Zerby runs without party endorsement

Jamie Yuccas

An old brown Volkswagen Ghia, bearing a red sign taped to its trunk reading “Zerby for Council – For a Change,” can often be seen tooling around University-area neighborhoods. Its driver, Paul Zerby, a local resident hoping to make his name known in the realm of city government, is running for a seat on the Minneapolis City Council.

Zerby aims to unseat Joan Campbell, who has represented Minneapolis’ 2nd Ward for 12 years.

“The reason I’m getting involved in this election is because I want to shift the priorities from big downtown development back to the neighborhoods,” he said.

Zerby said as a council member he would work to make housing affordable, promote civil police practices, develop a strong relationship with the University and improve city life.

“I want basic city services to be a high priority, like plowing the streets, picking up litter – the basic nuts and bolts for making the city a place to live,” he said.

The 68-year-old Zerby did not receive the DFL Party endorsement, and is running independently. But that hasn’t prompted him to court delegates of another party for an endorsement.

“I’ve been a DFLer all my life. I’m still a part of the DFL – I just won’t be endorsed,” Zerby said.

A former lawyer for Dorsey and Whitney, Zerby admits he lacks political experience.

The experience he does have came from working in the attorney general’s office under Hubert Humphrey and Warren Spannaus.

He also worked in the anti-war movement from 1968-72 as vice chair of the DFL in the 3rd Congressional district.

Campbell, who is running with the DFL endorsement for a fourth term, said she feels Zerby isn’t ready for the seat.

“I bring more experience to the job,” she said. “Some of the things Paul wants to see happen are things we’ve already been working on.”

Zerby, who has lived with his family in the Prospect Park area for more than 29 years, has been involved in Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, Minnesota International Health Volunteers, and is a member of the Citizen’s League. He also serves on multiple neighborhood boards and councils.

“I’ve talked to people, and I want to take what the people in these areas want to see happen and be a strong voice to make it happen,” Zerby said.

When asked how he sees the city’s relationship with the University, he said, “University neighborhoods continue to have problems; I know there are good landlords out there, but I know there are slumlords out there, too. Landlords that don’t turn on the heat until November, won’t fix the furnace, leave standing water in their properties – that’s why we need the city to beef up the sanctions department.”

Zerby said he gets a lot of neighborhood improvement ideas doing door-to-door campaigning.

“I like getting out and talking to people, and if they aren’t home I make sure and write, ‘Sorry to have missed you, Paul’ on my brochure so they know I was the one walking around and not some kid I hired,” he said.

The Fargo, N.D.-born Zerby also wants to improve the relationship between the University and its surrounding neighborhoods.

“The University itself has a lot of protective market power. I think the student housing department needs to be more involved with the students, tell them to shape up,” Zerby said. “I think too many kids leave home and forget that when they throw a kegger, people like mom, dad or grandpa could be living right next door,” he said.

Campbell agrees with this idea but said the council has been working on building a relationship with the University for a while.

George Hogland, of the Como neighborhood, agreed some students create a problem.

“I don’t like the loud parties or kids honking their horn late at night,” Hoglund said. “Just because they’re new to the city doesn’t mean they can’t respect the older people in the neighborhood. They’re going to eventually be going away, and we’re still going to be here.”

Zerby said he promises to improve that relationship, and that Campbell is out of touch with area neighborhoods.

Campbell said she’s as in touch now as she’s ever been.

“My door is always open and I am in constant contact with people from my neighborhoods,” she said. “People call and I always try to get back to them.”

Zerby door-knocks wearing a button that reads “Zerby Button” and usually won’t call it a day until “people would start sitting down to dinner or watching their ‘Millionaire.'”