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Governor Mark Dayton appoints Charlie Zelle Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation

December 12, 2012
President and CEO of successful transportation company to lead Minnesota’s Transportation Department

ST. PAUL, MN – Today Governor Mark Dayton announced the appointment of Charlie Zelle as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Zelle will begin his work at MnDOT on January 15, 2013, succeeding Commissioner Tom Sorel, who resigned December 1st, 2012, to become the CEO of AAA Minneapolis. 

“Charlie Zelle’s outstanding record of innovation in the private sector will serve Minnesota well, as we build a transportation system, which will serve our needs and support our future growth and prosperity,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “I know that Mr. Zelle’s very successful business career and his strong commitment to public service will make him an outstanding Commissioner of MnDOT at this important time.”

For more than 20 years, Zelle has served as President and CEO of Jefferson Lines, a Minneapolis-based transportation company providing travel services in 13 states across the Midwest. Jefferson Lines serves over 60 Minnesota communities and specializes in connecting rural areas to destinations throughout North America.

As CEO, Zelle expanded Jefferson Lines, restored and sustained the company’s profitability through new measures of efficiency and growth, and pioneered a national model for public rural transit. Zelle also modernized the company’s bus fleet and developed a “College Connection” program that helps students get back and forth from home and school across five different states.  Once Commissioner, Zelle will play no role in managing the daily business of Jefferson Lines, though he will continue to serve as Chair of the Board of Directors of the company.  As commissioner, Zelle will recuse himself from handling any business between MnDOT and Jefferson Lines.

"It is a great honor to join the Dayton Administration in an area that is critically important to all Minnesotans,” said Zelle.  “MnDOT has a strong reputation for innovation and I look forward to helping lead the agency as it plays an increasingly important role in advancing the state's future prosperity through key investments in infrastructure."
In addition to his professional work at Jefferson Lines, Zelle has volunteered his time on transportation policy and business issues in a variety of capacities. Zelle currently serves as the Chair of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Corridors of Opportunity Policy Board, and a member of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. This year he was appointed by Governor Dayton to the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee (TFAC). As a founding member of the Itasca Project, Zelle is Co-Chair of the group’s Transportation Task Force. He is also a Board Member and Chair of the Policy Committee of the American Bus Association in Washington D.C. Additionally, Zelle has served on the Executive Committee of the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies (CTS) and chaired the American Bus Association. 

For his exemplary work in transportation policy, Zelle has been recognized as a recipient of the George Rucker Award by the Community Transportation Association in 2009 and the Ray L. Lappegaard Distinguished Service Award by CTS in 2012.

Zelle is also active in several philanthropic and volunteer organizations. He chairs the Board of the Jerome Foundation, an organization supporting emerging artists in Minnesota and New York City. Zelle has also served as President of the boards of the Minneapolis Club, Guthrie Theater, Meet Minneapolis, and the St. Paul Academy.  He was inducted into the Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine’s Twin Citian Volunteer Hall of Fame in 2002.

Born and raised in St. Paul, Zelle received a BA from Bates College and a MBA from the Yale Management School. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Julie (a minister), his daughter, Charlotte (20) and his son, Nick (17).

ATTACHMENT: You can download a high resolution headshot of Zelle here.