Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Jayne Miller, who has been criticized by protesters and some incoming Park Board members, announced Wednesday that she will resign, effective Feb. 3.
Miller, who was hired by the Park Board after a national search in 2010, said she has accepted a new job as president and CEO of the nonprofit Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy in Pennsylvania.
“Know that the MPRB is in a strong position,” Miller, 59, said in a memo to Park Board staff. “We have an outstanding executive team that will continue the important work we have been doing through thoughtful, compassionate, and strong leadership.”
In the run-up to the November election, a slate of candidates criticized the Park Board’s racial equity plan — a key Miller initiative. Miller helped incorporate racial equity criteria into the Park Board’s maintenance plans, among other efforts, but activists and the Minneapolis NAACP continued to raise concerns, calling for a boycott of the organization and for Miller to resign.
Former NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds called Miller’s departure a victory for people of color and their white allies.
“It’s time for new leadership that’s forward-thinking and open to fresh ideas and truly values diversity within MPRB and the city of Minneapolis,” Levy-Pounds said.
Park Board members Anita Tabb and John Erwin praised Miller’s leadership.
“I have a pit in my stomach when I think that we won’t have Jayne at the helm anymore,” Tabb said. “Losing her is a great loss for the Park Board and the entire city.”
Miller has been lauded for bringing professionalism and financial transparency to the Park Board. She has also been credited with improving relationships with City Hall and other officials, which was critical to securing an additional $11 million per year for 20 years for park improvements.
During her tenure, the Park Board has added riverfront parkland and the natural swimming pool at Webber Park, and made improvements at Theodore Wirth park and to the trails around the Chain of Lakes.
Erwin said other cities have been trying to lure Miller away for years. But some of the incoming board members’ rhetoric during the election pushed her out, he said.
“Some of the candidates over the last year have characterized her as not being a good superintendent,” he said. “The new board is going to have a hard time finding someone as good as Jayne.”
Miller’s resignation announcement was made public at the City Council meeting Wednesday.
“It’s really hard,” Miller said with tears in her eyes. “The opportunity in Pittsburgh is really amazing.”
Miller makes $165,000 a year and her contract with the Park Board was to run through mid-2018.