Minneapolis Park Board picks new superintendent after tense debate

November 28, 2018 10:14 PM

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has voted to start negotiations to hire Al Bangoura as the new park superintendent in charge of the city’s 6,000 acres of parkland, 550 employees and 180 parks.

Bangoura is currently the recreation superintendent for Mecklenburg County, North Carolina where he oversees community and recreation services for the county's 17 recreation facilities and three senior and active adult facilities.

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He worked 19 years with Minneapolis Park and Recreation where he served as director of recreation centers and services. 

"We're excited to welcome Mr. Bangoura back home to Minneapolis," read a statement from board president Brad Bourn. "After a nationwide search, bringing forward the best candidates in America, Al stood out as having the unique skills needed for our Superintendent. Al believes our parks are for everyone and he's ready to advance this Board's mandate of increasing our investment in youth and building an even better park system for our guests and everyone who calls Minneapolis their home.

"His knowledge of Minneapolis and our parks coupled with his unique professional skills will provide cohesiveness and inspire collaboration."

But prior to the vote, several park board members expressed frustration with the selection process, and said the decision to pick Bangoura was done behind closed doors long before there was significant public debate.

"I just feel like we are being asked to vote on his approval, but it is already a done deal," commissioner Steffanie Musich said.  "We have never really had a discussion about this, and I find that frustrating."

Commissioner Meg Forney agreed with that assessment, and told the board she was a bit surprised they would be voting to start negotiations with Bangoura before there was a public hearing.

"I am not even sure what I want to say right now," Forney said. "But I just feel like this has been done in such a way that prevents any meaningful debate or transparency."

Earlier this month, the field was narrowed to two candidates - Bangoura and Seve Ghose, who currently works in Kentucky with Louisville Parks and Recreation.

RELATED: Final Two Candidates for Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent

Former superintendent Jayne Miller resigned in February to join the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. She announced her plan to leave in December after criticism from protesters and incoming board members over the agency's racial equality plan, a key initiative for Miller.

Mary Merrill has been serving as the interim superintendent.

RELATED: 3 Finalists for Minneapolis Park Superintendent Named

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