County Commissioner Shannon Portillo is a finalist for Minnesota position that could require her to leave elected post

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

Commission Vice Chair Shannon Reid, from left, Chair Shannon Portillo and Commissioner Patrick Kelly are pictured during the commission's first in-person meeting on June 16, 2021, at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

Updated at 7:41 p.m. Monday

Douglas County Commissioner Shannon Portillo has been named a finalist for a college dean position in Minnesota.

Portillo is one of three finalists vying to become dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Portillo, who was first elected to the Douglas County Commission in November, would have to vacate her position on the commission if she moved from the district prior to her term expiring in January 2025.

Portillo said she has told Minnesota officials that due to her County Commission duties and other obligations, she could not move to Minnesota until 2022, if she receives the job. Portillo, a Democrat who represents the Third District of Douglas County, said leaving her elected position would be difficult.

“It was really hard,” Portillo said of her decision to apply for the position knowing that it could lead to the end of her County Commission service. “The first time the search firm called me, I told them I wasn’t interested. “But the firm reached out again and helped me understand the role I could play and the work I could do, and I realized I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”

Portillo currently is the associate dean of academic affairs at KU’s Edwards Campus & School of Professional Studies. Portillo also serves as a professor in KU’s School of Public Affairs & Administration, and has a doctorate in public administration from KU.

Portillo said the University of Minnesota said that it intended to make a hire for the dean’s position by the end of summer. All three candidates for the dean’s position gave public presentations earlier this month, and members of the university community were asked to provide their evaluations of the candidates last week.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said that Democratic precinct committeemen and women in the Third District would gather and vote to fill Portillo’s seat on the commission, if it becomes vacant. If the vacancy occurs before May 1, 2022, a person would be appointed to fill the seat until a special election could be held in November 2022. If the seat becomes vacant after May 1, a person would be appointed to fill the remainder of Portillo’s term, which runs through 2024.

Portillo said if she did not receive the job in Minnesota, it was not a given that she would keep applying for other positions that could cause her to leave her County Commission seat. She said she greatly enjoyed the work of serving as a county commissioner, but also said the financial difficulties and other issues that KU was facing made it difficult to rule out a move that could impact her County Commission duties.

Portillo also serves on Gov. Laura Kelly’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice.


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