Severson to serve as the Northside’s new park board commissioner
The race for the Minneapolis Park Board District 2 seat was hard fought on both sides, but on election night it was decided in the first round of ranked choice voting.
Kale Severson, a former parks employee and local activist who helped lead the fight to keep North High open, prevailed with 57% of the vote. His competitor, well-known parks coach Mike “Talley” Tate, received 42.3%.
Severson said he was surprised by his quick win. “I thought it was going to be a little bit closer,” he said the day after the election, but he says his team “did the work” to deserve it. He credits tireless door-knocking, his campaign manager, and all of his campaign supporters, specifically people of color and youth in the community for the success of his campaign. “Our platform was intriguing to folks in North Minneapolis and throughout the city,” he said.
Severson promises to advocate for more youth and senior programming in the parks. He says he’ll push for park buildings to go green and for the entire system to examine its hiring practices. Through all of it, he plans to tackle racial inequity directly and impactfully. “We've got to deal with our biases and have some tough conversations. It’s going to feel really uncomfortable. Race relations are extremely important and the park board is struggling in that area.”
Two of Severson’s most vocal supporters were School Board Director for District 2, KerryJo Felder, and local schools supporter Kimberly Caprini, who ran against Felder in last year’s election. Severson would like to see more collaboration between the schools and parks. “I am about capacity and coalition building,” he said, adding that he would like to see a townhall meeting involving the parks and the schools soon.
Reflecting back on his campaign, Severson says the highlight was that he got to meet “phenomenal” Northsiders. “There are so many wonderful people in our diverse community, and I get to collaborate with [them].”
Severson replaces Jon Olson who decided not to run for reelection. Olson, who has held the seat since 2002, previously owned the Dairy Queen on the Northside and now runs food and beverage at Como Golf Course in Saint Paul. Despite Olson’s endorsement of Tate, Severson says he looks forward to connecting with Olson during the transition process. “Jon Olson is experienced. He’s been on the park board for years. I want to reach out and meet with him. …and respect his legacy on the board,” he said.
Though he lost the election, Mike Tate still sees a victory in it: “Kale and I drove people out [to vote],” he said, pointing to the higher voter turnouts in both Wards 4 and 5 compared to previous municipal elections. Tate plans to continue attending park board meetings and serving as a volunteer coach in the parks. “I’ve got nothing but joy for the people of North Minneapolis,” he said.