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3 guiding questions
The whiteboard in her office features three questions, designed to guide everything she does: “How does this move the dial on equity? How does this move the dial on growing the city? How does this make the city run well?”
Since Rybak left office in January after 12 years, Hodges has had his red walls painted over in a cream color, and decorated the room with insignias from her favorite superhero.
Wonder Woman roller skates sit on a shelf and she drinks out of a yellow Wonder Woman cup — though it’s just decaf coffee for her. The mayor doesn’t drink caffeine. Or eat sugar, for that matter. She works at her computer standing up — even in heels — in light of growing research that sitting too much harms your health.
One afternoon last week, meetings dominated her schedule, starting with a sit-down with members of Greater MSP to discuss marketing initiatives as they went over slides of Downtown East. Then she juggled a stream of messages while working on a speech she is due to give in Chicago this week for a conference with other big-city mayors, including Rahm Emanuel.
Would she support an early learning initiative at the Legislature? Yes. Would she endorse in the Hennepin County commissioner’s race? No, she was staying out of that.
“Some days it’s hard to believe it’s been three months already, and some days it feels like it’s been three years,” she told one caller.
Polished and careful with her words in public, Hodges’ sense of humor is quickly apparent when she is out of the public eye, where she laughs and jokes with ease.
There was talk with her staff about whom to invite to the State of the City address, then a meeting with Xcel Energy executives and some council members about the utility’s franchise agreement. As she and other officials pored over the finer details of capital investments in a budget meeting later, Hodges joked, “I’m a nerd.”
When one participant made a crack about being better off making budget requests with a “smiley face rather than a frowning face,” she joked, “Bonus points for inserting a cute cat video.” Later, she made a Wonder Woman reference: “I have a golden lasso of truth.”
On another day, hours after she lost the Southwest light-rail vote, she visited a Somali mall on E. 24th Street in a blue hijab, accompanied by her Somali liaison, Abdirahman Muse. Hodges’ office said she is fulfilling many of the promises she put forth in a 100-day plan for the Somali community, including asking the city attorney for a review of small business regulations.
In an upstairs room, Somali shopkeepers praised her for showing up, and poured out their concerns through translators, telling her they needed more space to park, more opportunities for idle youth, and more Somali police officers.
“The parking issue is challenging,” she told them. “And I will be honest, there are not easy solutions.”
Those who have spoken with her in recent months say Hodges has made clear that she wants to be judged on what she does, not just what she says.
Sondra Samuels, president and CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone, said she recently complimented the mayor on a speech she gave in support of the organization.
Hodges thanked her, according to Samuels, “but said, ‘Time to act.’ She said, ‘It’s not the speeches, it’s the actions I take.’ ”
Maya Rao • 612-673-4210