The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on Thursday elected Commissioner Jono Cowgill to serve as its new leader for 2020.
Cowgill, who represents the Fourth District, which consists of areas of the Chain of Lakes and downtown Minneapolis, was first elected to the board in 2017. He takes over from Commissioner Brad Bourn, who served as president since 2018.
After the vote, Cowgill thanked commissioners for their commitment to “further the really important work of improving public spaces in our city, especially for our most vulnerable and most underserved.”
“I think everybody on this board … has incredible wealth of knowledge, perspective and experience that has been tapped but I think can be tapped even more,” Cowgill, 31, said. “I look forward to seeing what we can all do together.”
Cowgill will lead the Park Board as it enacts a $126.2 million budget focused on expanding youth programming and employment. The board will work to rebuild its signature concession at Bde Maka Ska and open a riverfront park in northeast Minneapolis in 2021.
He will also represent the board during the International Ski Federation’s World Cup cross-country ski race at Theodore Wirth Park in March. It’s the first time the organization has held a World Cup race in the United States in nearly two decades, according to the Loppet Foundation.
He said the Park Board will face many challenges over the coming years, including continuing to invest in youth and facing the climate emergency declared by the Minneapolis City Council late last year.
“Environmental stewardship is one of the top board priorities,” he said.
Cowgill, the sole nominee, won the position with five votes. Commissioners AK Hassan, Londel French and Kale Severson abstained from voting. Bourn, who is on vacation, was not at the meeting.
Board commissioners vote on a new president and other leadership positions at the first meeting of each year. Last month, Bourn said he would not accept a renomination and would instead focus on park issues in his southwest Minneapolis district.
Bourn served two years as president, with Commissioners LaTrisha Vetaw, Meg Forney and Steffanie Musich voting against him on both occasions. He led the board after a heated election in 2017, remnants of which were visible in the often tense discussions between commissioners at meetings.
Cowgill said he hopes to develop respectful relationships among commissioners and find common ground in the process.
“Certainly there are going to be clear lines in the sand, differences of opinion, and that’s not going to stop,” he said. “We’re really looking for that collegial atmosphere of mutual respect that we are all here for.”
The board remains relatively new, with six of its members, including Cowgill, in the middle of their first term.
As president, Cowgill will earn $13,852 in 2020. The other commissioners make $12,438 a year.
Commissioners also selected Vetaw as the board’s vice president.
The Park Board will have its first regular meeting of the year Jan. 8.