Len Levine, who was elected seven times to the St. Paul City Council in the 1970s and early ’80s, held a kickoff party Sunday for his autobiography, “Running to Make a Difference.”
Levine also served as state human services commissioner and then transportation commissioner under Gov. Rudy Perpich in the 1980s. He also was a member of the Metropolitan Airports Commission and the Metropolitan Transit Commission.
In St. Paul, Levine represented Ward 3, and another former Ward 3 council member, Pat Harris, attended Sunday’s book event.
So did Council Member Dave Thune and Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega, along with dozens of Levine’s colleagues and friends from across his various careers.
(I helped Levine shape the book’s organization as he began writing it several years ago.)
In the book, Levine chronicles his family history: his grandparents immigrated from Poland and Belarus; and he was raised on St. Paul’s West Side, a traditional home for new Americans.
He also was a track star at the University of Minnesota (hence, the second meaning in the book’s title). There, he knew Bob Dylan, too.
He taught and coached for a few years before starting a political career, and after losing his first city council race in 1968, he followed up with a string of seven straight council election wins.
He was part of a colorful group at City Hall that included “Supermayor” Charlie McCarty and Council Members Ron Maddox, Rosalie Butler and Vic Tedesco.
He left the city in 1983 to work for Perpich, first as Human Services commissioner and then as Transportation commissioner. He went with Perpich to Edmonton in 1989 to seal the deal with the Ghermezian brothers to build the Mall of America in Bloomington.
The book’s foreword, by former Congressman James Oberstar, and an introduction from former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman show the influence and connections Levine has forged over the years.
Levine now runs a consulting firm that helps private businesses make connections with government officials.