Longtime Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede has announced that he won’t seek re-election when his fourth term in office expires at the end of this year.
Brede, 78, was elected mayor in 2002 after a 43-year career in hospital administration that ended at the Mayo Clinic. Brede said he could have waited until later this year to announce his plans but decided to “get it over with.”
“It doesn’t get any better than being the mayor of Rochester, Minnesota,” he said.
A chatty and energetic presence around town, Brede said he attended an average of 1,350 events annually between city meetings, grand openings, welcoming speeches and various other functions.
“When I first ran, I wanted to be approachable and accessible,” he said. “I think I’ve done that.”
The Austin, Minn., native moved to Rochester as a young man for school and work and stayed after meeting his wife, a nurse. He gave up plans to become a Lutheran minister and began working for the local hospital.
Brede was a former campaign manager for Rochester Mayor Chuck Canfield when he decided to run for mayor himself. Canfield later said he was surprised not by Brede’s decision to run for office — Brede had long told him he planned to do it — but by his fundraising abilities.
“We never were enemies,” said Brede. Canfield died a year ago at age 84.
Brede has had the good fortune to lead the city during a time of strong growth: Rochester’s population has grown from just over 92,000 to 114,000 during his time in office. It’s currently considered the hottest housing market in the state and posts some of the lowest unemployment figures.
As mayor, Brede also sits on the Destination Medical Center Corporation Board and helps oversee the $5.6 billion Mayo expansion project that began in 2013 and is expected to last 20 years.
Brede said he can’t count the number of times he’s traveled to St. Paul to lobby the Legislature for support for a variety of Rochester causes, from the civic center to bike trails.
“It has been a wonderful life,” he said, but added that the City Council has been more contentious lately, and that he doesn’t want to stay in the job too long.
Brede said he has no plans to slow down. He was in Minneapolis Thursday night to prepare for a volunteer gig at next month’s Super Bowl, to be held at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Brede was out briefly this fall after double knee surgery. He said he managed to take some meetings while recuperating and now feels restored to good health.
“There’s a phrase that people use a lot, ‘Good morning, Governor,’ and whenever I hear it I say, ‘Why do you always want to demote me?’ ” Brede said.