A desire for change carried the day in Minneapolis on Tuesday. Jacob Frey's promise to bring a fresh start to the mayor's office propelled him to victory past 15 other contenders, including Mayor Betsy Hodges. Frey led on each of five rounds of ranked-choice ballot tabulation and emerged with just shy of 45 percent of nearly 106,000 votes cast, well ahead of the second-place finisher, state Rep. Raymond Dehn.
Frey's win caps an impressive political climb for a 36-year-old native of northern Virginia who was first elected just four years ago to the City Council, representing the fast-growing Third Ward. On the council, the attorney and DFLer distinguished himself as an articulate promoter of the city and a consensus-builder, able to work effectively with colleagues of various philosophical bents. On the strength of that record, the Star Tribune Editorial Board made him its first choice for mayor.
His victory solidifies the arrival of the millennial generation in city leadership ranks — a phenomenon that began in the 2013 election and took firm hold this week in a city with a median age under 32. With the defeat of three City Council veterans by younger newcomers, it's clear that 30-somethings will be well-represented on both the City Council and Park and Recreation Board beginning next year.
Those newcomers may be Frey's generational peers. But ideologically, a number of them are positioned to Frey's left on issues including citywide labor standards, affordable housing and policing. Their differing ideas about city government's role will compound the challenge that any Minneapolis mayor confronts in a city whose unique governance structure demands collaboration among elected officials.
Frey will bring a number of advantages to the office. He's an outgoing and energetic communicator who projects infectious enthusiasm for his adopted hometown. He's well-versed in the city's biggest challenges and has plausible ideas for addressing them. We doubt that he will be shy about using his office's bully pulpit. But for the next few weeks, Frey would be well-advised to spend more time listening than talking. He should recruit top talent as staffers and make connections with elected officials in other jurisdictions. He should enlist some of the region's best and brightest thinkers to participate in task forces to help him build consensus behind new policy strategies in housing, policing and economic development. He should seek out the advice of his four living predecessors — including Hodges, whose Cradle-to-K task force should serve as a model for policy formation.
Hodges was gracious in defeat Wednesday, promising to aid Frey's transition to the mayor's office. We expected no less from Hodges, whose love for the city and commitment to public service have never been in doubt. The voters' decision to make Hodges a one-term mayor should not be seen as a repudiation of the major goals she set. Rather, in choosing Frey, voters seemed to say they want a more visible mayor who can pick up the pace of results. Frey's mandate is to make City Hall a more effective civic problem-solver. It's a tall order. We wish him well.