A planner known for emphasizing walking, biking and transit at the helm of Salt Lake City's public works department may soon be in charge of Minneapolis' infrastructure.
Mayor Betsy Hodges nominated Robin Hutcheson on Monday to be the city's next public works director, leading a department with more than 1,000 employees and an annual operating budget exceeding $300 million. The public works director oversees the city's transportation network, drinking water supply, parking facilities, and trash and recycling service, among other responsibilities.
If approved, she would be the first non-engineer to hold the role. Advocates for walking, biking and transit had pressed the city to hire someone who would consider all modes of transportation.
Hutcheson worked for about 16 years in private sector transportation planning firms before becoming Salt Lake City's public works director in 2012. She oversaw the construction of a streetcar line in the city, as well as new walking and biking infrastructure. The Atlantic's City Lab has called her "part of a new class of female DOT heads stressing alternatives to cars."
She would take over Minneapolis' department at a critical time. The city recently committed to a major, long-term reinvestment in street repairs that will raise questions about how different modes of transportation share that space. Minneapolis also recently adopted a "complete streets" policy giving added priority to walking, bicycling and transit over single-occupancy vehicles.
Council Member Lisa Bender, who was among those who reviewed applicants for the position, called Hutcheson a "great choice." The city has not yet announced a date for a public hearing on the appointment.