Vic Tedesco was a street-wise politician from St. Paul’s East Side who became one of the city’s longest serving council members, charming his constituents with his wit and entertaining crowds with his saxophone and a tip of his toupee.
He was the epitome of a public servant, said Kathy Lantry, former City Council member and now head of the city’s Public Works Department. “He always knew what his job was, which was to represent his constituents. And that meant fighting for them.
“I think that shaped how my mom [Marilyn, who served as Tedesco’s legislative aide] did her job as a state senator,” Lantry said. “And I know it shaped how I do my job.”
Tedesco died Monday after suffering a stroke earlier this year. He was 92.
He was first elected to the City Council in 1966 as the park and recreation commissioner and then the Seventh Ward council member from the city’s East Side.
As a dedicated public servant and entertainer, he once spent a week of his vacation working various city jobs, from running elevators and sweeping sidewalks to bathing elephants at Como Zoo. But he’s often remembered for the moment he allowed a python to wrap itself around him.
As the python tightened its grip, Tedesco’s eyes got wider. It took eight people to pry the snake loose.
Retiring in 1987 after 21 years, including a stint as council president, Tedesco credited his popularity to his style. His familiar smile, quick handshake and a street sense honed by a lifetime on the East Side put friends and foes at ease.
“In most cases, people are more interested in how you treat them than in how you voted,” he once said. Former City Council Member Kiki Sonnen sat on Tedesco’s right side during meetings. “Vic would be telling jokes under his breath,” she said. But make no mistake, he “knew a lot from being around so long,” she said.
But he had little patience for long discourse, and once told Sonnen: “I just read the first page of everything. If they can’t get their point across in one page,” then he wasn’t interested, Sonnen said.
“And he often told speakers, ‘Stop now while you’re ahead.’ ”
He was a straight-talking politician who sometimes left people speechless, if not amused. When a Japanese delegation was visiting the council, “Vic said to them, ‘Not a lot of people know this, but I’m part Japanese.’ And he took his toupee off. ‘My hair is from Japan,’ ” he said, leaving the visiting delegation and some of his colleagues mortified, Sonnen recalled.
When he announced his retirement, those close to him suspected it was partly because politics was changing. “Vic is a different breed, and I mean that in a positive sense,” Jim Scheibel said in 1987, when the two served on the council together. “Vic is very street-wise, and he has a very good gut. But things are done differently now.”
“He loved the city,” Scheibel, who later became mayor, said Tuesday. “He was an outgoing guy who didn’t like tension. He wanted to make everyone happy, and that’s just not always possible.”
After retiring, Tedesco continued to entertain, hosting a talk show on local cable TV for a time and playing sax and accordion with his bands at the Taste of Minnesota, lawn parties and group homes.
“He had a concert booked for early March,” said his son, Anthony Tedesco of Woodbury.
He is also survived by his daughter, Patricia Ann Bloyer of St. Paul, and two grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at St. Pascal Baylon Church in St. Paul and one hour before services at 10 a.m. Monday.