Is Minneapolis Park Board’s Toxic Image Hurting Superintendent Search?

It’s taking longer than expected for Minneapolis to fill what used to be one of the most highly sought after jobs in the field–superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

But board members have decided to go full speed ahead on another pressing issue before them. The new commissioners who took over the board last year on a platform for change have made it a priority to give themselves a pay raise–possibly more than double their predecessors’ compensation of $12,400 and benefits in what’s traditionally been viewed as a public service job.

An independent “blue ribbon advisory panel” announced by MPRB President Brad Bourn will make recommendations, according to the Star Tribune.

Citing progress the board has made on its initiatives, he said it’s now time to “convene a transparent conversation about commissioner compensation parallel with our annual budget discussions.” In his statement, Bourn said he has asked the panel to give the board its recommendations no later than Nov. 7.

“If this panel recommends a salary increase and the board votes to approve it, I will personally donate that increase back to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in 2019, exactly as I did in 2014,” he said in the statement, which he read at the meeting.

Park Board members make $12,438 a year plus benefits for what’s considered to be a part-time job.

At the same time, the park board will miss its deadline to find a new superintendent this month, despite a national search.

Also on Wednesday night, the board approved interim leader Mary Merrill’s extension 6-2 (one member was absent), keeping her in the role until a permanent commissioner is found. She will fill the role until Dec. 31 at her current salary of $14,278 per month.

Her contract expired Oct. 31. Merrill has said she doesn’t want to be the permanent replacement.

Hard to blame Merrill for taking herself out of the running, given the the turmoil and turnover at the parks board the last couple years.  The question now is whether the search firm will meet its new end-of-year deadline to find a top-tier candidate given the MPRB’s increasingly toxic image.