Monthly Archives: October 2010


The following article by Joe Kimball was published on October 7, 2010 on MinnPost.Com. Note that there is a link to the candidates’ resumes.


With Kelliher out of the running, Minneapolis Park Board interviews three finalists for superintendent

Minneapolis Park Board officials interviewed the finalists for the superintendent’s job Wednesday night; there were only three, now that former Speaker of the House Margaret Kelliher took herself out of contention.

The three are: Steve Rymer, director of recreation and community services in Morgan Hill, California; Jayne Miller, former director and chief executive officer for the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, Michigan; and Stanley Motley, former director of parks and recreation, Fulton County, Georgia.

Résumés for the three are online.

Kelliher, who’d been the DFL endorsed candidate for governor until losing the primary to Mark Dayton, had been a fourth finalist. She notified park officials Tuesday that she was no longer interested in the job, but would continue to pursue other undisclosed opportunities.

The Park Board is expected to make its final choice Oct. 13.


The following article by Jake Weyer appeared in the October 7, 2010 online edition of the Southwest Journal:


The board expects to make a hiring decision for the top parks job at its Oct. 13 meeting.

Three finalists for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s superintendent position spent an hour each Oct. 6 answering board questions and making their pitch for presiding over one of the nation’s premier park systems.

More than 20 people applied for the job. Four were ultimately selected for interviews. The most prominent of those, House Speaker and former DFL gubernatorial candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher, withdrew her candidacy Oct. 5 to pursue other opportunities.

Park Board President John Erwin made a brief statement prior to the interviews thanking Kelliher for her involvement and expressing the board’s regret about her decision.

“She was an e xcellent candidate and we were very much looking forward to hearing her vision for the Minneapolis parks system in a public forum,” Erwin said.

At-Large Commissioner Annie Young jumped in with a final comment before the questions started.

“On behalf of the citizens, I guess, and a 127-year history of this organization, I just wanted to remind us as commissioners that this is the most important job that we have, is to choose a good person, a person that’s qualified to move our system and keep our system world renowned,” Young said. “We’re elected and we’re supposed to listen to the citizens, but in the end the buck stops here.”

Interviewed were Steve Rymer, director of recreation and community services in Morgan Hill, Calif.; Jayne Miller, former director and chief executive officer for the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority in Michigan, and Stanley Motley, who most recently served as director of parks and recreation in Georgia’s Fulton County.

Whoever gets the job will take over for interim superintendent David Fisher, whose contract expires at the end of this month. Fisher came on in July; six months after the board voted not to renew the contract of embattled superintendent Jon Gurban.

Based on the board’s questions Oct. 6, here’s some of what the organization is looking for in its next leader: Someone who can improve services to underprivileged ethnic populations, boost revenue using non-tax-based sources, keep an eye toward sustainability, plan strategically, have fun, and work well with the board, staff and community members.

Up first was Rymer, a Minnesota native who at 41 was the youngest of the finalists. In Morgan Hill, Rymer oversees parks and recreation services in a city of 40,000 people. He also administers the city’s fire and emergency services contract, manages operating budgets of $10.5 million, a capital improvement budg et of $7 million, 14 full-time employees and 175 part-time workers.

Moving to a city with a population nearing 400,000 and a park system with roughly 600 employees and a $60 million budget would be a significant career leap. Rymer said he has faced big challenges in every career change, and as a park professional, he was naturally drawn to Minneapolis’ nationally recognized system. He previously oversaw parks and recreation in New Brighton, Minn.

As superintendent, he said he would strive to create a high-performing team that built on the system’s history and fulfilled promises in the comprehensive plan through community involvement, establishing relationships with many organizations and fostering an entrepreneurial spirit.

He said he has improved recreational services in both Morgan Hill and New Brighton while decreasing those systems’ reliance on tax support. During the economic downturn, Rymer said he led efforts in Morga n Hill that resulted in revenue growth and increased use of services.

“I have a long and accomplished background in looking at sustainable cost-recovery efforts,” he said.

Rymer also emphasized that he would engage all park stakeholders and not take himself too seriously. To help explain his passion for the parks profession to commissioners, he told the board that he views weekends as “only two days until Monday.”

The second interviewee was Miller, 52, who started her opening statement with an explanation of why she left her previous job overseeing a five-county parks system in Michigan after just six months. She said the organization faced significant revenue reductions in the coming years and it ultimately was not ready to make changes she proposed in a strategic plan to meet those challenges.

“As a result of that, I made a decision it wasn’t a good fit and I resigned my position with the organization,” she said.

During her stint with the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, Miller was responsible for a $74.5 million budget, 231 full-time employees, 700 part-time staffers, and 13 parks spanning 25,000 acres.

Before that, Miller spent 23 years working her way up the ranks within the Ann Arbor, Mich., parks department, which employs 350 full-time and temporary employees and has more than 150 park locations totaling 2,000 acres. The population of Ann Arbor is roughly 115,000.

Miller eventually served as Community Services Area director for the system. In that role, she oversaw park and recreation services, parkland acquisition and preservation, farmland preservation, and land-use planning and management, among other duties.

She boasted the depth of her experience, her emphasis on communication and her enthusiasm for moving to Minneapolis. She called the city “vibrant, exciting” and said it shares her pr ogressive values. She also said it feels similar to Ann Arbor in several ways, including its emphasis on community engagement.

When asked how she’d work with staff following the Park Board’s recent restructuring, which resulted in the organization’s first-ever layoffs, Miller said she hoped to bring stability.

“My understanding is that the organization has been challenging for at least the last 12 months and I think that as a leader of an organization, providing some stability for an organization that has been struggling for a number of months is going to be important first and foremost,” she said.

Motley, 64, was the final interviewee and the most experienced of the candidates, with nearly four decades of park management experience in six states.

“The leadership in those positions that I received was invaluable,” Motley said in his opening statement. “Many of those organizations might have been larg er or smaller than Minneapolis, many might have had more or less amenities than Minneapolis, but all of them have the same passion and were vital to the quality of life in those communities.”

Most recently, Motley directed the Fulton County park system in Atlanta, a city with a population of roughly 500,000. Fulton is the largest county park system in Georgia, with 23 parks totalling 2,080 acres, a staff of 77 and a $4.2 million budget.

When asked about what he wanted to accomplish in the next three to five years, Motley said he envisioned being in Minneapolis for five or 10 years, empowering the staff to execute a long-term vision for the parks system. He emphasized listening to all stakeholders and working as a team.
“I can empower a team and make almost anything happen,” he said.

Motley told commissioners he felt some uneasiness and nervousness among staff because of the recent restructuring. If hired, he would take the first 90 days to analyze the organizational structure. He said he doesn’t expect any major changes, but if there were, they’d be made after a planning process that involved communicating with staff.

After the interview, Motley said he’s looking for a new challenge and he doesn’t care where it takes him. He said he’s fond of Minneapolis, but he’s also a candidate for a job in a New York borough.

Erwin said the candidates exceeded his expectations. He said the board planned to discuss the candidates and make a hiring decision by the end of its meeting next week.

The interviews were recorded and can be watched here.

3 candidates for Mpls. parks chief make their cases

The following article by Steve Brandt was published in the Star Tribune on October 7, 2010.

3 candidates for Mpls. parks chief make their cases

The Minneapolis Park Board could pick the city’s 11th superintendent from among the finalists next week.

Minneapolis park commissioners got a chance Wednesday to quiz the three park professionals vying to become the 11th superintendent of city parks, a choice the Park and Recreation Board may make next Wednesday.

Commissioners asked the trio about their experience in raising non-tax revenue for parks, in sustainability and racially diverse populations, in measuring progress toward strategies, and in working with elected boards.

Jayne Miller, 52, met the biggest question about her head-on, describing why she quit last month as head of the five-county Metroparks system outside Detroit after only six months.

“I made the decision it wasn’t a good fit,” she said, contending that the board that hired her ultimately wasn’t willing to make the organizational changes needed to meet financial cutbacks that she was told she was hired to address.

Miller emphasized the breadth of experience she had in Ann Arbor, Mich., where she worked in community development and subsidized housing before rising through the ranks to ultimately head the park system. She said she bought park land, preserved farm land and ran a system with 157 parks. She said she wants the Minneapolis job in part because the city shares the progressive values of Ann Arbor.

Stanley Motley, 64, brought the longest resume of experience heading large park systems, with 38 years in the field. He said he left his most recent job heading parks in the unincorporated areas outside Atlanta because a shrinking real estate market left him without the resources to build new programs and more parks.

Motley said he sensed uneasiness among Minneapolis park staff about whether last month’s layoffs, which eliminated 21 positions for an annual savings of $1.3 million, will continue. He said he would take 90 days to analyze the system before planning and communicating needed changes.

Stephen Rymer, 41, who heads parks and emergency services in Morgan Hill, Calif., said he’s improved access to recreation in two communities while decreasing reliance on property taxes. The Robbinsdale native also headed parks in New Brighton. He emphasized his background in measuring the environmental and financial sustainability of park investments.

The board will need to decide if Rymer is experienced enough to make the leap from heading parks in a city of 40,000 to a city nearly 10 times that size.

The new parks chief will succeed Jon Gurban, whose contract the board decided last January not to renew. David Fisher, who headed the system for 18 years, has served as interim superintendent.

Minneapolis Park Board interviews Superintendent finalists tonight

The following is a October 6, 2010 Park Board news release:

Minneapolis Park Board interviews Superintendent finalists tonight

Meeting broadcast live on local cable and available online

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board commissioners will interview three finalists for the position of Superintendent at their meeting tonight, which begins at 4:30 pm with interviews beginning at 5 pm. The agenda for tonight’s meeting, which will be held at MPRB headquarters on 2117 West River Road, is available on Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board – Meetings/Agendas. Park Board meetings are broadcast live from 5-9 pm on Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online on the Channel 79 webpage.

“I’m pleased we have strong finalists for Superintendent,” said John Erwin, President of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. “We are fortunate to have excellent candidates that would bring unique skills and talents to the Park Board.”

Being interviewed at tonight’s meeting are: Steve Rymer, director of recreation and community services, Morgan Hill, California; Jayne Miller, former director and chief executive officer for the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, Michigan; and Stanley Motley, former director of parks and recreation, Fulton County, Georgia.

The fourth finalists for the position, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, recently withdrew from the process.

“The Park Board thanks Margaret Anderson Kelliher for applying for the position of Superintendent and regrets that she has decided to withdraw from the process,” said Erwin. “Margaret Anderson Kelliher has consistently supported parks and recreational activities in Minneapolis and throughout the state. She was an excellent candidate and we were looking forward to hearing her vision for the Minneapolis park system. Although we are saddened by her decision, we recognize that she is a qualified candidate for many positions and wish her the best.”

Park Board commissioners’ selection of a new Superintendent is tentatively scheduled for the Oct. 13 regular board meeting.

Kelliher won't seek Mpls. parks job

The following article by Steve Brandt was published in the Star Tribune on October 6, 2010.

Kelliher won’t seek Mpls. parks job

Indications are that she’s seeking another job. That leaves the Minneapolis Park Board with three finalists.

Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher withdrew Tuesday as a candidate for superintendent of Minneapolis parks, cutting the field of finalists to three.

Kelliher said in a statement that she would continue to pursue other undisclosed opportunities and would share details later. She applied after losing the DFL gubernatorial primary in August, following the first review of applicants for the post.

“She’s looked at all the opportunities that she has available to her, and she’s made the decision that another opportunity would be in her best interest,” said Park and Recreation Board President John Erwin, who said Kelliher, of the Bryn Mawr neighborhood, called him Tuesday afternoon with the news.

“I’m saddened,” he said. “I think she was a terrific candidate, and we were really looking forward to hearing what her vision would be for Minneapolis parks.”

The Park Board is scheduled to interview on Wednesday the remaining candidates: Stanley Motley, who headed Fulton County, Georgia parks; Jayne Miller, who recently resigned her position as head of the Detroit area Metroparks system, and Stephen Rymer, who heads parks in Morgan Hill, Calif.

Another Park Board member, Bob Fine, said he’d seen Kelliher just four hours before her announcement, “and she didn’t give me a clue.”

Fine said the shrinkage of the field of finalists strengthens his argument that the board should delay filling the post until the National Recreation and Park Association meets in Minneapolis Oct. 25-29. He believes that if park professionals see the city and its parks and meet its board members, more viable candidates will emerge. He said prolonging the search would attract more applications from administrators in big park systems.

But Erwin said the board will go ahead with interviews of the current trio, then meet again Oct. 13 to try to reach a choice. “We have three candidates that are qualified and are good candidates,” he said.

Picking Minneapolis parks chief bound to be thorny

The following article by Steve Brandt was published in the Star Tribune on October 5, 2010.

Picking Minneapolis parks chief bound to be thorny

After a national search, four candidates have surfaced for the top job in the Minneapolis system.

Fasten your seat belts, park lovers, the search for a new Minneapolis parks chief is entering its final laps.

The city has a nationally recognized park system crowned by lakes loved by people across the metro area, but the politics behind its operations can be as gnarly as buckthorn.

Twice during their past three searches for a new leader, park commissioners seemed to settle on a candidate, only to wind up appointing someone else. In 1999, the apparent favorite turned out to have barnacles that weren’t uncovered until just before the vote. A different favorite dropped out in 2003, leading the board to choose current parks chief Jon Gurban, who’d neither applied nor been interviewed.

On Wednesday, the four finalists to emerge from the most recent national search are slated to appear for public interviews by the nine-member Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, beginning at 5 p.m. The public can watch via live webcast at

The Minneapolis park system operates with more freedom from City Hall than do most big-city park districts. But that means a superintendent works for a political board riven at times by infighting.

Some observers say the recurrent discord has thinned the field of candidates to become the system’s 11th superintendent since the system was created 127 years ago.

The job can pay up to $150,056 annually under a state salary limit, but Gurban was paid $139,818.

A look at the finalists

Best known locally but with the least park experience among the finalists is lame-duck House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, 42.

Her supporters argue that she has the persuasive skills to bring about consensus, valuable political contacts and the experience of overseeing the business side of a legislative chamber.

But she’ll need to reassure commissioners that those skills compensate for a lack of park management experience.

The board said it was willing to consider nontraditional candidates, but that they should have senior management experience, preferably eight to 10 years of it.

Kelliher has headed the Minnesota House for less than four years.

It also said it wants someone who can be cooperative, seek public input, act transparently and develop partnerships — skills that Anderson Kelliher could argue she’s demonstrated in a political environment.

She’d be the unconventional choice, but critics also could view such an appointment as a consolation prize to a powerful DFLer.

Stanley G. Motley has the most park management experience among the finalists.

He’s headed parks in suburbs and in county systems in the Tampa, Atlanta, St. Louis and Kansas City areas but has not led a big-city system.

At age 64, he’s held 12 park jobs in 38 years, switching jobs on average just over every three years.

His résumé lists him as in his second stint of heading the county park department that serves unincorporated areas of Fulton County, Ga. But in a development that Minneapolis commissioners were unaware of, he’s quit that job, citing the problem of a dwindling tax base shrinking the park budget.

“I’ve done all I can for Fulton,” Motley said in an interview. “I’m looking for a place I could be comfortable coming in and making a difference for perhaps the last decade of my career.”

Also seeking the job is a late entrant. She’s Jayne S. Miller, 52, who rose from bike coordinator to head of parks, community development and other areas in 16 years with the city of Ann Arbor, Mich.

She was hired earlier this year to lead the five-county suburban regional park system outside Detroit.

She’s likely to face scrutiny because she resigned abruptly last month after only six months on that job. She left in the face of mixed reactions to her proposal to reorganize the district amid shrinking park finances.

Robbinsdale native Stephen J. Rymer began his park work with 10 years in New Brighton, including six years as director.

He now heads parks in Morgan Hill, Calif., population 40,000, where he also administers emergency services contracts. Commissioners will be wondering how well the 41-year-old’s experiences in those smaller jurisdictions translate to a big-city system such as Minneapolis, which has 485 full-time workers, compared with 14 in Morgan Hill.


The following article by Jake Weyer was published in the October 4, 2010 issue of the Southwest Journal:


The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will interview four finalists for its open superintendent job Oct. 6, starting at 5:10 p.m. at its administrative offices, 2117 W. River Road. The interviews are open to the public.

More than 20 people applied for the top parks job and the board originally narrowed the field to five. One of the finalists took a job elsewhere and another was dismissed after a background check. Three were announced Sept. 15 and another candidate applied late and was added to the roster Sept. 28.

The newest finalist is Jayne Miller, who was most recently the director and chief executive officer for the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority in Michigan.

She faces House Speaker and former DFL gubernatorial candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher, as well as Steve Rymer, director of recreation and community services in Morgan Hill, Calif., and Stanley Motley, director of parks and recreation in Fulton County, Ga.

The board encouraged non-traditional candidates to apply and Kelliher, who lost the primary election to Mark Dayton Aug. 10, is no doubt one of those. Her resume touts her leadership skills, legislative accomplishments and fundraising efforts, but it doesn’t include experience in park management. Kelliher, who lives in Bryn Mawr, did not return phone calls for comment, but released a statement about her decision that said she was glad to be a finalist and looking forward to the next steps.

“Creating and maintaining unique recreational spaces in one of the Midwest’s premiere parks settings is an exciting opportunity to serve our community,” she said.

Motley has overseen parks in Fulton County sin ce 2009 and also directed the system from 1995–2000, according to his resume. He has also run park systems in Oak Brook, Ill., Hillsborough County, Fla., and Westchester County, New York.

Rymer took on his current position in 2006, after six years as parks and recreation director in the Twin Cities suburb of New Brighton.

Miller has worked in various park management positions since the early 1980s, mostly in Michigan, according to her resume. In her most resent position, she oversaw a five-county regional park system spanning 25,000 acres.

But she quit that job abruptly after six months, according to press reports. Her resignation came after an administrative board reacted negatively to her presentation of a long-term plan for the sytem, the report said.

“I’m pleased we have four strong finalists for superintendent,” said Park Board President John Erwin in a prepared statement. “We are fortunate to have excellent candidates that would bring unique skills and talents to the Park Board.”

Each candidate will be interviewed individually and asked the same questions. The first interview will begin at 5:10 p.m. and the last is scheduled to start at 8:40 p.m. The interviews will be televised on channel 79.

The Park Board plans to make a hiring decision by its Oct. 13 meeting. Interim Superintendent David Fisher’s contract expires at the end of October.


The following article by Jake Weyer was published in the October 4, 2010 issue of the Southwest Journal:


The Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society will offer free public tours of the historic Theodore Wirth home from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 9–10.

Wirth served as superintendent of Minneapolis parks from 1906–1935 and was responsible for the design and development of the system. His former home is located at 3954 Bryant Ave. S. in Lyndale Farmstead Park.

For more information on the tours, call 925-4194 or 922-1222.


The following article by Jake Weyer was published in the October 4, 2010 issue of the Southwest Journal:


Minneapolis will host roughly 4,500 park professionals from across the country Oct. 26–29 during the National Recreation and Park Association’s annual congress.

The visit will include numerous lectures, informational sessions and tours of Minneapolis parks and facilities.

“We will become a learning laboratory for a week’s time period,” said Jennifer Ringold, the Park Board’s manager of public engagement and citywide planning. “It’s also a great time for us to learn from them.”

The development of a new nature-theme playground in the North loop neighborhood is the official “Leave it Better” service project of the congress. Visitors will help to install some of the playground’s equipment and hopefully take some of the ideas back to their communities.

“We’re really trying to knock it out of the ballpark, to be honest,” Ringold said. “In some communities, they just do something much smaller, like tree plantings or putting down woodchips. We’re really looking at this as an opportunity to showcase a nature play theme in an urban setting and historic interpretation, as well as bringing a new facility to a community that didn’t previously have one.”

Another highlight will be a 5-kilometer run that starts at Lake Harriet on Oct. 28 at 8 a.m.

Park Board October 6 Meeting


4:30 P.M. COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

Because this is a Committee of the Whole meeting, there will be no Open Time and no business will be conducted, which means there will be no voting and no committee meetings. The purpose of this meeting is to interview the four candidates for MPRB Superintendent. The regular meeting will be held on October 13 and the vote on the new superintendent will occur then.

There is one other item on the October 6 agenda and that is a National Park Service presentation regarding the historic Wirth House at 4:30 prior to the candidate interviews.

The following is the link to the agenda for the October 6 MPRB meeting:

MPRB meetings are broadcast live from 5-9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at

The regular meetings are rebroadcast on Channel 79 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Webcasts for the recent two months are posted two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing under “Webcast Archives” at

The Park Board’s website is

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch