After 10 years in office, Russ Stark is leaving the St. Paul City Council to work as Mayor Melvin Carter’s top environmental official.
Stark, who stepped down as council president in December after three years, will serve as chief resilience officer in the mayor’s office starting next month. An interim council member will fill his seat until August, when the city will hold a special election in tandem with the primary election.
Amy Brendmoen, who replaced Stark as council president, said the resilience officer position — which focuses on preparing the city for climate change — is Stark’s “dream job.”
“We’re really happy for Russ,” Brendmoen said. “This really puts a fine point on the work he wants to do.”
When Stark announced he was stepping down as council president, he said he wanted to focus on big projects, from raising the citywide minimum wage to improving bicycle and pedestrian safety. He did not indicate any plans to leave the council.
As council president, Stark worked closely with former Mayor Chris Coleman’s administration, discussing ideas with them before they reached the rest of the council.
By giving up the position, Stark also gave up an opportunity to work closely with Carter, for whom he campaigned during the 2017 mayor’s race. But in December, Stark said he saw his choice to leave the council president job as a “win, win, win.”
Before being elected to the council in 2007, Stark worked on transit, bicycling and pedestrian issues for the nonprofit University UNITED and the Midway Transportation Management Organization.
Cities around the world employ resilience officers as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s “100 Resilient Cities” project. While St. Paul isn’t one of those, Stark said he hopes to collaborate with his peers in other cities — including Minneapolis, which hired former legislator Kate Knuth for the job in June.
St. Paul aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. Under Coleman, the city added bike trails and light rail, updated its recycling program and partnered with Xcel Energy to collect energy usage data and make buildings more energy-efficient.
Stark’s salary will be $105,000, according to Liz Xiong, Carter’s press secretary. Council members earn about $60,000.
Carter’s office announced Stark’s hiring in a release announcing several cabinet picks.
Stark will likely work most closely with chief equity officer Toni Newborn and chief innovation officer Tarek Tomes. Newborn’s salary will be $124,000 and Tomes’ will be $156,000, according to Xiong.
Other hires announced Wednesday include Naomi Alemseged as constituent outreach coordinator, Kaohly Her as policy director, Peter Leggett as director of communications and marketing and Noel Nix as deputy director of intergovernmental relations and community engagement. Nix is currently the assistant to Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter, the mayor’s mother.
Staff writer Jessie Van Berkel contributed to this report.