Search for next park superintendent moving to next steps

The application period for what Park Board President Brad Bourn calls the “best job in the country” closes at the end of August.

That position would be the next superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, a post the board would like to fill this fall when interim Superintendent Mary Merrill’s contract is up. Bourn, who is leading the search with consultant kpCompanies, said they’ve already seen qualified applicants, but he’d like to see more.

“For a parks and rec professional or for anybody that has comparable experience who wants to enter this profession, it’s the best job in the country,” he said.

The job description — a combination of what’s spelled out in the city charter, institutional memory and recent board practices — is rather unique. The next superintendent will have to lead an approximately $111 million organization with more than 500 full-time employees, its own police department and control of 15 percent of the city’s land mass.

Before she resigned in February, former Superintendent Jayne Miller helped broker a deal with the City Council to better fund neighborhood parks over the next two decades. Implementing the 20-Year Neighborhood Park Plan is a high priority for the nine-member board, whose six new members are still settling into their positions.

The minimum qualifications of the job call for 8–10 years of executive management or community organization experience and a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation, public administration or program management. A master’s degree is preferred. Bourn said the next superintendent doesn’t necessarily have to be a current head of a parks department or similar organization.

The board extended the application period until Aug. 31 to give its consultant and park staff time to host a listening tour throughout the city. Interaction Traction, a sister company of the board’s consultant, is holding meetings based around different demographics, such as an LGBTQ session 6 p.m.–8 p.m. Thursday Aug. 30 at the Loring Community Arts Center, 1382 Willow St., and an East African meeting 6 p.m.–8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31 at the Bryan Coyle Community Center, 420 S. 15th Ave. Regardless of the meeting’s demographic focus, anyone is welcome to the meetings.

Bourn said this style of community outreach means the board can have “culturally competent conversations” across the city. Feedback from the meetings will help commissioners understand the “skillsets, values and needs” that the community wants to see in the new superintendent.

“We wanted to make sure that we’re hearing from a robust cross section of the community, too,” he said.

The added public engagement will also allow the next parks executive to focus more externally instead of, as previous superintendents, Bourn said, being focused on the board’s internal operations.

“I think it will help the next superintendent, whoever she or he may be, be proactive … instead of reactive,” he said.

The board’s consultant has started screening candidates and is expected to begin first-round interviews in September. After a second round of in-depth screenings, the top three candidates will travel to Minneapolis for in-person interviews. The public will have a chance to meet with candidates, according to a timeline set by the board.

Despite the deadline extension, the Park Board is still on track to replace Merrill at the end of October, though Bourn said she’s agreed to be flexible with her replacement.

More information about the position and how to apply is available at