Ruth Ann Minner was already very familiar with the governor’s office in Dover when she was elected to that office in November 2000.
Nearly 30 years before, she worked as a receptionist for then-Gov. Sherman Tribbitt, answering phones and greeting visitors.
In between those two jobs, Minner spent decades working her way through the ranks of the General Assembly. She served four terms as house representative, followed by three terms as state senator. Eventually, she was elected Lieutenant Governor under Tom Carper in the ‘90s.
She succeeded Carper in 2000 and served two terms as the first and only woman to be elected governor.
“Put simply: Ruth Ann Minner worked tirelessly,” Carper said. “She was indefatigable, and she always sought to do the right thing. Voters in Delaware rewarded her for that, and she rewarded them with years of service that we can all be proud of.”
Current Gov. John Carney, who worked as lieutenant governor for eight years under Minner, said she was a “trailblazer… paving the way for women and girls in our state to seek out leadership roles.”
After growing up poor in the 1930s and ‘40s in Slaughter Beach, Minner focused on helping working families get ahead, Carney said.
Her political success followed lots of personal hardship. Minner dropped out of school at the age of 16 to work on her family’s farm, and raised three sons as a single mom after becoming a widow at the age of 32. She also helped run the family towing business. She eventually earned a GED in 1968.
“During her time in office, Governor Minner worked with legislators of both parties to improve health care, fight cancer, strengthen our education system, and attract good jobs to our state. She will be greatly missed,” Carney said.
One of Minner’s last public events was then-President-elect Biden’s victory celebration in Wilmington a year ago. Biden called her out from the stage before starting into his victory speech. During a 2009 tribute event, Biden called Minner “the most remarkable – the most inspiring – public servant I’ve ever worked with.”
Other state leaders also offered their words of tribute for her service.
Lieutenant Gov. Bethany Hall-Long said Minner was “a role model to so many women in our state and her life story and political career was one of a kind… From her grassroots down-to-earth upbringing, she put in place policies that continue to affect our families today. It was a pleasure and one of my greatest honors to work with her as a legislator.”
Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester said she was humbled to work with Minner as part of the Carper administration. “The Minner administration threw open the doors of opportunity to thousands of Delaware’s children by establishing the SEED scholarship, made our state more accepting by fighting discrimination, and helped make Delaware healthier by working tirelessly to reduce cancer rates in the state,” she said.
State House leaders House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Majority Whip Larry Mitchell issued a joint statement celebrating Minner’s work to support the LGBTQ community.
“Governor Minner also championed equal rights, becoming the first governor to support legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. She inspired a generation of young women and girls to reach for heights never before thought possible,” they said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, and Majority Whip Elizabeth Lockman also issued a joint statement, recognizing Minner’s work to improve the health of Delawareans through her push for the then-controversial ban on indoor smoking in restaurants and bars.
“While her story was extraordinary at the time, her leadership would influence a generation of young women in Delaware, an inspiration that helped lead directly to women making up half of the Senate Democratic Caucus today. Ruth Ann Minner is a vital figure in the history of the First State and will always hold a special place in our hearts,” they said.
Minner was 86 years old.
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