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Former Minnesota Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz Honored By National Governors Association

Posted: Friday, July 17, 2009

Former Chief Justice Blatz one of eight to receive Distinguished Service to State Government Award from National Governors Association

Saint Paul - Former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz was honored by the National Governors Association (NGA) at the NGA Annual Meeting July 18 in Biloxi, Mississippi, for her valuable contribution to public service.  Blatz was nominated for the award by Governor Tim Pawlenty. 

Established in 1976, the NGA Awards for Distinguished Service to State Government allow governors to bring national recognition to their states' most valuable civil servants and private citizens. The awards emphasize the commitment of state administrators and the important contributions private citizens make to their state. The awards program is administered by a selection committee comprised of three permanent representatives from the academic community, as well as designees chosen by the NGA chair and vice chair.

"Chief Justice Blatz's career as a social worker, civil practitioner, prosecutor, legislator, trial judge, Supreme Court Justice and Chief Justice touched the lives of so many Minnesotans," Governor Pawlenty said.  "She is an extraordinary example of what someone with a great heart and a great mind can do when they devote themselves to public service."

"Minnesota is a better place because of Kathleen Blatz," First Lady Mary Pawlenty said.  "Her trailblazing leadership is an inspiration to women and a remarkable demonstration to all of us that one person with vision, commitment and courage can make a positive difference in the community and the lives of others."

In 1998, Blatz became the first woman in Minnesota's history to serve as Chief Justice and lead the state's Judicial Branch.  Under her leadership, Minnesota's court system was transformed,  moving from a confederation of locally-funded trial courts to a unified, state-funded third branch with 21st century technology and an overhauled child protection system  She spearheaded the Children's Justice Initiative, designed to get abused and neglected children out of foster care faster, which has served as a model for the nation and the catalyst for significant improvements in child protection systems in many other states across the county. 

Prior to her judicial service, Blatz served eight terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives, 1979-1994, from Bloomington.  She was Chair of the Crime and Family Law Committee and served as the Assistant Minority Leader for four years. 

Blatz received her undergraduate degree from Notre Dame and law degree and a Masters Degree in social work from the University of Minnesota.

Each year, NGA presents three awards to state officials, three to private citizens and two for distinguished service to the arts. In addition to Chief Justice Blatz, other honorees receiving awards this year are:   

State Officials

  • Robert L. Genuario, Secretary, Office of Policy Management, Connecticut
  • John Cooper, Former Secretary, Department of Game, Fish and Parks, South Dakota

Private Citizens

  • John Walsh, Missing Children Advocate, Florida
  • Dr. Terry D. Dickinson, Executive Director, Virginia Dental Association, Virginia
  • Will Allen, CEO and Founder, Growing Power, Wisconsin

Distinguished Service to the Arts

  • Artistic Production: James Gibson, Landscape Painter, Highwaymen Artist, Florida
  • Arts Support: Mary Ann Mears, Artist, Founder and Chairperson of Arts Education in Maryland Schools