A last-minute effort to eliminate a controversial position at the Minneapolis Park Board has failed.
Before the board approved the 2019 recommended budget late Wednesday night, Commissioner Chris Meyer suggested cutting the new full-time, salaried position. He recommended using the budgeted $107,500 for a park advocacy fund instead.
“I still feel that the lack of buy-in from the board makes it extremely difficult for [the consultant] to do his job well,” Meyer said, later adding. “I don’t want to cripple our advocacy efforts.”
Meyer’s attempt comes on the heels of a heated meeting last week where several commissioners raised questions about whether a consultant was given preferential treatment. The vote failed 6-3.
Interim Superintendent Mary Merrill and Commissioner Meg Forney clashed last week about how Kendal Killian, a well-known DFL political operative, was hired. Forney and others have criticized the process, which was done without a board vote.
Under the now-approved 2019 budget, Killian’s six-month, $66,000 contract would be eliminated and the board could hire a new full-time intergovernmental relations employee with an annual salary of $107,500. Applicants would have to go through a hiring process.
Also on Wednesday, the board voted to rename the Minneapolis Park Board headquarters to honor its interim superintendent.
Park Board President Brad Bourn announced his plans before a packed City Hall Wednesday night to rename the board’s building the Mary Merrill Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Headquarters.
“She came out of retirement to do something special and helped the board in a difficult year of transition,” Bourn said.
The Park Board approved the move by suspending its rules, which was met with questions about why the public couldn’t be involved.
“I feel like this is happening in closed doors ... I don’t understand the rush,” said Forney. “It’s far more honoring” to let the community weigh in.
In 1999, Merrill was the first woman and person of color to be named the superintendent of the Park Board. She started her career at Powderhorn Park. She was named interim superintendent early this year after former superintendent Jayne Miller resigned and moved to Pennsylvania. Merrill’s contract ends Dec. 31.
The board nominated Al Bangoura, a longtime former employee, as the new superintendent.
Regarding the name of the headquarters building, Merrill said she was humbled and honored. During her time as a superintendent, she worked to move the board’s administration building out of downtown Minneapolis.
“It’s very nice of the board to think of me that way,” Merrill said. “The city doesn’t have a lot of places named after the people of color. I’m mostly honored and grateful.”