Anita Tabb will preside over the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for the rest of 2016, backstopped by former board president John Erwin as vice president.
Tabb and Erwin were selected on Wednesday by colleagues on the board to fill a leadership void created last Friday when Liz Wielinski said she was resigning as board president, and vice president Scott Vreeland said he’d follow suit.
The vote was 7-1 for each. It followed a chaotic start to the meeting when audience members erupted in debate over whether the public should have input before the leadership election, prompting a short recess. Several speakers later called for Commissioner Brad Bourn, who often is on the outs on issues with other commissioners, to head the board.
Tabb is in her second term on the board. Colleagues say they don’t expect her to run for a third stint next year. She represents a district that stretches from the downtown riverfront to the city’s western border and Lake Calhoun. She ran for the board after participating in Park Watch, a collection of residents including Wielinski that organized in reaction to the administration of former Superintendent Jon Gurban.
Tabb worked to end illegal groundwater pumping from an apartment to the nearby Chain of Lakes and supported replacing Gurban. She has opposed the design for routing light-rail in the Kenilworth corridor, renaming Lake Calhoun, having the Park Board run the Commons park, lifting the speed limit on bike paths, the Crown Hydro hydroelectric proposal, and reopening the Phillips Community Center pool.
Erwin is a University of Minnesota professor and an extension floriculture horticulturist. He was elected citywide and served as president before Wielinski.
She was in her third year heading the board before she abruptly announced her plans to step down in midterm, citing health issues. She had already made clear that she wouldn’t seek a fourth year as board president.
The Wielinski-Vreeland resignations followed a bruising two months of criticism of the Park Board by former employees, leaders of the Minneapolis NAACP and other black activists. They contend that park employees of color face discrimination in hiring, discipline and advancement.