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For Immediate Release
State of Minnesota

Media Contact(s):

Alyssa Hayes, Explore Minnesota
O: 651-276-8738 // [email protected]

State Tourism Director to Retire After 21 Years of Service to Minnesota

John Edman standing by the water

Explore Minnesota Director John Edman Steps Down After Being Appointed by Four Governors of Three Different Political Parties

ST. PAUL, Minn. (April 26, 2021) – Explore Minnesota announced today that its tourism director, John Edman, is stepping down after 21 years of service to the state, effective June 3, 2021. A leader in Minnesota’s tourism and hospitality industry, Edman has directed development and implementation of tourism plans, policies and programs to promote Minnesota as a travel and tourism destination. He has diligently served as the state's chief spokesperson for tourism-related issues while managing an agency with approximately 50 staff.

Edman holds the distinction of being appointed by four governors of three different political parties: Gov. Jesse Ventura (Independent) in 2000, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (Republican) in 2003 and 2007, Gov. Mark Dayton (Democrat) in 2011 and 2015, and Gov. Walz in 2019 (Democrat). Over the years, Edman developed new marketing strategies for Minnesota tourism and created new public and private marketing partnerships that have generated millions in private industry funding each year.

 “I have served in this position throughout four Governor’s administrations and the most challenging times in Minnesota’s history. I am deeply grateful for the years of opportunity to work alongside Minnesota’s hard-working tourism-industry owners, operators, workers and destination marketing organizations in attracting visitors to our beautiful state,” said John Edman, Explore Minnesota director.

During his tenure, Edman has served in national and state leadership positions on numerous organizations and boards, including: the National Council of State Tourism Directors, Great Lakes USA, Mississippi River Country, The Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Foundation, the University of Minnesota Tourism Center, Brand USA and the U.S. Travel Association, which named him State Tourism Director of the Year in 2015. Edman also spearheaded the important evolution of Explore Minnesota as its own state agency, guided by the Governor’s appointed council on tourism.

“For over 20 years, John Edman has been devoted to sharing the beauty of Minnesota with visitors from across the globe,” said Governor Tim Walz. “Even as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, our state’s tourism industry is strong and vibrant, and we have John to thank for that. I am incredibly grateful for his service to our state.”

Under Edman’s leadership, Explore Minnesota has won numerous awards for media innovation and destination marketing efforts and launched Minnesota’s largest-ever tourism marketing campaign, #OnlyinMN in 2014.

 “We have experienced multiple, compounding crises in our state this year, but the industry has persevered, and we are beginning to see growth and optimism for the future. With the transition to a new fiscal year and the industry positioned for recovery, it is time now for me to focus on my personal life and pass the torch to the next leader who will guide this small, but critically important agency for Minnesota,” added Edman.

Explore Minnesota’s assistant director, Leann Kispert, will lead the agency on an interim basis until a new tourism director is appointed by Gov. Walz.   


About Explore Minnesota

As the state's tourism promotion office, Explore Minnesota works to inspire consumers and facilitate travel to and within Minnesota while pursuing an entrepreneurial approach and leveraging the state's tourism investment with increased involvement by the private sector. A council of tourism industry representatives connects Explore Minnesota with tourism businesses and organizations throughout the state. Tourism is a key sector of the state's economy, historically generating $16.6 billion in leisure and hospitality sales and employing nearly 275,000 workers in Minnesota's leisure and hospitality businesses, representing 11 percent of Minnesota's private sector employment. Leisure and hospitality also generates $1.04 billion of the state's sales tax revenues.

For trip ideas and to start planning your Minnesota summer travel adventure, visit Share your sights with @exploreminn on Twitter, or @exploreminnesota on Instagram and Facebook, using #OnlyinMN.