Meet District One Park Board candidate Billy Menz

Learn more about the local teacher who is the sole candidate running for District One Park Board commissioner.

Billy+Menz+poses+for+a+portrait+at+his+meet+and+greet+on+Friday%2C+Sept.+24.+Menz+is+the+lone+candidate+for+Eastside+Parks+Commissioner.

Alice Bennett

Billy Menz poses for a portrait at his meet and greet on Friday, Sept. 24. Menz is the lone candidate for Eastside Parks Commissioner.

Hanna Van Den Einde

The Minnesota Daily sat down with Billy Menz, a teacher at Edison High School and the only candidate running for District One Park Board commissioner, to talk about what changes he wants to bring to the park board.

Why did you decide to run for District One Parks Commissioner?
“I decided to run because I want to depoliticize the park board and make sure that we’re working to build programming for youth. It’s really all about the kids for me. I have a lot of experience working with young people as a school teacher and also as a coach. I noticed that the park board plays a really big role in that, but [the park board] could do things a little differently to meet the needs of today’s youth.”

What changes do you want to make as the new District One Park Board commissioner?
“I think the politicization of the park board over the past four to six years has been very challenging … I know that we vote on our park board, so it is a political process to elect people to the park board. But, it’s also a process where there’s no party affiliation listed on the ballot … I want to create youth councils and I want to create systems where every kid gets to the Mississippi River in collaboration with the schools.”

On your website, you said that you are devoted to dismantling systemic racism within the parks. How do you plan to do that?
“I’m certainly not going to do it by myself … I can call on us to examine policies that may be unintentionally racist or intentionally racist, make sure that we are calling out and lifting up the voices of those who have been marginalized and make sure that their voices are heard, and if we’re not reaching those voices, that we make more efforts to do so … Every time I look at something or look at plans, I’m going to look at it from that lens as best I can, to make sure that we’re trying to create policies that allow for all voices to be heard.”

You’ve mentioned expanding creation spaces. What will that look like?
“In the park board, we have what’s called creation spaces, and those have really taken off over the past year … We need to make sure that the parks are a place where kids can explore … we need to create a space in our parks, where it’s a place of exploration or it’s a place for kids, young people and older people to make sure that we’re trying new things. We can have all kinds of opportunities in our parks. We just need to open it up, give it back to the people and make sure that we’re there with input, but we have the responsibility to do the programming and make sure that we’re opening those programs up to as many folks as possible.”

If you are elected, what are you looking forward to most?
“Serving my community. I’m very humbled by the fact that I don’t have an opponent. It’s not like people in the northeast and southeast part of Minneapolis are not active or engaged. So I’m very humbled by the fact that people believe in me and think that I will do a good job at this … I hope that I can bring leadership to the board that allows for our park board to become even better than it already is and that we can meet the challenge that the pandemic has created for young people’s engagement.”