Remembering Ruth Ann Minner, the First Female Governor of Delaware

Illustration by Tim Foley

A friend and colleague of the late Gov. Ruth Ann Minner reflects on her greatest strength: being close to the people of Delaware.

What do you say after your friend of 50 years, the first female governor of Delaware, has passed away and been eulogized brilliantly by a Delaware governor, U.S. senator, congresswoman and, yes, the president of the United States? You think back over the years and try to remember the one story that says it all about Ruth Ann Minner, a lady who was a trailblazer, mentor, politician, mother, grandmother, business owner, women’s activist, downstate Delawarean, churchgoer, environmentalist, preservationist, fisherwoman and just all-around good person who, when she was irritated, could be as tough and determined as anybody with whom I have had the privilege to work.

Illustrated by Tim Foley

The year was 1999. Ruth Ann and her inner circle of friends and advisers decided to have a retreat to plan her 2000 campaign for governor. We had every intention of running a state-of-the-art professional campaign, so we gathered political consultants, pollsters, fundraisers and some of Ruth Ann’s top supporters to bring as much organization to it as possible. After all, it was a Democratic campaign.

When it came time for Ruth Ann to sum up the session, she did it as only Ruth Ann could. She talked about what she called her “pyramid.”

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She said, “I have no doubt you will all do your jobs, raise the money, take the polls, write the ads and get the endorsements, but that’s only 5 percent of the job and only the top 5 percent of the pyramid. The other 95 percent of the job and the bottom 95 percent of the pyramid is the people— and that’s my job.”

She reveled in that job, all the chicken dinners, supermarket stops, bingo games in church basements and fire halls, Sunday morning services, all the normal campaign events. More than that, though, she truly loved meeting the people and listening to their problems and trying to help if she could. With that kind of dedication and energy, we were optimistic that she could win the governorship.

The number of folks she helped over the years is immeasurable, and it wasn’t just the big things she did as governor but also the little things she did to help people get through their day-to-day lives. There are people all over the state and nation who know what I mean.

She is at peace now and rests where she should, in a small cemetery next to a little white Methodist church, within 25 yards of a Sussex County farmer’s field.

In these turbulent political times, we can be proud as we remember Ruth Ann Minner, someone who knew how to reach political consensus for the good of everyone.

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It was my honor and pleasure to work with such a great lady and to have her as a true friend.

RELATED: The Late Governor Pete du Pont Made Many Contributions to Delaware 

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