Less than two weeks after the abrupt resignation of the Park Board's vice president, Alicia Crudup, the remaining commissioners weighed more than 50 applications to fill the open seat.

Charles Rucker, a Minneapolis firefighter, rose to the top, earning six out of eight votes needed for appointment during a special meeting of the Park Board on Monday night. He will now serve the last two years of Crudup's term, which expires in January 2026, as an at-large commissioner representing the entire city.

"The biggest challenge facing Minneapolis parks is to distribute the budget equitably throughout the city as well as throughout the different demographics," Rucker said in his application. "The safety of our community has been a challenge. Keeping our guests safe must be included in the priorities. If not, all the investment from us does not matter."

The position opened up after Crudup married in May, moved out of Minneapolis and resigned Oct. 30. The Park Board invited any resident of Minneapolis to apply for the vacant spot by Nov. 9 by answering a short questionnaire about their understanding of the park system and ability to serve. Fifty-three people, including former elected officials, youth sports advocates and environmentalists, vied for the spot.

To narrow the field, each of the eight commissioners cast two votes for their preferred applicants, and those who received no votes were eliminated. Another round of voting, with each commissioner getting one vote, further condensed the candidates.

Nevertheless, commissioners could not reach consensus for more than two hours of deliberation, with much debate circling around identity and representation. Crudup had been the board's only person of color before she resigned.

Along with Rucker, the other finalists were Gunnar Carlson, president of the MN Off-Road Cyclists, and former Hennepin County judge Martha Holton Dimick. She voluntarily dropped out of the race after berating the all-white board for lacking racial diversity and — erroneously — a north Minneapolis representative. (Commissioner Becka Thompson is a north Minneapolis resident and represents the North Side.)

Rucker and the other finalists are Black and live in north Minneapolis.

At one point, Commissioner Elizabeth Shaffer suggested putting names in a hat and having Superintendent Al Bangoura pull one out.

After eight rounds of voting, commissioners ultimately chose Rucker, who had run for an at-large Park Board seat in 2021 and finished sixth out of seven candidates. He will soon have to vote on the board's 2024 budget.

The last time Park Board commissioners had to appoint one of their own to fill a vacancy was 21 years ago, when then-board president Ed Solomon died in office, said Park Board lawyer Brian Rice. A south Minneapolis park was named after Solomon in 2004.