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General to take command of troubled Minnesota IT agency, focus on fixing MNLARS

Johanna Clyborne answers media questions just after Gov. Mark Dayton announced on Wednesday, Jan. 24, that she would become the state's information technology commissioner. Don Davis / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL—The governor brought in an Army general to lead the Minnesota information technology department, which is struggling to fix a $93-million computer system for vehicle licenses and titles.

Gov. Mark Dayton announced on Wednesday, Jan. 24, that he appointed Johanna Clyborne to lead MIN.IT, the state's information technology department. He said she is taking the job as a civilian.

Clyborne, who begins her job Feb. 2, said she will keep her part-time job with the Minnesota Army National Guard, where she is director for the Joint Staff for the guard. The guard has made cybersecurity one of its top priorities, which also is the case in her new job.

Dayton said that fixing the MNLARS vehicle license issues and cybersecurity are two of Clyborne's priorities. The other, the governor said, is making sure state driver's licenses comply with federal Real ID regulations so they can be used as identification to board commercial airliners.

MNLARS woes have delayed and otherwise frustrated thousands of Minnesotans trying to renew vehicle license plates or making title changes.

Clyborne may have less than a year to accomplish her goals because Dayton's term in office ends early next January.

"I will not let you down," she told the governor. "Most importantly, to the citizens of this great state, I will not let them down."

She said that "Minnesotans deserve better" than the MNLARS computer problems.

Clyborne had no specifics about changes she would make when she takes over because she has not yet worked in the department. "It is very hard when I haven't even sat at the desk yet." She said she took the job as a challenge. "This is no different than my military service or the services I do as a lawyer. ... We do not walk away from challenges."

She said she will maintain her National Guard role, and a Dayton aide said she plans to work Fridays in her law office. She will be paid 80 percent of the commissioner's usual salary.

Clyborne replaces Tom Baden, who recently announced he was leaving the job. He was paid $153,000 last year.

The new commissioner is a brigadier general, a combat veteran of Iraq, and the first female to command a brigade and reach her rank in the Minnesota guard.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.