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Betsy Hodges’ mom: ‘I knew she’d be a very good mayor’

MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges shared Election Night with her dad, Morry, and mom, AJ.

Part of a series of first-person accounts relating to news events of 2013.

Minnetonka residents Morry and AJ Hodges didn’t get to vote for their daughter Betsy, who will be sworn in as mayor of Minneapolis on Jan. 2. They did, however, work in her campaign office. And they enjoyed the singular experience of watching her address the capacity crowd that gathered to celebrate at the dance hall El Nuevo Rodeo after the polls closed on Election Night. Her mom, AJ, talks about how her daughter ended up as Minneapolis mayor-elect.

Morry and I knew she was very bright. No question about it. She headed in several directions. Her goal was to be a college professor. It was when she was doing her graduate work at the University of Wisconsin that she said she didn’t want to teach, that she liked to be with people too much.

She said she wanted to move to Minneapolis and to be on the City Council. That was the first political inkling we had.

But we always knew she would do something, she’d do it well and it would be interesting and fun to watch her. When she said she was going to run for mayor — by that time I wasn’t surprised to hear that at all. And I knew she’d be a very good mayor. There’s no doubt in my mind about it. She’s very fair. She has an absolutely fantastic sense of humor and a well-developed sense of the absurd. That hasn’t changed.

It’s been fun watching her expand into this. She’s just grown into all of it. When she lived in Albuquerque, for instance, she started AIDS Information Services for Women. She just decided nobody down there seemed to know what was going on with it. She had a good job, an interesting job, but she just decided to start talking about it and then she was all over New Mexico giving information about AIDS to women’s groups. By the time she left two years later, it was an official nonprofit and she could have gotten a salary.

She wasn’t a person to be run. She just knew her own mind and knew who she was. When she came back from Albuquerque and what she’d done there, I knew she’d end up running something. I just didn’t think necessarily that she’d wind up being mayor of Minneapolis!

I felt she did a really good job on the City Council — what she did with those two closed pension funds. She was bumping up against some opposition from some monied and powerful people but she knew it was wrong. So she saw to it. And she got it done. And there were a lot of people who were very surprised that she got it done. But once she dug in I knew. She has a very strong sense of right and wrong.

We used to say when the three kids were growing up in this household that politics in our house ran from just to the left of Adolf Hitler (which was our son John, who is a libertarian) to just to the right of Karl Marx. Obviously Betsy’s moderated a lot, and so has John.

We refused to let them talk politics and they just love each other to pieces. His whole position is, “Ma, I’ll support her in anything she does until she has something to say about the taxes I pay.”

Minnesota Moments 2013He doesn’t know what a fiscal conservative she is. Look at what she’s done, she and R.T. [Rybak] this year with the budget. They hired 32 new firemen that they lost to attrition during the really bad economic times and they still managed to lower the tax rate by 1 percent. For the first time in 20 years, the tax rate went down.

On Election Night, it was exciting to see her and it was fun. I think the way she handles herself in front of a crowd is terrific. She did a great job. She wasn’t belittling anybody, nor did she during the campaign. She wasn’t strutting around. She was just being herself. It was just a very happy thing. I was happy for her. Her dad was more actively excited than I was. I was just kind of purring, if you know what I mean.

Morry was very excited. He was on his cell phone calling people. They were still counting votes and we hadn’t heard anything about the counts and he got a call from a friend of his who lives in Park City, outside Salt Lake City in Utah, telling him what the number of votes was for who and what and how Betsy was doing and that she was leading.

She and her brothers, they’re just great kids. We’re lucky. We worked hard at it, but we’re lucky, too. They’re all doing well. What more can you ask in life?

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