MINNEAPOLIS -- The longtime mayor of Minnesota's largest city has decided not to seek a fourth term. Mayor R.T. Rybak announced Thursday he will not be on the ballot next November, setting the stage for change of leadership at City Hall.
"After 11 years I believe it is time for me and my family and those around me to get more balance in our lives," Rybak told reporters and supporters who gathered at the Midtown Global Market.
"This has been one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever had to make."
Rybak chose that location, in the old Sears Building on Lake Street, because it's one of the redevelopment success stories of the Rybak era.
"It was filled with bat dung and empty, and we brought 14-hundred Allina jobs and the global market here," Rybak said, as the scent of freshly cooked food from across the planet wafted through the air.
"We've made our streets safer; we've paved a lot of them as well. We've put thousands of kids on the right track, and so much more."
Rybak's mother, Lorraine Rybak Mesken, said her second son is truly does find serving as the city's chief executive exciting. She said he declared his mayoral aspirations the first time he toured City Hall as a boy.
"I thought he was kidding me, you know, like somebody wants to be a fireman. He always wanted to be mayor of Minneapolis," she recalled.
"He cares a lot about what happens to people. And he takes it personally every time something tragic happens."
Race Wide Open
The filing deadline for the 2013 mayoral election is in June 5th, giving those who want to replace Rybak ample time to test the waters and set up a campaign.
Elizabeth "Betsy" Hodges, a two-term city council member from southwest Minneapolis, was the first to announce she plans to run.
"This day belongs to Mayor Rybak," Hodges told KARE.
"A formal announcement will come later, but I want to make a great city greater. Minneapolis has a great future ahead of it and I want to make sure that we are building a great city of the future."
Hodges is the president of the Minnesota League of Cities, which has lobbied at the legislature for more state aid to cities to help offset rising property taxes.
As a council member she voted against helping finance the Vikings stadium, but once the stadium deal passed she volunteered to serve on the Stadium Implementation Committee.
"I want to make sure the city is built with everybody, by everybody, for everybody," Hodges said.
Her fellow council member, Gary Schiff, told KARE he'd make a decision in the early part of January. Like Hodges he has already set up an exploratory committee, which is one step removed from an actual campaign committee.
"I think broadening our tax base is one issue the next mayor will face," Schiff said.
"Many homeowners can't afford the homes they live in now. And homes have been losing value, so I think an ability to stabilize the tax base and keep home ownership affordable is going to be the top issue."
Schiff, who represents much of southeast Minneapolis, is serving his third term on the city council. Before running for office he served on the Minneapolis Zoning Board of Adjustment. He also led two campaigns that resulted in changes in the city charter, one relating to civil rights and one pertaining to public financing of stadiums.
Former City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes, who served on the council from 1990 to 2002, told KARE she plans to set up a campaign committee as soon as she returns from a holiday vacation.
"I've been encouraged by many people to run for mayor," Cherryhomes said by phone. "And I've decided I'm going to go ahead and run."
Cherryhomes, who lives on the city's north side, now works as a government relations consultant, and is still a presence at City Hall a decade after leaving the council.
The last time Rybak faced serious competition was in 2005, when he ran for reelection the first time. He withstood a spirited campaign from Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. It is not known whether McLaughlin is considering a another run in 2013.
Rybak, who ran for the DFL nomination for governor in 2010 and serves as deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, said he's uncertain about what his future holds.
He said he expects whatever he does will still involve helping his home town. Rybak's parent's owned a drug store in south Minneapolis when he was a child. His mother sold the store after Rybak's father Raymond died.
"He loves Minnesota. I'm sure he has no interest in going to Washington," she told KARE.
He worked in communications prior to entering politics, and won his first term riding a wave of discontent over airplane noise in south Minneapolis.
In the near term, Rybak said he plans to make the most out of his 12th and final year as mayor.
That will include continued efforts to reduce youth violence and to establish affordable housing in north Minneapolis.
Rybak also vowed to continue to work on redevelopment of Target Center, and helping steer design of the new Vikings stadium the public plaza that will be connected to it.
The mayor's to-do list also includes developing a plan for a street car system along Nicollet Avenue, and opening up that street where it's now blocked by a K-Mart store at Lake St.
"I believe in giving the taxpayers a good value, so over this next year you're going to get about four years of work out of me," Rybak quipped.
"So fasten your seat belts. This lame duck ain't quacking yet. Let's get to work!"
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