Bob Brick retires, shares accomplishments, colleagues praise his work

A seasoned government affairs professional and disability services leader, Bob Brick with Accord retired late in February. Brick has served on the MOHR board of directors and in leadership with the trade association’s predecessors.

“He made huge contributions in advancing public policy and in impacting the lives of people who have disabilities,” said Lynn Noren, who also serves on the MOHR board and is president of Spring Lake Park-based Rise, a large disability nonprofit.

"From my service experience, I am most proud that we were able to significantly expand individualized employment services, while maintaining essential day support services for persons served for whom work is not their choice," said Brick. He also brought a parent's perspective to his career, as Brick has two daughters with disabilities.

Brick was most recently an executive vice president with Accord in the Twin Cities. He previously served as president of ALLY People Solutions and was public policy director for PACER Center. Prior to this, he was executive director of The Arc of Minnesota and earlier served in that same position for The Arc of Anoka County.

With The Arc, Brick said a standout accomplishment was the passage of the "Unlock the Waiting List" campaign bill in 1999. Stories were published over many weeks about people who had been waiting for years to access waivered services. He worked in collaboration with the local Arc chapters and the Minnesota Disability Law Center.

While the bill passed, the state refused to implement the legislation, Brick explained. "We came back in 2000 and were able to hold up DHS legislation due to the state's position . . . negotiation ensued and we agreed to end our obstacle to the DHS bill. The department agreed to have an open enrollment period for 90 days." After further mobilization, more than 7,000 people who were waiting for waivered services were enrolled.

With the state level Arc group, Brick co-founded the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.

“Bob has the ability to see the big picture, problem solve and engage others to get a solution,” said State Senator John Hoffman (D-Champlin), who described him as a great mentor, teacher and advocate.

Brick was a registered lobbyist for 13 years with PACER Center. At this stage, he negotiated legislation to streamline the special ed alternative dispute resolution process, improving the system for families.

Noren said Brick had many connections to Minnesota legislators, and has been valuable to MOHR’s government affairs work, a committee that she chairs.

Lawyer and lobbyist Kevin Goodno with Fredrikson and Byron said Brick is organized, intuitive and effective in accomplishing his goals. Goodno worked with Brick on the unlock legislation while serving in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Brick has a deep understanding of the legislative process, Noren explained. “He had many connections to Minnesota legislators.”

In human services hearings, participants listened carefully to what Brick had to say, according to Noren. “He was never loud or angry, always presenting a calm and thoughtful approach,” she said. “I have learned a lot from that in how to handle myself at the Capitol and in other government affairs negotiations.”

When Brick disagreed with a decision, Noren said he would call and want to talk through the details, sharing his opinion but always in a way that helped her gain a broader understanding. He was a skilled negotiator.

“I think anyone who has worked with Bob would view him as a respected, value-driven partner.”

Lyth Hartz, past president of St. Paul-based MSS and a former MOHR leader, said he really liked working with Brick as a colleague. “He was articulate, but soft-spoken, definitely a champion of people with disabilities,” he said. 

“One of the pleasures I have experienced over the years, is the wonderful working relationships with so many great people who are collaborative, talented and committed to our mutual goals of supporting persons served to lead fulfilling lives,” said Brick.

He spent 44 years in the field, and expressed his thanks for many individuals associated with Accord, MOHR members, counties, state agencies, families and persons served. "It has been terrific," he said.

Hartz said Brick was thoughtful and considerate. “He was forthright. If he had a thought, he wouldn’t hold it back. He just didn’t lower the boom on you ... a real gentleman and fun to work with.”

Minnesota Senators John Hoffman (D-Champlin) and Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) introduced Senate Resolution No. 32 (see page 39) to commend Brick for his years of dedicated mentorship and advocacy in the disability services field.

Photos: Event shots courtesy of the Lions Club on Facebook.