President: Starting search for new superintendent a ‘natural’ step
It’s time to move on.
That was the message sent by John Erwin, president of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and five of his colleagues as the board voted Feb. 3 to start a search for the system’s next superintendent.
The effect: a strong chance Superintendent Jon Gurban will be out once his contract ends, possibly later this year. He’s allowed to reapply for his job, but as Erwin said, “there are new needs.”
The six commissioners who voted to move on said they were following the will of Minneapolis residents. All four newly elected commissioners — including Southwest’s Brad Bourn and Anita Tabb — said comments from residents on the campaign trail sealed their decisions. Tabb said she was elected to spur a move in a new direction.
The actions of the majority were met with frowning, sometimes shocked and angry looks from the minority. Commissioners Bob Fine, Carol Kummer and Jon Olson pushed forward with a discussion that dominated the night, making numerous comments emphasizing their discontent. Fine called the process rushed; Olson called it a sham. Kummer said the decision will prove costly.
They were tough words reminiscent of the night Gurban was first chosen to lead the Park Board, after a candidate search imploded in 2003. Gurban at the time had neither applied for nor been screened for the job, but he was hired with a 5-4 vote to serve a one-year contract. Erwin, then serving his first term, called the board’s decision “outrageous” and “unprofessional.”
Gurban’s hiring was contingent on his passing the screening process, which he did. And a year later, the board extended his contract on a 6-3 vote — Erwin was with the majority that time — after successfully completing another candidate search.
Gurban has since watched over a number of system accomplishments, including the development of the board’s Comprehensive Plan and the completion of long-stalled ideas to fill the last gap in the city’s Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System. A 2008 evaluation of his job performance showed a majority of the last Park Board found he met or exceeded expectations.
But Gurban has taken knocks on issues such as transparency and communication concerns, and his interactions with both the public and the board, in particular, have been scrutinized over the years. Moving on now, “it happens,” Erwin said. “It just happens as the natural growth of an organization.”
In six years, another board could be making the same decision, he said.
How long it will take to find a new superintendent will depend on what search firm is chosen. The process could last through the end of the year.
In the meantime, one issue remains unsolved: what happens in July. Gurban’s contract currently ends in June, and the board hasn’t decided what to do beyond that. Commissioners said they wanted to wait until after a search firm is chosen.
Bourn ‘hopeful’ about getting another dog park
Commissioner Brad Bourn wants to see whether Southwest can get another off-leash dog park, possibly in the Kingfield neighborhood.
Residents there have been interested in having one for some time. Parks staff, on the other hand, have said that space is an issue, particularly at Martin Luther King Park. Alexander Zachary, a planner for Southwest’s Lakes District, last summer said, “It’s not an appropriate spot for a dog park.”
Still, Bourn said constituents asked him about the subject many times while he was on the campaign trail. And at the Feb. 3 Park Board meeting, he said he wants the subject to be discussed soon by the board’s Planning Committee.
While there are no new concrete details — Bourn said he currently is talking to staff about work that’s already been done on the issue — he wants to at least get a discussion going.
There currently is one dog park in Southwest, located at Lake of the Isles.
Fuller Park building to get makeover
Fuller Park is getting an upgrade courtesy of the Tangletown Neighborhood Association.
The park’s center will be refurnished, with new desks in its computer lab as well as a refaced welcome desk, new countertops and new shelving. The lounge’s carpet will be replaced, as will furniture.
Neighborhood Revitalization Program funds will cover the work, budgeted at $12,500.