Raymond Thomas Rybak, Jr. (born November 12, 1955), universally known as R.T. Rybak, is the current mayor of the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. In 2001, Rybak defeated Sharon Sayles Belton, the first African-American and first female mayor of the city. In the 2001 election, after running a populist campaign, Rybak won 65% of the vote to Belton's 35%—the widest margin in city history for a challenge to an incumbent. He took office in January 2002, and was elected to a second term in November 2005.
During this time, Rybak also worked as a community and political activist. In 1994, he was campaign manager for Tony Bouza, the former Minneapolis chief of police who unsuccessfully sought the DFL nomination for Governor of Minnesota. He has been an active supporter of the LGBT community in the Twin Cities and also supported the presidential campaign of Ralph Nader in 2000. However, Rybak is best known for being an early member of the group ROAR ("Residents Opposed to Airport Racket"), which campaigned to fund noise mitigation projects in neighborhoods around the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. The group staged a memorable "pajama protest," where area residents wore their nighttime clothes at the airport to show that they were losing sleep because of airplane noise.
Rybak lives in the city's East Harriet neighborhood with his wife, Megan, and their children, Charlie and Grace.
Rybak sends his children to Breck School, an Episcopal private school where he also attended. His mother had been given a job there during a difficult period in his childhood. Rybak, who graduated in 1974, was awarded the "Distinguished Alumnus" award from Breck in 2002. He later obtained his degree from Catholic Boston College in 1978.
He began a career in journalism, working on the Minneapolis Tribune (the later Star Tribune) in the late 1970s and 1980s, before going on to edit the Twin Cities Reader. He also acted as Development Director for Minneapolis' Downtown Council.
Rybak's mayorship has dealt mostly with funding services, affordable housing, and balancing the City's budget. He attends public events in the city on a regular basis. He is one of probably a very small number of mayors to have ever crowd surfed—he dove from the stage during a "Rock for Democracy" event at the popular Minneapolis club First Avenue in July 2004.
In 2002, Rybak developed the City of Lakes Loppet, a 35 kilometer urban cross country ski race through Theodore Wirth Park and across Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun which ends on the streets in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. The event attracts nearly 2000 skiers. Rybak, a skier himself, has participated in races. (see Swedish loppet)
In August 2007, after the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge, Rybak asked Governor Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota state officials to implement its replacement, ensuring that the new bridge would be capable of handling mass transit. Rybak pushed that future needs and policy considerations shouldn't be ignored in the rush to build a replacement. His leadership resulted in a bridge plan which included improvements to carry a future light rail line. Rybak was quoted as saying "we (the City) have a vision that we believe will be for a bridge that will serve us for many years to come. His role also involved authorizing municipal consent of the final bridge replacement.
Rybak has been involved in a number of controversies as mayor. One of the earliest involved the shutdown of a group that oversaw complaints about the Minneapolis Police Department. Although it was considered a model for the nation, Rybak closed it down partly because of funding concerns (he had inherited a situation requiring $5 million to be shaved from the city's budget). After the September 11, 2001 attacks and the U.S. military actions that followed, Rybak opposed sending American forces into Iraq, but pledged to veto any city resolution stating the same since it would be nothing more than a symbolic gesture.
R.T. Rybak was the first mayor in the nation to endorse the presidential campaign of Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Mayor Rybak campaigns on Obama's behalf, being active in the youth wing of the campaign.
Dnc Vice Chair R. T. Rybak Blasts Mitt Romney's Claim That We Don't Need "More Firemen, More Policeman, More Teachers'
Jun 08, 2012; WASHINGTON, DC -- The following information was released by the Democratic Party: DNC Vice Chair and Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak...