The Minnesota Lottery will be temporarily led by Michael Vekich, the former chairman of a state colleges board who was among Gov. Tim Pawlenty's challengers for the Republican nomination in 2002.
Pawlenty announced Vekich's appointment Monday, six days after the suicide of longtime director George Andersen. A soon-to-be released government audit of lottery operations had taken an emotional toll on Andersen, according to family members and friends.
Pawlenty referenced the audit in a news release about the appointment.
"Mike Vekich has a unique ability to find the problems in a company or organization and turn it around," Pawlenty said. "The Legislative Auditor's report is due out in the next few weeks and we wanted to have the right person at the lottery to address whatever concerns the auditor raises."
The audit reportedly raises questions about Andersen's close relationships with at least one lottery vendor.
Vekich will serve until Pawlenty is convinced that any lottery problems are addressed, the governor's office said. Andersen was the only person to lead the lottery, which began in 1990.
Vekich, of St. Louis Park, runs his own business consulting company. From 1997 to 2001, he was chairman of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities board of trustees.
In 2002, he sought the Republican nomination for governor, but dropped out before the June party convention at which Pawlenty was endorsed. Vekich cited lack of funds in the decision to end his bid.
Vekich didn't immediately return a call for comment, but he said in Pawlenty's news release that he was honored to serve.
"I will work hard to ensure the Minnesota State Lottery regains stability and continues to support vital environmental efforts in our state," Vekich said.