Introducing RTR3

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has some pretty savvy staying power. I decided to find out why.

There may be a new daily dietary supplement on the streets of Minneapolis sooner than you think. ItâÄôs called RTR3. Similar to its parent vitamin, RTR2, it provides order, control, and reassurance in most aspects of our day-to-day lives. Taking RTR3 may cause you to participate in gay pride parades, crowd-surf at First Avenue or even walk around in your pajamas at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. People who take RTR3 may be members of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party, drive hybrid cars and be in possession of mesmerizing blue eyes. RTR stands for our Minneapolis mayor, Raymond Thompson Rybak Jr., of course, and the âÄú3âÄù denotes his recently announced campaign for a third term as mayor. I have not lived in Minneapolis long enough to give an educated assessment of his accomplishments or failures as mayor, but I did have the opportunity to sit down with him in a personal interview recently, and I am more than happy to vouch for the caliber of his character. There is something to be said about the âÄúpresenceâÄù of an individual, a quality that you canâÄôt quite put your finger on but of which you are keenly aware. I felt this sensation the moment Rybak walked into the room; he exuded a sincerity and confidence that glittered from his demeanor all the way down to his tie selection. It is easy to say that politicians are trained to convey that image for a living, but I have also met our past President George W. Bush in close quarters and felt nothing of the same energy. Is it because IâÄôm liberal? I donâÄôt know. Is it because heâÄôs male and in a position of power? Please. IâÄôm not that kinky. Regardless, I have an incorrigible curiosity for those who find themselves in leadership positions and can muster substantial staying power; Rybak certainly fits that bill. Beyond his third term, there are whispers of a bid for governor in 2010 and quite frankly, I donâÄôt see why not. HeâÄôs just as dead-on as Jesse Ventura but delivers a significantly kinder handshake. Rybak has been quoted that he knew he wanted to become mayor by the time he was 13 years old. Personally, IâÄôm jealous. When I was 13, my primary focus was still color-coordinating my braces to compliment the upcoming holiday or homecoming event. Seriously, where did he get that kind of ambition? Do they grow it on a farm somewhere in south-central Minnesota? Was he exposed to some superhuman radiation field as a child? Rybak stressed that despite his youthful certainty for mayor, he knew that the process wasnâÄôt going to be easy. âÄúI believe that we have âÄòbodies of workâÄô instead of a single career now,âÄù he said. âÄúI did a lot of things before I became mayor. I was an activist, a journalist, an Internet pioneer, I worked for public radio. My passion was always centered on people, however. People always ask me, âÄòHow can you handle work with so many different people day after day?âÄô ItâÄôs not a chore for me âÄî itâÄôs what I love. I love working with people.âÄù Rybak added, âÄúI think we are like mice working our way through a maze. WeâÄôre running around, bumping into walls, trying different paths here and there until we find something that works for us. ItâÄôs not easy, but the reward is being able to do what youâÄôre passionate about. âÄúFor example, I worked as a journalist before I became mayor,âÄù Rybak continued. âÄúI was inquisitive. I liked to ask questions and work directly with the community. However, there comes a point where youâÄôre done asking questions and you want to take direct action. ThatâÄôs where I fell into my career in policymaking. I could get results once I entered the realm of politics.âÄù I was still stuck on his mice metaphor. Was this his covert allusion to a conspiracy theory? He had just reduced our lives to a lab experiment, which meant somebody else was definitely pulling the strings. I briefly contemplated this irony but decided that Rybak was sincere. The guy is liberal and oh-so-lovable. If there is a conspiracy theory, heâÄôs probably on our team. Mayor Rybak was also one of the first public officials to endorse Barack ObamaâÄôs presidential campaign, which inevitably means heâÄôs met the man. âÄúDid you touch him?âÄù I squealed internally. âÄúIs he soft?âÄù Rybak saw the awe in my eyes and smiled. âÄúObama is not the Messiah; he is a community organizer,âÄù he said. âÄúBut I do think that he will go down in history as one of the greatest presidents ever, alone. Obama doesnâÄôt think heâÄôs somebody great and he doesnâÄôt worry when people are cutting him down. When youâÄôre a public official, you realize itâÄôs not about you. You donâÄôt focus on image or legacy when there is so much work to do. Obama doesnâÄôt need to be the Messiah. He doesnâÄôt have to have the answers because he knows the American people can come together. The American people will find the answers to our dilemmas. We are resilient.âÄù As a journalist, I am wary of sound bytes and on any other day I wouldâÄôve written RybakâÄôs commentary off as such, but a furious sense of human conviction is hard to miss. Rybak leaned forward, flexed his fists, and appeared to be taking a long, refreshing imbibe of HOPE. He clearly believed in it and consequently, I believed him too. Maybe thatâÄôs really the secret to being a great leader: belief âÄî belief in yourself, in your community and in your purpose. Or maybe âĦ one song really can change your life. Rybak admitted that the Talking Heads were one of his favorite bands of all time. It seems fitting. I can see him ending each evening at City Hall with a view of the Minneapolis skyline and the Talking HeadsâÄô âÄúCity of DreamsâÄù playing romantically in the background: âÄúWe live in the city of dreams. We drive on the highway of fire. Should we awake and find it gone âÄî remember this, our favorite town.âÄù Bring on the RTR3. Ashley Dresser welcomes comments at [email protected]