Politicians often talk about wanting good government. Here in Minnesota, we expect our state and local government agencies to perform well; to provide good services to residents; to be efficient, effective, and responsible fiscal stewards.
But good leadership doesn’t happen by accident; it needs to be learned. And that’s what Jay Kiedrowski has been doing for the past 18 years as a senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs—helping students develop their leadership skills.
Kiedrowski retired at the end of 2022 from the School’s leadership and management area, after sending off his last cohort of graduates from the Senior Leadership Institute, one of the Humphrey School’s signature leadership development programs; and the students from the last Public Financial Management course he taught.
Kiedrowski has an extensive background in the public and private sectors, having served as an executive vice president at Wells Fargo, finance commissioner and chief financial officer for the State of Minnesota, and budget director for the City of Minneapolis. He also serves on the boards of several nonprofit organizations.
After retiring from Wells Fargo in 2004, Kiedrowski said he wanted to do something more.
“I realized that I really enjoyed teaching, even teaching my kids how to play basketball and how to drive,” he said. “Somehow it got into my mind that I wanted to teach at the college level, so I got my doctorate at the age of 56.”
He joined the Humphrey School that year as a senior fellow, and since then he has been passing along the lessons he learned to Humphrey School students and professionals looking to enhance their leadership skills.
Among Kiedrowski’s accomplishments: he helped establish the University of Minnesota’s Center for Integrative Leadership; coordinated the Humphrey School’s efforts to recognize government innovations on the state, local, and tribal levels; and played a role in creating a public and nonprofit management minor (now a co-major) for students at the Carlson School of Management, which includes a combination of courses from the Humphrey School and the Carlson School.
He received the University of Minnesota President’s Outstanding Service Award in 2014, along with numerous other awards over the years.
“It’s hard to overstate the breadth of Jay’s impact on his colleagues, students, and community partners over the years,” said Associate Professor Kathy Quick, who leads the leadership and management area faculty. “He has embodied cross-sector leadership in his roles in local and state government, in the private sector, and in the nonprofit sphere. He has walked the walk and been an inspiring role model. We are going to miss him.”
Training state government leaders
For the past 10 years, Kiedrowski has co-led the Senior Leadership Institute (SLI), a highly competitive training program for state government employees, run jointly by the Humphrey School and the State of Minnesota.
“Organizations are only as good as the people who are in them,” Kiedrowski said. “For Minnesota state government to excel it needs great leaders, not only at the top, but throughout the organization. To the extent we can have managers at all levels understand and improve their leadership skills, state government will improve, and that’s important.”
In early December, Kiedrowski emceed the graduation ceremony for 29 state employees in the latest SLI cohort, after they completed a rigorous 10-session training program.
With nearly 36,000 employees, state government is one of the largest employers in Minnesota, and it needs “visionary leaders” to solve problems and find innovative solutions, said Erin Campbell, the deputy commissioner in the state Department of Management and Budget responsible for human resources. She’s also a graduate of the SLI program.
“We also need leaders to foster the type of culture in our state agencies that attracts and retains a diverse, creative and engaged workforce,” she told the graduates. “It is my hope that your SLI experience has built on the excellent skills you already have, and has given you additional tools to do these things well.”
Prasida Khanal, the state oral health director at the Minnesota Department of Health, was chosen to speak on behalf of the graduates.
“I learned from Jay that leadership is a process of discovery. And I discovered my own particular gifts, such as my aspirations to lead, fueled by a desire to serve others,” Khanal said. “I also learned from my colleagues how they, as influential leaders, create an environment that generates a sense of commitment and engagement in their people. They do this by giving away, not hoarding, the power and authority of their positions.”
“We know leadership skills have an impact,” said Kiedrowski. “A number of our graduates have become leaders at various agencies and departments. Alice Roberts-Davis, commissioner of Administration [who also spoke at the ceremony], is the first SLI graduate to be appointed commissioner of a state agency. It’s gratifying to think that we have had an impact on improving the state of Minnesota.”
Retiring, but not slowing down
Kiedrowski said his involvement in several nonprofit organizations including the Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation, the Guthrie Theater, and the Carlson School of Management Funds Enterprise Committee, will keep him busy. He also is a longtime member of the Humphrey School Dean’s Advisory Council.
Kiedrowski tutors students at an elementary school in Minneapolis, and he intends to spend more time doing that. He and his wife, Iris, have eight grandchildren so he’s looking forward to spending more time with them. And if the Humphrey School calls, needing a hand with the SLI next fall, he’ll be available.
“It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to be at the Humphrey School,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here, and I hope I made a little bit of an impact over the years.”