Friday, December 13, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Mayor R.T. Rybak

Q&A: R.T. Rybak

Minneapolis will soon bid farewell to its mayor of the past 12 years, R.T. Rybak. After leaving office, Rybak will become the new executive director of Generation Next, an organization that aims to eliminate the achievement gap in education. He will also teach a “Mayor 101” course at the University of Minnesota.

To commemorate the end of his unconventional tenure, Rybak, 58, is throwing an “Unauguration Party” on Wednesday at First Avenue (6:30 p.m., 18-plus, $7) with music from Dave Simonett, Chastity Brown, DJ Shannon Blowtorch and more. Proceeds will benefit the STEP-UP Achieve summer-job program. The coolest politico in the state granted an interview to discuss the party, his accomplishments and the TV show “Portlandia.”

 How do you feel about being deemed a “hipster mayor”?

A: [Laughs] At my age, you take when you can get. I’m thrilled.

Q: To what do you attribute your popularity with the 20- to 35-year-old demographic?

A: [Laughs] Because I never matured.

Q: Over the past 12 years, what do you consider highlights of the Twin Cities arts and music scene?

A: What’s different with art and culture in Minneapolis and St. Paul is that it’s woven into our daily life. People here have art and culture in their face everywhere you turn. This is a place that’s always on the cutting edge. That makes it a fun place but also a great place to attract and keep talent.

Q: What would you like to be remembered for as a mayor, other than crowd-surfing?

A: Putting 18,000 kids in summer jobs through STEP-UP.

Q: How did the idea for the Unauguration Party come up?

 We wanted to do something to celebrate but didn’t want some stuffy event, and of course it should be at First Avenue.

Q: Any surprises up your sleeve?

A: I imagine I will dance. Who knows what else I’ll do. The motto of it is “Party like you can’t be impeached” and I plan to take it very literally, slightly short of the [Toronto mayor] Rob Ford level.

Q: Kyle MacLachlan’s portrayal of the mayor of Portland on “Portlandia” seems awfully similar to real life. How would you feel about being impersonated on the TV show?

 How would I feel? There were a lot of people, including my own children, who thought I was the role model for the mayor in “Portlandia.” It’s funny.

Originally published on in Dec. 2013.