- Kevin Gutknecht
Office of Communications
395 John Ireland Blvd
Mail Stop 150
St. Paul, MN 55155-1899
Charles Zelle takes over as MnDOT commissioner
Will oversee state’s $2.66 billion annual transportation budget
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Charles A. Zelle, a long-time transportation advocate and businessman, today begins his tenure as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which includes managing an annual budget of $2.66 billion.
“I am honored to join the Dayton Administration in working to build a better Minnesota,” said Zelle. “Transportation is vital to achieving that goal, and I look forward to working with the agency’s many partners, legislators and employees to ensure that our transportation investments support a strong state economy that meets the public’s needs."
Zelle succeeds Tom Sorel, who resigned as transportation commissioner Dec. 1 to become the President and CEO of AAA Minneapolis.
MnDOT is the state’s second largest agency. Its 4,700 employees are responsible for managing and maintaining a statewide, multimodal transportation system that includes aeronautics, highways, motor carriers, ports, public transit and railroads.
Zelle came to MnDOT from Jefferson Lines, an intercity bus company with routes in 13 states. He worked there for more than 20 years, serving as Chair and Chief Executive Officer. He is a Board Member and Chair of the Policy Committee of the American Bus Association in Washington, D.C.
In 2012, Zelle served on the Governor’s Transportation Finance Advisory Committee, which made recommendations on state transportation funding to the governor in December. He also has served on the Executive Committee of the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies and was a founding member of the Itasca Project and co-chair of the project’s Transportation Task Force.
Zelle will play no role in managing the daily business of Jefferson Lines, although he will continue to serve as the company’s Chair of the Board of Directors. As commissioner, Zelle will recuse himself from handling any business between MnDOT and Jefferson Lines.
Zelle received the George Rucker Award from the Community Transportation Association (2009) and the Ray L. Lappegaard Distinguished Service Award from CTS in (2012) for his work in transportation policy.
In addition, Zelle has been active in a number of community and civic organizations, including chairing the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, and serving as a member of the Corridors of Opportunity Policy Board and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, as well as a number of other philanthropic and volunteer organizations.
Born and raised in St. Paul, Zelle received a BA from Bates College and an MBA from the Yale School of Management.
He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Julie; daughter, Charlotte; and son, Nick.