Brad Bourn will lead a new Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board as president during his third term representing Southwest Minneapolis.
Bourn only received support from members of the new wing of the nine-member board, whose six freshly elected commissioners and three returning commissioners met for the first time Tuesday to get sworn in, make committee appointments and elect officers to lead meetings.
The District 6 commissioner, who called the new title the honor of his life, said in electing these commissioners, Minneapolis voters sent a message that residents should have access to parks regardless of their ZIP code, gender or language.
“Today I have the honor of being with one of the most diverse and progressive boards in the history of the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park Board,” he said.
Under his leadership, Bourn, the current board’s longest-serving member, said he would like the organization to form partnerships with Minneapolis Public Schools, bolster the rights of park employees and expand recreation center youth programs like Rec Plus.
The same block of commissioners elected AK Hassan as vice president with a 6-3 vote. Voters elected him last fall to represent District 3, which includes the Cedar-Riverside, Longfellow and Powderhorn neighborhoods. Bourn said Hassan, the board’s first Somali commissioner, will be a “phenomenal” vice president.
“He has the energy of 10 men,” he said.
The two other returning commissioners, Steffanie Musich (District 5) and Meg Forney (at-large), joined LaTrisha Vetaw, a new citywide commissioner, in voting against Bourn and Hassan becoming the board’s next leaders.
Musich, who is starting a second term representing the Lake Nokomis area, had harsh words for Bourn, publicly accusing him of pandering to make political alliances and not following through with a commitment to work with her.
“I’ve seen the skills in which you’ve woven a kernel of truth into a complex web of lies and misrepresentations to further your political ambitions and aspirations,” she said prior to the vote that would make him president.
Bourn, who did not publicly address her statement, said in an interview that he will be a president of all commissioners, not just the ones that agree with him.
“I’m really proud of the campaign that our volunteers and I ran. We campaigned on real progressive values and how we engage the Minneapolis Park Board in those values, and the voters spoke,” he said.
Bourn said there was a perception during the election that some voices were “stifled” and that he will work with his dissenters.
“I think some members of our community were frustrated because they felt like they didn’t have a voice. I will do my best to make sure everyone in our community has that voice even when we don’t agree,” he said.
Mayor Jacob Frey addressed the new board, which is customary of the city’s newly elected leader. Frey, who said the reason he moved to Minneapolis was its parks, said addressing racial disparities and equity is possible through access to green space. Equitable access, neighborhood park investment and outreach were primary topics across Park Board races last year.
Though the two organizations historically haven’t seen eye to eye, Frey said the City of Minneapolis wants to partner with the Park Board.
“Please work with us. Please come to City Hall,” he said.
Commissioner Jono Cowgill, whose District 4 stretches between downtown and Lake Calhoun, was appointed to represent the board on the City Planning Commission. The Lowry Hill East resident is a planner by trade.
“I’m a trained urban planner and someone who works daily to think about how we make our city livable for everybody here and throughout Minnesota,” he said.
Bourn announced he plans to introduce a resolution Wednesday to begin the process of naming Mary Merrill Anderson as Superintendent Jayne Miller’s temporary replacement. Miller announced in December that she will leave her post in February after seven years as the city’s top parks executive and take a job leading the Pittsburg Parks Conservancy.
Merrill Anderson previously served as superintendent between 1999 and 2003 and then one term as a commissioner. Bourn and Vetaw list her as an endorsement on their campaign websites.
Bourn said he hopes the full board can approve the interim superintendent by Jan. 17 so she can start when Miller leaves Feb. 4. He said he expects to have a permanent replacement in place by this October when Miller’s contract was originally due to expire.