The years since the Great Recession eased have been good ones for the Minneapolis neighborhoods east of the Mississippi River, and Council Member Kevin Reich is part of that success story. He has been a consistent contributor to the area's progress.
Representing the First Ward since 2009, Reich has been a dependable friend of the revitalization that has brought more business activity to Central Avenue, a new focus on the Mississippi River's water quality and accessibility, and national distinction to the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District. That record of steady, solid service should be rewarded with a third term.
A native of the city's east side, Reich, 50, built a career in neighborhood betterment before being elected to the City Council. He's a former project director for the Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association who pays attention to fiscal and regulatory details and cultivates the relationships needed to get things done in the public sphere.
The respect his colleagues have for his often behind-the-scenes work landed him on the council's Executive Committee four years ago. He's also chair of the council's transportation committee and helped develop the 20-year agreement with the city's Park Board that charts a path for orderly maintenance and upgrades of both city parks and streets.
"Kevin is not the loudest member of the City Council, and he doesn't spend a lot of time bragging about his work. But he is one of the very, very best," former Mayor R.T. Rybak said in endorsing Reich's re-election. Reich's experience and connections could be particularly valuable next year in a council that looks likely to have a majority of first- and second-term members.
Neither of Reich's two challengers makes a strong case for unseating him, and we did not rank them. Jillia Pessenda, 35, has considerable familiarity with the community and the workings of state and local government after a half-dozen years as an advocate for a range of progressive causes. DFLer Pessenda, a development and communications officer at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, is backed by the Bernie Sanders-allied Our Revolution group; neither she nor Reich has DFL endorsement.
At age 30, independent John Hayden is less well-grounded in the First Ward. But he's a promising newcomer who argues for improving city government efficiency and transparency, possibly through a charter change to install a city manager who would report to the council. Hayden's campaign chair and political mentor is former Council Member Paul Ostrow, who unsuccessfully pursued a City Hall restructuring during the last of his dozen years on the council and has kept the idea alive since he left office in 2009. The idea deserves renewed discussion — but not at the expense of losing an able and effective incumbent.