It’s the end of an era in Minnesota disability circles with the retirement of Bob Brick: co-founder of the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD), public policy expert, board member and leader of various disability service and professional organizations.
“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 brought a parent’s perspective to his career, as he has two daughters with disabilities.
Brick ended his 44-year career as an executive vice president at Accord. He played a key role in the ALLY People Solutions- Community Involvement Program merger in 2019, leading to Accord’s formation. He served as CEO/president of ALLY before the merger.
His years of experience in government affairs included the MNCCD board, MOHR board and leadership with its predecessor groups, and on local advisory committees including a St. Paul/Citizens League committee minimum wage study committee.
“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.
State lawmakers honored Brick in March with a resolution commending him for his years of dedicated mentorship and advocacy in the disability services field.
“Bob has the ability to see the big picture, problem solve and engage others to get a solution,” said Sen. John Hoffman (D-Champlin).
“He made huge contributions in advancing public policy and in impacting the lives of people who have disabilities,” said Lynn Noren, MOHR board member and president of disability nonprofit Rise.
Past MSS president and former MOHR leader Lyth Hartz enjoyed working with Brick as a colleague. “He was articulate, but soft-spoken, definitely a champion of people with disabilities,” Hartz said of Brick.
Before his tenure with ALLY and ACCORD, Brick was PACER Center’s public policy director. He negotiated legislation to streamline the special education alternative dispute resolution process, improving the system for families.
He also was executive director of the Arc of Minnesota, leading the Arc of Anoka County before that. One key accomplishment in 1999 was passage of the “unlock the waiting list” bill, a long effort to get people off of years-long lists to access waivered services.
While the bill passed, the state refused to implement the legislation, Brick said. “We came back in 2000 and were able to hold up (Department of Human Services) legislation due to the state’s position … negotiation ensued and we agreed to end our obstacle to the bill. The department agreed to have an open enrollment period for 90 days.” More than 7,000 people who were waiting for waivered services were enrolled.
Lawyer and lobbyist Kevin Goodno praised Brick as organized, intuitive and effective in accomplishing his goals. Brick and Goodno worked on the unlock legislation while Goodno served in the Minnesota House.
Brick has a deep understanding of the legislative process and many legislative connections, Noren said. In human services hearings, participants listened carefully to what he had to say. “He was never loud or angry, always presenting a calm and thoughtful approach. 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 and respected, value-driven partner.
Hartz described Brick as 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.”
Brick expressed his thanks for many individuals associated with Accord, MOHR members, counties, state agencies, families and persons served. “It has been terrific,” he said.