Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde, a leader at Minneapolis City Hall who played a critical role in responding to a sprawling homeless encampment and guiding a new set of labor laws, is leaving this fall for a job as deputy city manager of Austin, Texas.
Rivera-Vandermyde, the city coordinator, informed Mayor Jacob Frey and City Council this week of her decision to depart, saying she will continue working in her current role until starting the new job Oct. 1.
“The lure of working in a larger city that shares so many of the values of Minneapolis, coupled with the authority to really manage across an entire enterprise, was just too tempting a challenge to not explore,” she told them in an e-mail.
Mark Ruff, the city’s chief financial officer, will take over as interim city coordinator, Frey said.
In Minneapolis, the city coordinator is the top nonelected position, doubling as an adviser to elected officials and manager of seven departments, including human resources, communications and finance. In an interview, Rivera-Vandermyde said Minneapolis’ power structure limited her ability to effect change in the city, as several other departments — police, regulatory services and public works — fall under the purview of the mayor and City Council.
The government hierarchy in Texas’ capital city will give her more authority and the opportunity to work in a city more than twice the population of Minneapolis.
The move also means she will once again work under her former boss — former Minneapolis City Coordinator Spencer Cronk, who took the Austin city manager job in 2018.
Rivera-Vandermyde, whose salary is $187,200, called her departure “bittersweet,” saying she hopes to return one day. “I can’t emphasize enough that I’m extraordinarily proud to have worked in the city,” she said.
Council President Lisa Bender credited Rivera-Vandermyde as integral in laying groundwork for new renter protections, overseeing the city’s research on eviction and supporting an action plan on race equity.
“I’m sad to see her go,” said Bender. As the city looks for a replacement, Bender said she hopes to find a candidate who continues the work Rivera-Vandermyde began.
Frey praised Rivera-Vandermyde for her data-driven approach and commitment to inclusion. “There’s nobody you’d rather be in a foxhole with than Nuria,” he said.
Rivera-Vandermyde came to Minneapolis government in 2013 to lead the department of regulatory services, and she transitioned to the deputy city coordinator job in 2015. Frey nominated her for city coordinator after Cronk left, hailing her as a leader who doesn’t shy away from controversial issues.
In her first year in her new role, the city began scaling up its minimum wage and rolled out a policy guaranteeing sick- and safe-time for workers. Later in the year, she led the city’s effort to find winter shelter for hundreds of homeless people who had set up tents in south Minneapolis.
Rivera-Vandermyde said Austin shares many of the same social and economic issues as Minneapolis, and she looks forward to carrying over lessons learned here to the new job.
Replacement is ‘steady hand’
Her interim replacement, Ruff, has worked as the city’s chief financial officer since 2016, a post in which he oversees more than 250 employees. He previously worked for more than 20 years for Ehlers, a Roseville-based consulting firm that works with municipalities.
“Mark Ruff has been a steady hand guiding some of the most critical decisions before our city,” Frey said. “His reputation for unfailingly sound judgment is well earned, and I have confidence that he is the right person to provide immediate stability for the enterprise.”