Park Board approves contract for new superintendent

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Al Bangoura. Submitted photo.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board unanimously approved a three-year contract for new Superintendent Al Bangoura Dec. 19, a move that ended a nearly year-long process to find the next leader of the organization.

Bangoura, who grew up in the Twin Cities and spent 19 years working for the MPRB before leaving for a leadership position with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation in Charlotte, North Carolina., is scheduled to start on Jan. 20.

His contract will pay $175,000 annually, with yearly adjustments based on MPRB staff collective bargaining agreements.

“Welcome home Mr. Bangoura, we look forward to seeing you soon,” Park Board President Brad Bourn said after the vote.

Bangoura will take charge over the MPRB and its recently approved $124 million budget for 2019.

The search to find the replacement for Jayne Miller, who resigned in February for a role in Pittsburgh, began in earnest in May when the Park Board hired consulting firm kpCompanies to help lead the search and recruit qualified candidates to apply. Over the summer, 22 listening sessions were held across the city to get input from residents on what they wanted to see in the new superintendent.

From there, a seven-member community selection committee narrowed the field by doing a blind review of dozens of applicants passed on by kpCompanies, which was then passed to a group of three commissioners for further whittling. Bangoura and another finalist, Subhajeet “Seve” Ghose, a parks director in Louisville, Kentucky, came for public interviews in November.

The Park Board had allocated up to $100,000 for the search process in May but didn’t cover all the costs alone. Philanthropic partner Minneapolis Parks Foundation chipped in $50,000 for the search. A final figure on the search costs was not immediately available.

“I am honored to lead Minneapolis Park and Recreation, the premier park system in the country,” Bangoura said in a statement. “For 19 years, I had the privilege of serving Minneapolis residents and working with passionate communities. I am excited to reconnect with internal staff and the community. I intend to be the voice on how we build communities, deliver meaningful services and meet the diverse needs of Minneapolis residents. Thank you and I look forward to coming back home!”

Bourn said Bangoura has expressed interest in staying at the Theodore Wirth Home at 39th & Bryant in Lyndale Farmstead Park during the next year while his family moves from North Carolina. Previous superintendents, including Miller, have stayed at the house over the years. Miller paid $1,154 monthly to rent the home.

Park Board lawyer Brian Rice said it’s best to do rental agreements on the house separate from the overall contract. Bourn said MPRB staff are working to bring the board new information on what a market-rate rent for the home would be and will present that suggested rate next month.

In a related move, the Park Board also approved a month-long extension on the contract of interim Superintendent Mary Merrill to extend through Jan. 19.