and her family at UMD's 1998 Commencement: l-r : Husband Ken, daugher Sharon, Elaine, Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin, grandson Anthony and Hansen's mother, Elaine Brozinski

“Well yes, of course, I have a set of golf clubs. They've been sitting in my closet for years. Isn't that what they are for?”

UMD alumna Elaine Hansen is a woman who only has time for things that are valuable to her. At the May 1998 Commencement ceremony, Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin bestowed the Distinguished Alumni Award on Hansen for her ever-increasing list of accomplishments.

Hansen graduated from UMD in 1980 with a degree in accounting. At that point she had been in the work force for over 10 years. She came back to finish her last year and qualify to take the CPA exam.
She has come a long way since then. Hansen is reaching the end of her four-year term as commissioner in the Department of Administration for the State of Minnesota. She serves as the chief administrative officer for the state government in Minnesota. She anticipates getting word about whether or not her contract will be renewed in January 1999. “I would like to stay on. There are many things I have started that I would like to see worked through. It should be an interesting time with Jesse Ventura as Governor,” Hansen said.

She explained that the Department of Administration provides the centralized service functions for other state departments, agencies, higher education and certain local governments - including operations management (procurement, central mail, printing, microfilming, travel and risk management), facilities management (building construction, plant management, real estate management, and state building codes and standards), information management (information policy, business and information services, computer operations, computer support services, and telecommunications), and other smaller divisions such as employee assistance, and various minority advocacy councils.

It is her responsibility to oversee the work of 900 employees and an annual budget of $260,000,000. She also has established expanded fiscal and operations services including an internal auditor function and has directed legislative policy on department-wide and statewide issues.

This is a department that gets a great deal of public scrutiny and is frequently involved in controversial issues. Hansen said, “Well, we get sued about once a month over a procurement issue. It is a department that is not entirely appreciated, for which there is not a direct constituency. It is essential that things run by the books and with great efficiency. In four years we have not lost a case. People know their jobs and what to do.”

From 1992 to 1995, Hansen served as the Chief Financial Officer of the City of Duluth. The department, which has 47 employees, encompasses the purchasing division, City Treasurer, City Assessor and City Auditor offices. The financial oversight included the Duluth State Convention Center, Spirit Mountain Recreation Area Authority, Duluth Airport Authority, Duluth Transit Authority, and the Duluth Economic Development Authority. “I was also required to participate in the negotiation of funding for major projects such as the City of Duluth portion of the Northwest Airlines Project in both 1992 and 1994,” she added.

Between 1988 and 1992 she was the Treasurer for Minnesota Technology, Inc. And between June 1980 and August 1988, she served as Director of Audits, Office of
State Auditor for the State of Minnesota. In these positions she was responsible for budgets of over $4 million, supervising large staffs and taking a leadership role to plan the training sessions for Minnesota counties that were required to meet changing financial accounting and reporting standards in the early 1980s.

Hansen is married and has three grown children, as well as three grandchildren. Her eldest, Sharon, received the first student of the year award given by Lake Superior College. Hansen and her husband's roots are firmly set in Duluth. She keeps an apartment in the Twin Cities, but their home is in Duluth.
Clearly a woman of ambition and strong ideals, Hansen serves on a number of boards, including the UMD Center for Economic Development/Minnesota, Technology, Inc., and is an advisory board member of the Intergovernmental Technology Conference. Of particular interest is her role as a co-founder of the Duluth Professional Women's Network. As she explained, “We saw a need in Duluth for professional women to have a network. It was established to allow women to get together, say what they do and where they fit in in the community. It grew from two people to 200 by the end of the first year. It meets the last Friday of every month. The agenda of the group now includes mentoring for college women.”

When asked if she has anything specific she would like to say about her experiences with UMD, she smiled and sat back. “I've been to day school and night school at UMD. I've been part of the community as a whole and part of the college community. The changes I have seen in the last five years are incredible. For far too long the College, community and local government all existed in separate worlds. I credit Chancellor Kathryn Martin with reaching out to pull together the private sector, government, community and UMD and see the common goals.”
“For example, the re-establishment of the lab school - Chester Park - has given all kids an opportunity. Also, the increased focus on technology recognizes that students will be out in the world as part of a business community. There are increasingly better and better reasons to be proud to be a graduate of UMD.”

At the time this article is being written, word has not yet come of the status of Hansen's appointment as Commissioner for the Department of Administration. But whatever the outcome, she is a woman who will never be without a mission and a call to take on a job to which she will bring vision and energy. Those golf clubs may never see the green.

-Wendy Adams


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