Jodi Harpstead

Jodi Harpstead - CEO Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, named new DHS Commissioner

(August 12, 2019) – Today, Governor Tim Walz appointed Jodi Harpstead, CEO of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, as the new Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, effective September 3.

“Serving as the CEO for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota has been among the greatest joys of my life,” Harpstead said. “I can accept this appointment because LSS is strong and healthy. I am so proud of this organization – our employees, volunteers and supporters – who are deeply dedicated to the LSS vision that all people have the opportunity to live and work in community, with full and abundant lives.”

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota is one of Minnesota’s largest human service organizations with 2,300 employees and 8,000 volunteers that serve one in 65 Minnesotans. Harpstead is admired for her work fostering an operational philosophy of breakthrough thinking within the organization to drive innovation in services, helping develop and support strong leadership across and throughout the organization. She has also been instrumental in helping to promote a positive and supportive work culture and the organization’s first employee vision statement that underscores meaningful work, opportunities for professional growth and balanced lives for employees.

Key innovations for Harpstead and LSS’ management team include:

• New service designs for older adults, people with disabilities and children, youth and families across the state of Minnesota.

Older Adults: Recent innovations include contracting with health systems to integrate social determinants with health for seniors, including healthy meals shipped to homes in rural Minnesota and Community Companions that help Minnesotans recover after a hospital stay and avoid re-admittance.

People with Disabilities: LSS was a leader in founding the Altair ACO, a collaboration of service providers now supporting about 18,000 Minnesotans with intellectual and developmental disabilities – about 30% of the people with disability waivers in Minnesota – using a care management approach with the goals of better health, fuller lives, and lower cost. Altair has grown to 14 partners from its original 6 in 2013, and is a national leader bringing forward new, integrated models of health and services targeted at “whole-person care.”

Youth Homelessness: The Center for Changing Lives for Youth opened in Duluth 2017, followed by an LSS-convened community stakeholder group whose goal is to end homelessness for youth in Duluth.

Adoption Leadership: Assuring that Minnesota remains a leader in International, Domestic and Foster Care Adoptions by bringing together the adoption services of Children’s Home Society and LSS in 2012 under an innovative affiliation between two long standing and respected Minnesota organizations.

• Development of LSS offices in urban neighborhoods which include recent partnerships with Lifetrack in Saint Paul’s Promise Neighborhood and Christ the River of Life Lutheran Church and Redeemer Center for Life in North Minneapolis.

• Supporting military families. Through a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, Lutheran Social Service offers support to military families statewide including mental health and financial counseling, caregiver support and other supportive resources.

• Taking a stand as an anti-racism organization. Fostering conversations and learning on issues of race among employees is an ongoing endeavor that began in 2008 to promote greater understanding, ensure high quality service and build racial equity.

“We’re very proud of the work Jodi and LSS’ leadership team have accomplished to continue cultivating a vibrant, innovative and healthy organization with highly-dedicated employees who are driven by compassion to help others lead full and abundant lives,” said Dr. Paul Dovre, Board Chair for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. “We truly wish Jodi well and know that both the Minnesota Department of Human Services and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota will be in very capable hands.”

Patrick Thueson, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, will become Acting CEO beginning September 3 while the Board of Directors determines their next steps. Thueson has served for 12 years with Harpstead. LSS’ continuing senior executives have a combined total of 80 years of leadership experience at LSS.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota began in 1865 when a Lutheran pastor and his congregation opened an orphanage for children near Red Wing in southeastern Minnesota. Today, with 2,300 employees and 8,000 volunteers, Lutheran Social Service supports one in 65 Minnesotans through services that inspire hope, change lives and build community. Statewide, the organization seeks to foster safe and supportive homes for children, restore health and wellness in families, empower people with disabilities to live the lives they imagine, and promote health, independence and quality of life for older adults. For comprehensive information about the work of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, visit