Jono Cowgill elected Park Board president

Jono Cowgill
Jono Cowgill, who represents several Southwest neighborhoods, has been elected Park Board president for 2020. Submitted photo

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will have a new leadership team in 2020 after commissioners elected a new president and vice president on Jan. 2.

Jono Cowgill, who represents the northern portion of Southwest Minneapolis and Downtown, was elected Park Board president for 2020, with at-large commissioner LaTrisha Vetaw chosen as vice president.

“I look forward to seeing what we can all do together,” Cowgill said, stating his desire to unify the board to focus on improving the parks and serving vulnerable residents.

Cowgill was nominated for the presidency by Vetaw, and won with five votes and none opposed, though commissioners Londel French, AK Hassan and Kale Severson abstained from voting. Former board president Brad Bourn was absent.

French had nominated Vetaw for president, but she declined to run. Vetaw was unanimously voted vice president of the board, taking over the role from Hassan.

Cowgill said his top priorities will be continuing to invest in programming and employment for city youth and making the parks a front line in Minneapolis’ efforts to combat climate change. He called the city’s December declaration of a climate emergency a “north star” that should prompt the MPRB to do all it can to improve the environment of Minneapolis.

He takes the presidency following the passage of a $126 million budget for the MPRB and will lead the Park Board as it works to design a new pavilion at Bde Maka Ska and continues to make improvements to parkland alongside the Mississippi River. The Park Board will also vote on master plans for Southwest neighborhood parks, Minnehaha Regional Park and Parks for All, a comprehensive plan guiding MPRB policy for the next decade.

Cowgill represents several Southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods, including Bryn Mawr, Cedar-Isles-Dean, East Isles, ECCO, Kenwood, Lowry Hill, Lowry Hill East, Stevens Square and Whittier. He is in the middle of his first term on the Park Board.

Bourn, who had served as board president the past two years, announced he would not seek a leadership role at the end of 2019. In 2018, Bourn was voted president over Vetaw with commissioners Meg Forney and Steffanie Musich supporting Vetaw. All three female commissioners supported Cowgill this year.

Commissioner Chris Meyer will serve as the Park Board appointee to the Minneapolis Planning Commission through 2021.

With Cowgill and Vetaw taking leadership positions on the board, power has largely shifted to a group of new commissioners elected in 2017.

Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Ringold was reappointed as board secretary and Brian Rice was reappointed as the legal counsel for the Park Board.