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Ruth Ann Minner

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Ruth Ann Minner
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Delaware Lieutenant Governor
Former Oficeholder
In office
1993 - 2001
Date of birthJanuary 17, 1935
Ruth Ann Minner (born January 17, 1935) is a politician and businesswoman from Milford in Kent County, Delaware. She is a member of the Democratic Party who served in the Delaware General Assembly, two terms as Lieutenant Governor Delaware, and is the former Governor of Delaware. She served two terms and was Delaware's first female governor, as well as the nation’s oldest serving governor. She was the nation's longest-serving female governor, and in January 2008 became the longest-serving female governor in U.S. history.

Early life and family

Minner was born Ruth Ann Coverdale, at Slaughter Neck in Cedar Creek Hundred, Sussex County, Delaware, near Milford. While growing up, she left high school at age 16 to help support her family. Subsequently she married Frank Ingram, with whom she had three children: Frank Jr., Wayne and Gary. When she was 32, her husband died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving her a single mother with three children. She earned her GED in 1968, and later attended Delaware Technical and Community College, while working two jobs to support the family. In 1969, she married Roger Minner and together they operated a family towing business, the Roger Minner Wrecker Service. Roger Minner died of cancer in 1991.

Early political career

Ruth Ann Minner began her political career as a clerk in the Delaware House of Representatives and as a receptionist in the office of Governor Sherman W. Tribbitt. In 1974, she was elected to the State House as a member of the "Watergate Class," a group of newly elected legislators from both parties, who came into office on a "good government" mission, and a strong sense of their ability to make significant improvements. Minner rose to become Delaware's most powerful female politician, but she did it in a very conventional way, representing a rural, small town constituency, and building relationships and expertise by working in the legislative process over many years. She served four terms in the State House, from the 1975/1976 session through the 1981/82 session. At various times she served as House Majority Whip and chair of the powerful Bond Bill Committee. She also chaired the Rules Committee. In that role she led several successful reforming efforts, including a change that removed the rule allowing Representatives to table roll call votes. This rule was used to help schedule votes when only the right combinations of Representatives were on the floor. [1]

In 1982, Minner was elected to the Delaware Senate and served there from the 1983/1984 session through the 1991/1992 session. While in the State Senate, Minner was noted for her sponsorship of the Delaware Land and Water Conservation Act, a key piece of legislation that protected 30,000 acres (120 km) of land and created the Delaware Open Space Council. To fund the activities of this Council, the General Assembly created the "Twenty-First Century Fund" from the proceeds of a multi-million dollar corporate securities lawsuit.

Minner was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1992 and served two terms from January 19 1993 to January 3 2001. While in that position she chaired the Minner Commission on Government Reorganization and Effectiveness.

Governor of Delaware

Minner was elected Governor of Delaware in 2000. She had secured the Democratic nomination by her long years in the General Assembly and as Lieutenant Governor, and had demonstrated her ability to run a campaign by her large state wide victory margins in 1992 and 1996. Her opponent in 2000 was Republican John M. Burris, who had barely survived a bitter September primary contest with retired judge William Swain Lee. With many hard feelings and only two months to recover, he led a badly divided Republican Party.

As the incumbent Lieutenant Governor, Minner took office upon the resignation of Governor Thomas R. Carper on January 3 2001, and began her own first term on January 16 2001. She is presently serving her second term. As Governor, she is a member of both the National Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association.

In 2004 Republican candidate William Swain Lee was given his chance to unseat Minner and ran a strong campaign, especially capitalizing on a growing awareness of problems in the state's prison system. Nevertheless, incumbency is highly valued in Delaware and Minner was re-elected, albeit by a much smaller margin. She has indicated she plans to retire at the end of her term to spend time with her family.

Minner was Delaware’s fourth consecutive two term governor and largely continued the business oriented policies and bipartisan, consensus style begun by her Republican predecessor, Pierre S. du Pont, IV. She is usually described as a "middle-of-the-road politician, with conservative fiscal views but progressive social policies."[2] As governor she concentrated on education, environmental, and health care issues, but is best known for her successful fiscal management of the state's budget through a national economic recession, and for her leadership in making Delaware the first state to prohibit smoking in most public places through the Clean Indoor Air Act. "When I took office," she said, "I was determined to reduce Delaware's high cancer rates. A task force...has created a road map of specific steps necessary...and I am implementing that plan. [One] result has been...the Clean Indoor Air Act, which has reduced cancerous pollutants in Delaware's restaurants, bars and casinos by more than 90 percent." [3]

Regarding education, she said "While it might be popular, it is not demanding to set standards that all students can meet right away...Once high standards have been set, the key is to give our students, educators and parents the tools to continuously improve." She "supports giving local schools control of [most] new education dollars...expanding after-school and weekend class programs...and supports reading and math specialists." She opposed vouchers.[4] "In 2005, she signed legislation creating the Student Excellence Equals Degree (SEED) Scholarship program, which enables students who keep their grades up and stay out of trouble to go to college for free in the state of Delaware. She also expanded her education specialist program, which has placed reading specialists in every elementary school, to also include a plan to place math specialists in every Delaware middle school."[5]

On other issues she was "a firm supporter of a measure that would simply add sexual orientation to the list of characteristics in the Delaware code...that are not allowed to be used as basis for discrimination." She "opposes new gun control legislation," but supports "legislation requiring mandatory trigger locks and gun safety courses in schools." And she said "I do not support additional sites or kinds of gambling...the state should not become any more reliant on this form of revenue."

In her second inaugural address in January 2005, Minner concluded with this description of her philosophy: "for Ruth Ann Minner, farmer, gardener and daughter of a sharecropper, it is simply this: Work hard. Do the right thing. And leave things better than you found them."

In February of 2007, Governor Minner forbade Professor David Legates, the Delaware State Climatologist and a professor at the University of Delaware, from using his title as State Climatologist in statements skeptical of man's ability to effect the climate.

She was succeeded in office by Jack Markell.


  • Governing Delaware by William W. Boyer, University of Delaware Press, 2000, ISBN: 1-892142-23-6
  • Only in Delaware, Politics and Politicians in the First State by Celia Cohen, Grapevine Publishing, 2002
  • Democracy in Delaware by Carol E. Hoffecker, Cedar Tree Books, 2004, ISBN: 1-892142-23-6
  • Memoirs of the Senate by Roger A. Martin, 1995
  1. Democracy in Delaware by Carol E. Hoffecker, Cedar Tree Books, Wilmington, Delaware, 2004, ISBN: 1-892142-23-6
  2. USA Today Candidate Profile
  3. Voters Guide 2004, Sunday News Journal, p. 5, Oct. 24, 2004
  4. Voters Guide 2000, Sunday News Journal, p. 5, Oct. 29, 2000
  5. The Governor’s Biography

External links