Often-absent Barbara Derus quits Three Rivers Park Board

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 5, 2012 - 11:45 PM

Work-related trips to Europe hurt Barbara Derus' attendance.

Facing questions about poor attendance, Three Rivers Park Commissioner Barbara Derus has resigned and will not complete a four-year term that expires at the end of the year.

Derus sent a letter of resignation June 29, the same day that the Star Tribune published a report that she missed 14 of 22 board meetings and workshops during the past 12 months.

"My intentions were always to do what was best for the park board and make the necessary commitment required for this position," she wrote in the letter to Mike Opat, chairman of the Hennepin County Board that appointed her. "Unfortunately, this is no longer possible due to my work and travel schedule."

Three Rivers commissioners are paid $927 per month, except for the board chairman, who receives $978.50 per month. The board typically meets twice a month for meetings and workshops.

The board has five commissioners who are elected from geographic districts in Hennepin County, and two commissioners -- including Derus -- appointed by the Hennepin County Board.

Opat confirmed Thursday that he received the resignation letter from Derus and was sharing it with other Hennepin County commissioners.

"It's unfortunate that she wasn't able to finish her term, but life happens," he said.

Opat said he doesn't know whether the Hennepin County Board will appoint someone to fill the remaining few months of Derus' term, or wait until early 2013 to fill the position with a four-year appointment.

"I don't know what we'll do exactly. I'll discuss it with a couple of my colleagues and make that decision," Opat said.

Derus said in an interview last week that she had changed jobs and gotten a divorce since she was appointed to the job in early 2009, and that extensive travel to Europe for work has made it impossible for her to attend meetings.

Derus notified Opat and Three Rivers Board Chair Larry Blakstad earlier this year that she would not seek reappointment, but she did not offer to resign.

She is the daughter of former Hennepin County Commissioner John Derus and works in the corporate tax department for Ecolab, with frequent travel to Europe.

In her first year on the board, she missed only four meetings, but her attendance fell off dramatically after mid-2010. Since her appointment on February 24, 2009, Derus missed 31 of 77 meetings.

Three Rivers Park District manages almost 27,000 acres, mostly in western Hennepin County, with an annual operating budget of more than $47 million.

The system includes about 21 park reserves, regional parks and special-use facilities and hundreds of miles of trails.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

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Barbara Derus