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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Candidate Questionnaire: Mike Wendorf

We have received our first completed 2009 PWW Candidate Questionnaire, and it is posted below in its entirety. It comes from Mike Wendorf who is challenging Scott Vreeland to represent Park District 3. It seems Mike got married on Friday night, and his new bride Erin shares his interest in the parks, as she is his campaign manager. Here are some excerpts from a press release they sent along with his questionnaire.

"MINNEAPOLIS—Candidate for Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioner District 3 Michael Wendorf is getting married on August 8th. He and his fiancĂ© intend to spend their honeymoon campaigning for Parks. “Our Park System is what makes Minneapolis a great city. There is nothing more important I can do for my community, and my future, than work for strong, independent and sustainable parks...
....Mike and Erin are asking their wedding guests for contributions to his Park Board campaign. “We have a toaster,” he explained, “we don’t have the leadership we need to sustain our parks.”
More information is available at"

2009 PWW Candidate Questionnaire

1. Why are you running to be a Commissioner on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board?

Our park system is the most unique and valuable asset we have in Minneapolis. I live on the Mississippi Riverfront downtown. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have access to what I see as the very best park, trail, open space and recreation system in the country, and I saw an opportunity to give back, and to be of service to the community.

2. How would you describe the “job” of a park commissioner? What are the most important roles and responsibilities?

The most important roles of a district park commissioner are to advocate for the communities in the district s/he represents and to provide financial and environmental stewardship for the system as a whole.

3. Are you running on a “reform” platform, or not? Please explain, be specific.
I’m running out of my concern for the long-term success and sustainability of the parks. I’ve followed this debate closely and it is my impression that the term “reform” is being misused for political exploitation. I am not an advocate for the status quo. I am an advocate for continual progress through thoughtful and respectful dialogue.

4. Do you support or oppose the proposed referendum for Park Board independence? Please explain.
I strongly support it. The biggest threat facing our park system today is that our park land may be sold off for a short-term economic fix. An independent park board will provide the foundation for a sustainable system. This is an example of real reform.

5. What experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on a board of an organization that has a $60 million budget, 600 full time employees, 1300 part time employees and controls 6400 acres of park land?
My professional experience with commercial real estate and redevelopment of historic properties requires detailed planning, financial investment in the millions of dollars, and consensus building in the community. I will bring all of this experience to the park board.

6. What is your view on how the MPRB should approach public/private partnerships, “enterprise” or income-generating projects?
Citizen participation is critical to success in these endeavors. Visionary superintendent Theodore Wirth declared that a high level of services could not be maintained solely with tax dollars and his statement is even more relevant today. If we want successful innovation, citizens must be full partners in the planning process. I will consider it my job to ensure that the citizens of my district are fully represented in these decisions.

7. While employee morale remains high, there has been an acrimonious relationship between some of the members of the board and the staff and even between board members themselves. Why do you think this is, and what if anything would you do to improve these relationships?
This gets at the heart of why I am running. Many of my neighbors have expressed frustration with the antagonistic attitude and actions of our current representative, on items as far ranging as the Plank Road to the proposed East Phillips Community Center. I have suffered this myself and have observed it in his interactions with other park commissioners. In my experience, I have learned that publicly berating staff leads to poor morale and decreased productivity. I will commit to professional and respectful communication in all situations.

8. There is a general perception that the MPRB has sometimes had strained relationships with other organizations (City, County). What is your perception and how will you approach these relationships?
There is definitely some truth to this, and it is exacerbated by the environmental, economic, and other crises we are facing, such as LGA cuts. Combine this with the nature of electoral politics and you have the factors described in this question. The time for game playing is over. One of the most basic duties of every public servant is to respect the goals and responsibilities of every other unit of government, while serving the constituents that elected them. Public officials are here to serve you, not the other way around. Some of our elected officials are confused about this. It’s why so many people asked me to run.


  1. Wow. Good questions, good answers. Thanks Park Watch Watch for something thoughtful here for interested voters.

  2. Mike- Way to go. You are a natural leader and are fearless. Go in and uncover all that is not transparent, finish the business that the current representative can not or will not finish. You always find a win the game- even if its in the 4th quarter you win.

  3. Mike we are looking forward to great leadership from you!!!

  4. Excellent and well thought out answers to some tough questions. Your business experience will bring great qualifications to the park board.

  5. Mike, we are all pulling for you. We need more honest and hardworking public servants. Not to mention, tough! You fit that mold perfectly.

  6. Mike, way to go. We need the strong, progressive, committed and undaunted leadership you will provide. Your business experience and consensus-building will also be a welcome asset to what has been lacking.

  7. Mike great to see you at all the fundraisers last night. Good job connecting with other elected officials and voters in your district.