Please remember in your prayers Albert Hofstede, an alumnus who became the youngest mayor in Minneapolis history, served as a St. Thomas trustee and was the university’s lobbyist in Minneapolis for three decades.
Hofstede died Saturday of a respiratory illness. He was 75.
The Minneapolis native graduated from St. Thomas in 1964 with a bachelor of arts degree in biology and chemistry, but served most of his career as an elected or appointed public official and as a government affairs consultant.
After graduation, he worked as a land agent for the state park system before becoming an aide to Gov. Karl Rolvaag in 1966. Hofstede served on the Minneapolis City Council from 1967 to 1971, when Gov. Wendell Anderson appointed him as chair of the Metropolitan Council.
He ran for mayor of Minneapolis in 1973 and, when elected at age 34, became the youngest person – and the first Catholic – to hold the position. His re-election bid in 1975 was thwarted by Charles Stenvig, but Hofstede defeated Stenvig in 1977 and served a second two-year term.
Success in office led to national recognition; Time magazine selected him a “Leader of the Future” in 1974 and the Jaycees named him one of the country’s Top Ten Young Men the following year.
Hofstede chose to leave office in 1980 and co-founded North State Advisors, a firm he remained with until his death.
“People think of lobbyists as shady characters twisting arms in smoke-filled back rooms,” Hofstede told St. Thomas magazine in a 2000 profile, “but a good share of my time is spent convincing clients that things can’t be done that way.”
Government relations work, he added, takes “a lot of conversation, a lot of back and forth,” and he had an innate sense of what would be effective in representing clients at City Hall. His operating philosophy: “Never politically embarrass anyone.”
Elected officials came to appreciate Hofstede’s approach over the next 35 years. “He is one of the most effective lobbyists I know,” Jackie Cherryhomes, then president of the Minneapolis City Council, said in the St. Thomas profile. “Al knows when to push you and when to leave you alone.”
St. Thomas was among Hofstede’s early clients, and he developed a close working relationship and friendship with Monsignor Terrence Murphy, then president. “Murphy would call,” Hofstede said, “and say, ‘I just want to ask you one question, Al. I just want you to do one thing.’ ”
That one thing led to another as St. Thomas began to offer MBA classes in the old Powers department store in downtown Minneapolis (1987) and opened a downtown campus (1992). Hofstede was present every step of the way, introducing Murphy and colleagues from the St. Paul college to the power brokers in Minneapolis.
“Al knew everybody, and he knew them well,” said Dr. Charles Keffer, who retired from St. Thomas as provost in 1998 after serving 25 years in senior academic leadership positions. “He could walk into their offices, and he knew how the process worked. He didn’t take no for an answer. He just kept working on the issue and the challenge, and he was always successful.”
Hofstede also worked on many projects in the Catholic community, leveraging partnerships outside of City Hall. He helped to establish Catholic Eldercare, a nursing home and assisted-living facility in northeast Minneapolis. He also chaired the board of Catholic Charities, was active with St. Joseph’s Home for Children and led a study group on teenage prostitution. When asked his motivation, he simply said, “Kids and the elderly are the most vulnerable in our society.”
“Al’s sense of social justice is spectacular,” Monsignor J. Jerome Boxleitner, the longtime executive director of Catholic Charities, once said. “He translates his commitment to the church into his everyday life.”
Hofstede served on the St. Thomas Board of Trustees from 1988 to 2000 and received the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1992. He was a member of the advisory board that recommended in 1999 that St. Thomas should open a School of Law. He was profiled in the book, “125 Interesting and Influential People in the History of St. Thomas,” published when the university celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2009-2010.
Survivors include his wife, Emma; two children, Albert Jr. and Emily Koski; and five grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Barbara.
A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, with visitation at noon at the church.
The Sunday Star Tribune published this obituary on Hofstede.