Tom Hoch doesn't hold still.
He doesn't stand in his garden without pulling weeds. He doesn't sit at his dining room table without brushing away dust. He doesn't talk without leaning forward and looking hard at the person he's speaking to, his gestures filling the space between them.
The 62-year-old Minneapolis native has been a teacher, a lawyer, a city employee, a CEO. He's served on more boards and volunteered for more organizations than he can list.
Now, after 40 years of working in the city, Hoch wants to do one more thing: He wants to run the city.
"For me, this is a capstone," he said. "I'm not using it as a launching pad to a different political career somewhere — that's not even on my radar screen. I just want to be the best mayor I can be."
Hoch is one of 15 people challenging Mayor Betsy Hodges' re-election bid. Since launching his campaign in February, his biggest hurdle has been making himself known in a candidate pool whose highest-profile members already hold public office.
His campaign spent tens of thousands of dollars on the first TV ad of the mayor's race. The ad, a spoof on a 2016 ad for a Texas county commissioner, showed Hoch talking about Minneapolis with anyone who would listen: guests in his south Minneapolis home, a man jogging in his neighborhood, a woman taking out her recycling.
At the end, Hoch's husband, former General Mills executive Mark Addicks, looked at the camera and said, "Please vote for Tom Hoch for mayor of Minneapolis. Please."
The real-life Hoch is a lot like the one in the ad — a slight, bespectacled man with a preference for crisp button-down shirts. He speaks quickly and intentionally, loves Minneapolis and wants everyone else to love it, too.
An ambitious vision
The way Hoch talks about the city sets him apart from the rest of the mayoral candidate pool. He thinks things could be better — from the supply of affordable housing to community trust in police — but he also thinks a lot of things are pretty great already, and is excited about what the city could become.
"We play small ball all the time," he said. "And that's not a substitute for moving us ahead."
Hoch wants Minneapolis to be a destination — the "North Coast of Arts and Culture " — along the lines of cities like Denver and Austin, Texas.
Gloria Freeman, who owns senior housing buildings and serves on the board of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, said that vision appeals to her as a voter and is something she thinks city leadership has been lacking.
"Someone to me that's a visionary doesn't just think about it, but they implement it, they work through the process, they make sure it moves forward," she said.
In an election year that has given rise to a slew of activist candidates, including people who participated in the Fourth Precinct occupation and advocated for a citywide $15 minimum wage, Hoch's platform of affordable housing, public safety and jobs comes across as moderate. His focus has been on bread-and-butter issues that make a city tick but aren't particularly flashy.
"By any other standard of any other city, he might very well be the most liberal person in the race," said David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University who donated $200 to Hoch but lives in St. Paul. "And here, he sort of looks like the conservative of the major candidates of the race."
In September, Hoch faced a flurry of criticism on social media after it came to light that he donated $500 to the Minnesota House Republican caucus in 2016 — a donation his campaign said was tied to a local arts event and paled in comparison to the thousands of dollars he's given to Democratic candidates and progressive causes.
Hoch won about 11 percent of delegate votes at the city DFL convention in July, coming in fourth after DFL state Rep. Ray Dehn, Council Member Jacob Frey and Hodges. But when it comes to fundraising, the lineup is different: Campaign finance reports show Hoch raised more than $200,000 in the first half of 2017, second only to Frey's nearly $360,000.
Hoch could appeal to voters who aren't interested in far-left candidates, Schultz said — but he has to get his message out.
"That is his challenge still," Schultz said.
A life in Minneapolis
Hoch was born and raised in Minneapolis, the fifth of 11 children. His early years were marked by turmoil: When he was 12, his mother died. Months later, his older brother was killed by a drunk driver. At 16, he fathered a baby girl who was placed for adoption.
Hoch became a teacher, then earned a law degree — an effort, he said, to protect himself from discrimination as an openly gay man.
"There was always that feeling of vulnerability, and I didn't like it," Hoch said. "I wanted to be able to change it for me and for others, and I thought the law was a good way to do that."
If elected, Hoch will be Minneapolis' first openly gay mayor.
After practicing law for a few years, Hoch went to work for the Minneapolis Community Development Agency, where he helped save the State Theatre from demolition, then for the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA). As deputy executive director, he was part of a team that negotiated a settlement over a federal lawsuit alleging Minneapolis' public housing perpetuated segregation, garnering $100 million in federal money to fix problems.
Cora McCorvey, the former MPHA executive director, said she was struck by Hoch's dedication to the job. She remembers coming into the office at 7 a.m. and finding he was already working.
"He took on the same level of responsibility as I did," said McCorvey, who's now volunteering for Hoch's campaign. "This guy — I trust him completely."
Hoch went on to lead the Hennepin Theatre Trust, and played a pivotal role in revitalizing downtown Minneapolis' theater district. It brought him the attention of the downtown business community, and a tap to run for mayor in 2013, which he did not pursue. Before that, he said, he'd never thought seriously about running for office.
Lynn Olson, a retired Anoka County district judge who hired Hoch as her first clerk in 1982, said the mayoral run surprised her. After overcoming earlier struggles, including the death of a previous partner, it seemed Hoch had at last reached a truly happy point in his life, she said.
"I look at him and say, 'Tom, why are you doing this?' " Olson said, laughing. "But I think he truly is doing it because he believes in the city. And I know that's a trite thing to say, but it's really important to him that the city of Minneapolis continues to thrive."