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."

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