Googled: R. T. Rybak ’78

During the evening rush hour on August 1, the Interstate 35W bridge, which spans the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, buckled and collapsed. By the following Wednesday, five people were confirmed dead, eight were still missing, and more than 100 were reported injured.

Trained by a 9/11 disaster readiness program he took in 2001, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak ’78 is working with state and federal officials to organize recovery efforts and comfort families affected by the tragedy. According to a local paper, Pioneer Press, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty told reporters that Rybak is “extraordinary… . He has been omnipresent. He’s been effective. He’s been the right person at the right time for this situation in terms of his crisis leadership.”

A native son of Minneapolis, the six-year mayor has become spokeperson for the city as it deals with the tragedy and its aftermath. In an interview with CNN, Rybak said, “I also call on people to remember that this is something that will not be about one news cycle or a couple of days. It is really about families who are now only beginning to understand the depth of what it means to have a loved one who is no longer here, or to have a loved one whose whereabouts you don’t know about. And so it is important for us all to have contained compassion and sustained compassion that will stick with us for a long period of time that it will need for this community to heal.”

A former newspaper reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune, business consultant, and community activist, Rybak is known for his energy and drive. In his six years in office, Rybak, a Democrat, has created a $10 million housing trust fund, strengthened the city’s code of ethics, and closed a $50 million gap in city funding.

Rybak earned his B.A. in political science in 1978 and told a writer for a Boston College Magazine interview in 2003 that he came to Boston College knowing “what I wanted to be—the mayor of Minneapolis.” In 2001, outspent nearly two to one by his opponent, Rybak campaigned with an agenda focused on affordable housing, environmental planning, and the redesign of such basic services as snow removal and the issuing of city permits. He won with 65 percent of the vote in his first race and 61 percent of the vote when he was reelected in 2005.

Rybak, who is 51, lives in Minneapolis with his wife Megan and two children. “The office,” he said, “has given my family the chance to be a part of something a lot bigger than just the four of us.”

This feature was posted on Monday, August 6, 2007 and is filed under Research.