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Exclusive: Interview with Park Board candidate Josh Neiman

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The municipal election season in Minneapolis has rolled into its final stretch. Candidates for all city offices are campaigning in various neighborhoods, competing in candidate forums, and blanketing the area with lawn signs. Your Examiner has covered the City Council race in the 13th Ward as well as the mayoral campaign, but has now turned to another important race, that of the Minneapolis Park Board. There are two candidates running for the sixth district seat on the Park Board: Josh Neiman and the current incumbent, Brad Bourn. The Examiner sat down recently with Mr. Neiman to hear his vision for the sixth district.

Josh Neiman was born and raised in southwest Minneapolis and is the fifth generation of his family to live in the area. He has lived in the Windom neighborhood and currently resides in the Kenny neighborhood with his wife Katie and their two dogs. Mr. Neiman said he was a “parks and recreation kid growing up” and that he has worked for the parks for six years, including driving a “mobile playground.” His father and grandfather also served on the park board. He received his BA in Marketing from the University of St. Thomas and this is the first time he has ever run for public office. Mr. Neiman described the Park Board’s sixth district as running from Highway 35W to the France/Xerxes area and from Highway 62 up to Lake Street. He said running for a specific district (as opposed to an at-large seat, such as previous interviewee Meg Forney) helps him “key in a little bit more on this area.”

Asked what differentiates himself from the other candidate in the race, Mr. Neiman said it was his “background and experience” and his ability to see how the park board has changed over time. He also cited his “professional background” working in “analysis” for Best Buy. He stated that using data to “see the big picture” has given him an edge in “decision making and leadership style” and also is helpful in his various meetings with community groups.

The next question was split between what he likes most about the park system in Minneapolis and what he thinks need improving. On the positive side, Mr. Neiman said it was the “community and strong neighborhoods” engendered by the park system. He broke this down into the park programs, nice facilities, and protection of the environment. As to what he would improve, the candidate said he would like to find more ways to maintain the current assets of the parks department, such as tree planting and walkability, saying that “little things can produce good results.” Mr. Neiman also said he wants to make sure “recreation opportunities are prioritized” and spoke of the need to “maintain water quality” and to “seek feedback from the community. He spoke of the Minneapolis Storm hockey program as an example of the type of youth organizations with which the parks system could partner.

Asked about his priorities for the park system in Minneapolis, Mr. Neiman broke it down into four major items: “build community through recreational opportunities,” “youth programming,” “improve water quality,” and “being fiscally responsible.” Regarding any populations that might be under-served by the park board, the candidate said he thought this was an issue and “as an analyst I want to find out why that is.” Asked about the parks that need work or need cleaned up, Mr. Neiman stated “every single park could use a little improvement” such as “trail improvements” and “better lighting,” and said there are “tons of opportunities” here.

Finally the interview turned to some West Calhoun-centric issues. Regarding the proposed “land bridge” that the park board proposed creating over Lake Street (which has since been eliminated as an option) Mr. Neiman said he didn’t know what had happened but that he “would research it more.” Asked about his priorities for the West Lake light rail station, the candidate said his were “getting more people access” to the lake and making sure that access was “easy and safe.”

Josh Neiman is running for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board in the sixth district. The Examiner would like to take this opportunity to thank his readership for following his election stories throughout all of 2013 and to encourage everyone to vote this Tuesday, November 5th. Information on where and how to vote can be found here.

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