The real R.T. Rybak

Up close and personal with the Minneapolis mayor

"My niece just died," he says, ashen.

There's a stunned silence. What does he want to do? Cancel the photo? Cancel the lunch? Cancel the meeting with Dayton's office? What should Stiles tell WCCO?

"I'm trying to figure that out," Rybak says, staring blankly at the floor.

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.

A moment passes.

"No," Rybak says, moving toward the parking lot, where Kessler waits with his camera crew. "Let's do the lunch."

As he powers through the glass doors, Rybak passes a man pushing a double stroller.

"Hello, mayor," the man says.

"Hi," Rybak says distractedly, before noticing the two sleeping babies. He stops.

"What are their names?"

"Laurie and Grace," the man answers.

"Oh," Rybak says, smiling. "We have a Grace."

After the interview, Rybak eats a plate of mock duck and green beans at Sawatdee before his next appointment. But his mind isn't on politics.

"I've had to be around death a fair amount in my life," Rybak ruminates. "My dad died when I was young, and a lot of people close to me have died. In this job I've been around it a lot."

He turns his face to the window, mutters something inaudible, and asks, "Can I go somewhere else right now?"

The conversation shifts to his first term and how it felt when critics suggested he should be a one-term mayor after coming up short on his list of campaign promises. He perks up, reminded of a moment when he was invited to the Oval Office unexpectedly to chat with Obama.

"He just brought me in to say hi, just as a whole bunch of things were crashing down," Rybak says. "He said, 'Sometimes it feels like all we're doing is cleaning up messes,' and this amazing light bulb went off. I've been there."

Does Rybak ever fantasize about occupying the Oval Office himself someday?

Rybak shakes his head.

"If I wanted to go to Washington I would have gone already," he says. "I'm not being cute or coy about it. I'm in the job I want."

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
Jeanne Erickson
Jeanne Erickson

Really liked this story. I'm not a Democrat, but the personality of Rybak warmed my heart. Good perspective, Jessica!


Disappointed to see CP doing a PR fluff piece for RT. Indicates a lack of critical standards and historical memory. The old CP would have never let him off the hook like that, but would have zeroed in on substantive policy issues rather than getting seduced by style (the old saying about RT - "all sizzle and no steak"), and would have compared what he has done/not done to his original campaign promises rather than tersely dismissing his utter failure to live up to them. Since the CP staff was not there back then, here are a few examples: He campaigned on clean politics where he would not accept money from business interests looking to benefit and would not fundraise in non-election years - has done all of that. He campaigned against a publicly financed sports stadium - has now supported two and is now the point person for the second one. Promised to clean up the Minneapolis police police department - he did hire a reform police chief but pulled the rug out from other him so he left after two years, and it has been business as usual ever since. The old CP would have also undoubtedly gotten some quotes from progressive critics to at least show how any why everyone doesn't love the mayor.


The real Rybak is a puppet for his commie handlers.

North Sider
North Sider

Great article.

After the tornado tore through North Minneapolis, Mayor Rybak was one of the first people I saw surveying the neighborhood. He was by himself, surveying the situation and clearly doing all he could. He cares about the entire city and I thank him for all he has done.