Rybak: ‘I am exactly where I need to be’

Listen to an excerpt from Cristof Traudes’ interview with Mayor R.T. Rybak.

Minneapolis mayor says he will seek a third term.

After speculation that’s almost as old as his current term, Mayor R.T. Rybak finally has decided between seeking a third term and reaching for higher office.

The winner? A third term.

Rybak told the Southwest Journal at his home Jan. 13 that he wants another four years as Minneapolis’ mayor.

“I live exactly where I want to be, and I don’t want to go anywhere,” Rybak said. “… I am exactly where I need to be right now.”

First elected Minneapolis’ mayor in 2001, Rybak’s terms have been marked by an emphasis on green efforts, youth violence prevention and overcoming financial challenges. Since taking office he’s seen Local Government Aid cut multiple times from above, and he currently is working to revise the 2009 city budget in response to the most recent slashes.

It’s in that environment that he said he feels he needs to stick with the city.

“This has been an unusually united time in City Hall,” he said, referring to widespread agreements between city staff, council members and himself on major issues. “… But I want to bring people together even more.”

Rybak said he will focus on four key points if he is reelected: public safety, laying the groundwork for the next generation, new and unique transportation initiatives and economic growth. When asked which of those would be his top priorities, he without hesitation picked safety.

“Crime is down significantly all across the city because we’ve been tough when we’ve had to, but we have a long way to go,” Rybak said. “A top goal is going to be deepening the partnership between police and neighborhoods and block clubs, to form tighter bonds.”

While meeting with the Southwest Journal, announcements were sent out to supporters through social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter — a tactic he admittedly borrowed from President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign, which he was an active, early supporter of. (He also has hired Jaci Urness, Minnesota’s field director for Obama, to run his campaign.)

Rybak already has opponents in the mayoral race. Perennial candidate Dick Franson filed late last year, as did Bob Miller, director of the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program.

Miller has made pointed comments about Rybak’s time as mayor.

“We need a new mayor, one who not only listens but who hears what people say,” he said at his Nov. 13 campaign kickoff.

Rybak said he understands the difficulty of running for a third term. He said that too often, candidates try to run too much on their record rather than a vision for the next term. That’s not a mistake he wants to make, he said.

“This job is definitely not stale to me,” he said.

The mayor’s announcement dims but doesn’t squelch rumors that he wants to become the next governor of Minnesota. If he wins a third term, he could still decide to run for governor — that election won’t be until next year.

Much like St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman — who last week announced a reelection bid but wouldn’t end gubernatorial speculation — Rybak today again wouldn’t rule out a bid for higher office, saying only that he likes where he is.

“The most important thing is I love my job,” he said. “I love my job.”

Rybak is expected to hold a formal campaign kickoff at the Riverview Theater on Feb. 7. To learn more about his campaign, go to www.mayorrtrybak.com.