Mayor Jacob Frey on Feb. 28 nominated Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde for city coordinator.
Rivera-Vandermyde currently serves as deputy city coordinator and was previously director of the city’s Department of Regulatory Services. If her appointment is confirmed by the City Council, she will take over the post occupied since 2014 by Spencer Cronk, who in February started in a new job as city manager of Austin, Texas.
Frey praised Rivera-Vandermyde’s “wealth of experience,” noting her work as an attorney and correctional system administrator in Puerto Rico. He also described her as an “architect” of the city’s recently adopted minimum wage and sick and safe time ordinances.
Frey said Rivera-Vandermyde’s use of “data-driven analysis” and her “goal-oriented approach” meshed with his own style of work.
“We’ve got a very aggressive agenda coming forward at the City of Minneapolis,” he said, describing Rivera-Vandermyde as “exactly the person to take the reins.”
The City Coordinator’s Office advises and consults with both the mayor and City Council, oversees city finances and directs the other city departments. It is the office charged with carrying out many of the policies enacted by the city’s elected officials.
Rivera-Vandermyde moved to Minnesota in 2006, and in addition to her work with the city she sits on the board of directors for the affordable housing nonprofit HousingLink. Standing next to Frey at a Feb. 28 press event, she described the nomination as a privilege.
“It has been great to really work in a city that is moving things forward,” she said. “It is not just talking about change, it is driving change, it is becoming a change agent in times where, nationally, we are not seeing that change move as quickly as we can.”
Frey took office in January but delayed the nomination of new department heads until after the Minneapolis-hosted Super Bowl in early February. The mayor nominates all department heads, but the appointments must be approved by the City Council Executive Committee. A public hearing on each nomination precedes a final vote by the full council.
Frey’s other nominations included David Frank for director the Community Planning and Economic Development Department; Frank currently serves as interim director. Frey also nominated Robin Hutcheson, Susan Segal and Patrick Todd for re-appointment to their leadership roles in the Public Works Department, City Attorney’s Office and City Assessor’s Office, respectively.
Segal received mostly praise but also some criticism during the March 1 public hearing on her re-appointment in front of the City Council Enterprise Committee. Dave Bicking, a prominent police reform advocate, said he opposed her nomination for a variety of reasons, including the disproportionate prosecution of people of color.
Bicking also raised the issue of a legal opinion offered by Segal in 2012 that allowed the city to make a $150 million contribution to the construction of U.S. Bank Stadium without putting the issue to voters in the form of a referendum. That issue was also raised during 2014 re-appointment proceedings for Segal.
In 2016, Segal was one of several city officials who accepted free seat in a stadium luxury suite controlled by the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority. She later reimbursed the MSFA for the ticket, but Bicking said it raised questions about Segal’s ethics.
“For someone in that position to accept free tickets to a game at the stadium that she helped ram through, I can’t even imagine how someone wouldn’t say, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t take these tickets,’” he said.
At least seven people testified in support of Segal’s appointment at the same public hearing, including Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty, who described Segal as “incredibly strong in the area of criminal justice reform.” Former City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said Segal was a “brilliant attorney” who was pushing progressive reforms.
Frey said he was “100 percent behind Susan Segal as city attorney.”