The real R.T. Rybak

Up close and personal with the Minneapolis mayor

Patterson and his wife were in a movie theater watching Mission Impossible when he got the report from Minneapolis police. He made a few calls and found out the boy had been rushed to North Memorial Hospital.

This is hardly new territory for Patterson. Back in 2006—the year he joined Rybak's administration—an 18-year-old basketball star named Brian Cole was sheltering from the rain under a tree when an SUV carrying several members of the Lyndale-Lowry gang rolled past. One of the passengers opened fire, and Cole caught a bullet in his jugular vein. He bled to death soon after he reached the hospital.

That was a deadly year in Minneapolis, with 61 homicides. "In 2006, I was calling him at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning two or three times a week," recalls Patterson.

Rybak and Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan go over 2011 crime statistics for members of the press
Jana Freiband
Rybak and Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan go over 2011 crime statistics for members of the press
Rybak catches up with Mitt Romney's campaign bus in Ames, Iowa.
Jessica Lussenhop
Rybak catches up with Mitt Romney's campaign bus in Ames, Iowa.

Outrage over Cole's murder helped spur the creation of Rybak's "Blueprint for Action," a data-driven, multi-agency program to prevent youth violence. The numbers have steadily declined ever since.

But tonight, Rybak and Patterson must revive their grim ritual.

After Patterson arrives at the hospital, he learns that Terrell's heart rate has spiked to 160 beat per minute—it's not looking good.

Patterson phones the mayor. "You need to come now," he says.

Back in Rybak's family room, Charlie and Grace—who've had the mayor of Minneapolis for a dad since the ages of 13 and 10, respectively—watch their dad's expression shift into what Grace calls "mayor mode."

"I've gotta go," he says.

At North Memorial, Rybak meets Patterson in the lobby, where they spot the victim's family walking toward them. The mayor hugs Marsha, Terrell's mother, and troops up to Terrell's room. The boy's condition has stabilized, but he remains hooked up to life support. Rybak stands over the bed and looks down silently, reliving the bedside visit he paid to niece Shannon just days earlier.

The next day, the Minneapolis police call a press conference in front of Terrell's home. A half-dozen television cameras stand sentry in the dead grass of the vacant lot next to Terrell's house, the bullet hole clearly visible in the vinyl siding close to a second-story window.

About a half-hour before the press conference is set to begin, bad news arrives from the hospital: Terrell has died.

Rybak pulls up to the corner of North 27th and Colfax in his red Prius and meets with City Councilman Don Samuels and members of the police department. As the crowd of press parts, Rybak sees Terrell's aunt, whom he met the night before at the hospital. As soon as she sees the mayor, she loses her composure and begins to sob. Rybak embraces her.

"I don't want to be here," she wails.

The reporters shift awkwardly on their feet and avert their eyes.

Terrell's aunt retreats to a car nearby, and the mayor opens the press conference, flanked by Minneapolis police officers, a homicide detective, City Council members, and representatives of Crime Stoppers.

"His mother looked over him, prayed over him, hoping that he would survive," Rybak says of Terrell. "Sadly, he did die."

Rybak announces a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the identity of the shooter before stepping aside to let a homicide detective speak. When the press conference concludes, the mayor begins to walk away.

"It's just, just ...," Rybak trails off, staring at the ground with glassy eyes and biting his tongue between his teeth.

He walks off alone, hands dug deep into his pockets.


THE MAYOR IS RUNNING on empty. It's been a hectic few days—first in New Hampshire, then the White House presentation in D.C. Back home, Gov. Mark Dayton issued an ultimatum—get their Vikings Stadium proposal in shape in a week's time or forget it. Rybak did damage control from the road, but now that he's back in town he has to meet with Dayton's staffers at 2 p.m. to get all the ducks in a row.

Rybak's flight touched down the night before, but he's feeling sluggish. Nevertheless, he dashes from a press conference at the Third Precinct to a brief appearance at the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council's holiday breakfast, then takes off again for "a radio thing" with Gary Eichten at MPR headquarters in St. Paul.

Afterward, Rybak meets Stiles in the green room.

"You're going to get a kick out of this," Stiles says, pointing to a framed poster on the wall advertising a public colloquy on how to finance a Twins and Vikings stadium. It's dated 1999.

"Oh, for God's sake," sighs Rybak.

Down in the lobby, the pair mull over the rest of the day's schedule: Pat Kessler from WCCO is outside in the parking lot and wants to do a quick stand-up on the stadium proposal. A photographer needs a few shots of Rybak posing outside the building. Then the mayor has yet another one-on-one with a reporter over lunch.

Before he heads outside, Rybak wants to return a call from his wife. He ducks into an open supply room for privacy. When he finally emerges, his face has clearly shifted out of mayor mode.

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