Robert Miller, who first tutored R.T. Rybak on neighborhood issues and then grew disillusioned with the Minneapolis mayor's neighborhood policies, plans to announce his candidacy for the job.

Miller, 60, who has directed the Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program since 1992, would become the first announced candidate in the 2009 mayoral race. He plans to make his announcement at a Whittier neighborhood restaurant Thursday evening. Miller was traveling Tuesday and couldn't be reached.

The revitalization program earmarks money to neighborhoods for priorities they set. Although Rybak was elected as an advocate for neighborhoods, the program's resources have shrunk on his watch and he engineered folding the program into a new city department.

In challenging Rybak, Miller would go up against a two-term mayor who is better known and is a proven fundraiser. He will be seeking DFL endorsement, said supporter Barb Lickness, an Revitalization Program employee who supports his candidacy and is a city DFL officer.

"Mayor Rybak is honored to be mayor of the city he loves, he's focused on the work of the city and has not yet decided if he will seek a third term," said his spokesman Jeremy Hanson.

Rybak twice has been elected after deadlocked city conventions that left no one with the DFL endorsement. In 2005, Rybak handily defeated Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who is better known than Miller.

Rybak remains popular and enthusiastic, Council President Barb Johnson said Tuesday. "Bob will have some of the same [issues] that Peter McLaughlin used three years ago and I don't think that was very compelling then," she said.

An announcement that Miller was circulating Tuesday maintains that city neighborhoods and residents are being ignored and that city finances need better management. It touts a job history that includes stints at the federal, county and neighborhood level.

Lickness said Miller offers an incisive intellect: "He's brilliant and has a great financial acumen, which is what this city needs now."

Miller has overseen the multi-agency Revitalization Program as an unconventional, sometimes scruffy bureaucrat often arriving in his trademark galoshes and brimmed hat at the church basements and park buildings where neighborhood groups meet. Supporters say he has empowered neighborhoods while instilling more accountability in the program.

Miller was a longtime resident of southwest Minneapolis, but he bought a residence two blocks outside the city in Edina in 1999. He said he tried unsuccessfully to find a Minneapolis home that was accessible for his wife, who has multiple sclerosis. She said Tuesday that he has established residency at a house they own that is one block inside the city.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438