I was fortunate to be elected as an at-large member of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board three times, and I served four years each as its president and vice president. I was endorsed each time by the DFL Party, labor and the Sierra Club, and I thank all of you, and those organizations, for that past support.
I’d like to add my perspective on the Park Board races that were highlighted in a recent column by Lori Sturdevant (“A Park Board possibly in flux: Minneapolis voters must resolve an intense generational struggle,” Oct. 29).
I chose not to run for re-election this year for three reasons: a belief that some board turnover is a good thing and that new energy and ideas bring vitality to any board, a belief that Minneapolis residents should have the opportunity to elect a board that reflects the rich and changing diversity of our city, and a belief that new board members bring new skill-sets that collectively enhance an organization’s long-term decisionmaking.
We are fortunate that a number of residents have stepped forward to run for the Park Board this year. Yet, I have concerns with the rhetoric and policies of some candidates. Minneapolis residents expect park commissioners to focus on core services first: cut the grass, offer recreational opportunities, protect our lakes and river. However, a number of candidates propose using parks to address larger social issues while offering few specifics on their policies around day-to-day park operations and programming. They have not been involved with parks in the past and/or do not seem to appreciate that elected officials have a responsibility to reflect the values of all Minneapolis residents.
Fortunately, there are nine candidates with a focus on providing core park services. These candidates are diverse, have an eye on sound fiscal management, have volunteered in our communities and parks (in some cases, for decades), and have an understanding of the role of an elected official. I urge you to consider supporting them. They are at large-candidates LeTrisha Vetaw, Mike Derus and Meg Forney (voters will select three at-large members); coach Billy Menz in the First District; coach Mike “Tally” Tate in the Second; Abdi “Gurhan” Mohammed in the Third; Tom Nordyke in the Fourth; Steffanie Musich in the Fifth; and coach Bob Fine in the Sixth. Four of the candidates have served before, and five are new candidates. All would enrich the board and focus on what we need them to do — running our parks. Please support them.
Serving you as a Park Board member for 12 years has been one of the great honors of my life. I am incredibly grateful to you and believe that we achieved much during those times. I am also very appreciative of every Park Board member and elected official with whom I have been fortunate to serve.
Please continue your support of an independently elected Minneapolis Park Board. Your past support is reflected in your fine park system daily and is the reason we have the No. 1 park system in the nation for five years running! But, above all, get to the bottom of the ballot and vote for Park Board candidates.
John Erwin was first elected to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in 2001.