City Council seeks to fill openings on city commissions

Ideas to improve the Richfield community come from all over. But, before they can be implemented they need to be discussed and vetted. A lot of residents might think this happens at city council meetings and they would be correct. However, before a proposal, project or initiative reached the council dais, more often than not, the details are worked out at the commission level.

Throughout the month of December, the city council will be soliciting applications for all city commissions, with the deadline for applications being 11:59 p.m. on December 31.

Commissions with openings include: Arts, Civil Service, Community Services, Friendship City, Human Rights, Planning, Sustainability and Transportation. In all, 32 vacancies need to be filled.

Many of the recent projects undertaken by the city originated, or were improved upon, by a commission. A few examples include the design of the Lyndale Avenue Reconstruction Project, the site selection and chosen amenities of the off-leash dog park and the sidewalk poetry initiative.

Road Reconstruction

The city’s infrastructure from its roads to water to sanitary sewer were all originally constructed more than 50 years ago and are in the process, to some degree or another, receiving upgrades. Some of the biggest changes in infrastructure have come from road reconstruction projects.

“Prior to any road reconstruction project, we ask the community what they would like to see in a new street. We take that information and work on the design which eventually finds its way to the Transportation Commission,” explained city engineer Joe Powers.

Prior to the reconstruction of Lyndale Avenue, members of the Transportation Commission reviewed the design proposal for the project and requested both more multi-modal transportation options and additional signage, which were both incorporated into the final plans for the project.

Off-Leash Dog Park

For years, the community had been clamoring for an off-leash dog park as an added city amenity for the city’s thousands of furry residents. That is where the Community Services Commission got involved.

When it comes to adding additional recreation spaces, Richfield typically has one major problem: it is a 100 percent developed community. So, creativity is a must and public spaces need to be reimagined.

“Commission members surveyed a lot of possible sites, but in the end, Roosevelt Park made the most sense,” remembered Recreation services Director Amy Markle. “The park was home to one of the most under-utilized outdoor skating rink, plus it is centrally located and has access to public transportation and walking trails.”

“I am not a dog owner, so I have never taken a pet there, but every time I drive by there are at least half a dozen dogs and their owners enjoying the park,” said Ward III Councilmember, Ben Whalen. “The Community Services Commission laid such great groundwork for the off-leash dog park it made the city’s decision to approve the project very easy.”

Public Art

Numerous surveys have shown that adding public art to community spaces promotes resident interaction, increases civic participation in celebrations, engages youth in the community and promotes the preservation of places.

Over the past several years, the Richfield Arts Commission has coordinated the sidewalk poetry project which has seen the addition of 62 public displays of poetry along 66th Street and Portland Avenue.

Richfield is home to a thriving arts community and the majority of the poems sand blasted into the concrete came directly from resident authors.

“So many of the poems really encapsulate what Richfield is all about, from the importance of family, to togetherness, to supporting one another,” remarked Arts Commission staff liaison MaryKaye Champa. “Sometimes it is hard to figure out what a community is all about for a new resident. In Richfield, all they have to do is walk down 66th Street or Portland Avenue and they will get the gist of the community very quickly.”

Commissions are a great way to get engaged in the community and take on a leadership role. Both Councilmembers Mary Supple and Sean Hayford Oleary started their community leadership journey by joining a city commission. Before becoming a councilmember, Supple served on the Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Economic Development Authority. Hayford Oleary served on both the Human Rights Commission and the Planning Commission.

Commission members must be Richfield residents. Adult commissioners serve three-year terms that are staggered to avoid vacancies in all positions. Youth commissioners are appointed to a one-year term and must be at least 15 years old and actively enrolled in a Richfield high school or equivalent within the city.

Community members, whether they be adults or youth, interested in being considered for an appointment to a city commission should submit a completed application to the city manager’s office. Applications are available online at

After the application period has closed, interviews for open positions will be scheduled to take place in early January. Commission assignments will be approved at the January 25 city council meeting.

For more information, or to access the online application, visit or call 612-861-9701.