Gurban Out, Fisher Back After June

The following article by Cristof Traudes was posted March 17, 2010 in the online editions of the Southwest Journal and Downtown Journal:


Jon Gurban will not serve as the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s superintendent beyond June 30. The controversial head of the parks system sent a letter to the board on March 12 saying he does not want an extension of his contract.

“I’ve had a great run!” Gurban wrote, but it’s a run he’s willing to see come to an end. He was first hired in 2003.

The Park Board voted earlier this year to begin a search for a new superintendent, saying it was time to move on. Because that process is expected to last beyond Gurban’s contractual end date — the board is targeting completion by October — commissioners had discussed keeping him on on an interim basis.

The board instead is offering a popular former superintendent a four-month contract.

David Fisher led the parks system for almost two decades, from 1980–1998. His tenure included overseeing the redevelopment of the Mississippi riverfront and the creation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Perhaps most key, however, is that he also led the Park Board when it last hosted the National Recreation and Park Association’s annual conference, which it is doing again this year.

President John Erwin said it would be beneficial to have Fisher’s knowledge when organizing that major national event. Fisher also could play a positive role in recruiting the system’s next superintendent, he said.

“David Fisher allows us to provide proven leadership from the past,” Erwin wrote in a letter to the board. “Approving [his hiring] would allow us to turn the page and focus on the search at hand.”

Commissioners are expected to take up Fisher&rsquo ;s contract at their meeting tonight. If approved, Fisher would serve as interim superintendent from July 1 through Oct. 31. He would be paid $50,000 plus “reasonable travel expenses.”

Commissioners also will consider a contract with Gurban that would have him stay with the Park Board as a consultant for the next superintendent. The one-year contract would pay him about $20,000 in cash and benefits.