Medina Mayor Robert “Bob” Mitchell Jr. used his position at the podium to infuse civility and courtesy in public discourse.
“He listened rather than judged. He was respectful rather than pretentious,” said Kathleen Martin, a colleague on the Medina City Council. “He critically analyzed all available information before making tough decisions rather than reflexively imposing personal preferences.”
Mitchell died unexpectedly of acute myeloid leukemia on July 30, surrounded by his family at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. He was 74.
Mitchell was dedicated to his city, serving as City Council member from 1985 to 1992 and then as a mayor starting in 2015.
“My dad saw it as an opportunity to give back and provide his expertise,” said son Ned Mitchell.
In that role, he led the city through difficult conversations about growth vs. preservation of the community’s pastoral feel.
“He was very adept at making sure everyone felt heard,” Ned Mitchell said.
He was also happy to grill hot dogs at community celebrations, cut ribbons at opening ceremonies and ride shotgun with police officers on Night to Unite, said Martin, who was elevated from council member to Medina mayor after Mitchell’s death.
He was well known for his handwritten letters and thank-you notes to everyone from children who had won coloring contests to city staff.
Mitchell was born in New York state to Robert G. Mitchell Sr. and Alice Tenney Mitchell. He spent his childhood in Crystal Bay, Minn., and Woodside, Calif. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in Connecticut and graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1968.
He married Lucy Crosby in 1977. Mitchell practiced real estate law in New York and Minneapolis, retiring from Lindquist & Vennum in 2009. He also served as the Minnetonka Beach city attorney for more than two decades.
He served on several nonprofits’ boards — for the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, Global Minnesota and the Trust for Public Land. He also served on the Wayzata City Council from 1978-1980.
His dedication to community was surpassed only by his devotion to his family, Ned Mitchell said.
“In family, there is nothing more important than showing up. And Dad showed up everywhere,” Ned Mitchell said. “He showed up and cheered unabashedly when you were on the A team or the C team, the first line or the fourth. He showed up even when you weren’t playing.”
In a departure from his button-down, analytical demeanor as an attorney and public official, Mitchell sought adventure in his personal life, often on outings with his wife and three children.
The couple honeymooned in South America. Mitchell bicycled in Myanmar (then known as Burma), climbed the Grand Tetons just outside of Yellowstone, downhill skied in Utah and bungee-jumped at Victoria Falls on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border.
He enjoyed driving his 1957 Corvette and horseback riding.
“His wit, intellect, good teachings and integrity will be missed deeply by all of us at City Hall,” Martin said.
Mitchell is survived by Lucy, his wife of 40 years; sons Ned of Minneapolis and David of Aspen, Colo.; daughter Ella of Berkeley, Calif.; and numerous nieces and nephews. Services have been held.