Capping a monthlong national search, Al Bangoura became the official new superintendent of the Minneapolis parks system on Wednesday night.

Park commissioners unanimously approved Bangoura’s three-year contract, which includes a first year salary of $175,000, at Wednesday night’s board meeting.

He will begin his new job on Jan. 20, one day after interim Superintendent Mary Merrill’s contract ends.

“Welcome home, Mr. Bangoura,” board President Brad Bourn said after the vote. “We will be seeing you very soon.”

The former longtime park employee will return to Minneapolis to oversee 570 full-time and 1,170 temporary employees and to manage a $125 million budget.

“I am honored to lead … the premier park system in the country,” Bangoura said. “I intend to be the voice on how we build communities, deliver meaningful services and meet the diverse needs of Minneapolis residents. Thank you, and I look forward to coming back home.”

It won’t be an easy job. He’ll be working closely with an often-contentious board, where divisions have developed between the men and women.

Bangoura’s nomination at a November meeting was overshadowed by infighting over a controversial contract for a new consultant. The raucous meeting ended with Merrill in tears.

The bickering was not the first the board has engaged in, but one of the most dramatic instances, with some community members leaving the meeting shaking their heads and others watching in shock in the hallway where a small TV broadcast the live meeting.

On Wednesday, several community members said they continue to be concerned about what they called some board members’ “disrespectful” behavior.

“I want to make sure our elected leaders, especially the women on the board, have their voices heard,” said one public commenter.

Regarding the hiring of the consultant, one said: “You have brought a huge red flag to the public that will generate scrutiny.”

At least one person said Merrill deserves a public apology for the way she was treated.

The search for a new superintendent began in May, when the board chose kpCompanies to oversee the hunt. It budgeted $80,000 to $100,000 for that effort, but got a $50,000 boost from the Minneapolis Foundation to help offset the costs. It is not yet known how much the search cost.

Bangoura will make almost $10,000 per year more than his predecessor, Jayne Miller, who was paid $166,958 in 2017.

While state law caps public employee pay at $175,621, the state gave the board permission to lift the salary cap to $194,399.

Bangoura has expressed interest in living in the historic Theodore Wirth House in southwest Minneapolis.

According to a news release announcing Bangoura’s hiring, “The lease will be based on fair market rental value and will take into consideration ongoing scheduled public access to portions of the home.”

Bangoura will also be responsible for continuing redevelopment of the Upper Harbor Terminal on the Mississippi River, determining the future of the Hiawatha Golf Club and helping guide policies for park police.