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Star Tribune: PR man Bob Goff, promoter of Minnesotans and DFL politics, dies at 80

By Nicole Norfleet, Star Tribune

Bob Goff, who shaped public opinion and policy for a half century on matters as diverse as tribal sovereignty and the construction of the Metrodome in the Twin Cities, has died.

Goff died Wednesday at age 80 after briefly battling an aggressive form of cancer.

With the St. Paul public relations firm that became known as Goff Public, he played a behind-the-scenes role in many high-stakes public affairs issues. But still, he retained the warmth and wit of a man who understood the value of personal connections.

“You treat them well because there’s a lot of reasons why you should and there are almost no reasons why you shouldn’t, your employees, your customers, whoever it is you are dealing with,” Goff said in an interview with the Star Tribune last August. “This company has always done that. That part of it I’m very proud of.”

Robert Eugene Goff was born in 1936. He grew up in Staples, Minn., a small city about 30 miles west of Brainerd. He graduated St. Cloud State University in 1958 with a degree in social studies education and an emphasis on history. Goff went on to teach American history at Mounds View High School until 1963.

As a teacher, Goff became active in DFL politics. He worked on numerous political campaigns, including John F. Kennedy’s presidential run in 1960, many times helping with writing and placing advertisements for candidates across the state. After he left teaching, Goff became a senior aide to Gov. Karl Rolvaag, who served from 1963-67.

In 1966, the day after Goff helped Nick Coleman be re-elected to the Minnesota Senate, Coleman asked Goff to form an advertising agency with him. Coleman and Goff Advertising was established that month. Goff described Coleman as the more talented out of the pair.

“It was always a great wonderment to me that somebody would ask that I would write something,” Goff said.

Nick Coleman’s son, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, said Goff was one of the most “wickedly smart and brilliantly funny” people that he had ever met and that it was no surprise why his father had chosen to partner with him. “I think in Bob he found a partner that understood the merger of his political life with the public relations side of it,” the mayor said.

Goff described the ad business in that era as the Wild West with “big bucks” being spent on advertising work done by out-of-town agencies. Goff said he and Coleman prided themselves on offering clients more affordable options.

The agency was one of Minnesota’s first public relations practices and served a range of clients, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Polaris and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

“Not only was he a very strategic political thinker, he was also in the business of public relations, marketing, figuring out strategies for clients,” said Roger Moe, a friend and former DFL state Senate leader. “He was without a doubt one of the best I ever watched.”

Moe said that Goff knew how politics came down to connecting with people. “He understood it was about friendships and knowing people,” Moe said. “He spent time getting to know people. … He was a great and dear friend. I’ll miss him.”

One of the things that state Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, will remember the most about Goff was his sense of humor and wit. “His humor was very funny and very biting,” said Cohen.

In 1977, Goff sold his stake in the agency and served as the staff director of the task force on waste and mismanagement under Gov. Rudy Perpich. After two years, he went back to the public relations firm.

Goff would later use the breadth of his experience in politics to help lobby for the construction of the Metrodome in Minneapolis and the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

In 2012, Goff retired from the firm, but he joked he would still pop up in the office from time to time to check the corners and “look under the rug.”

“He was just really friendly and fun,” said his daughter Emily Goff. “I think he was fun to be around as a dad, and he was fun to be around as a boss.” Bob Goff was a family man who loved to read; his large collection of books was arranged by the Dewey Decimal system. “He was the self-made man that he was because he was such a reader,” Emily Goff said.

Last summer, the Star Tribune asked Goff if he would have changed anything since he was first asked by Nick Coleman to start the firm. “No,” he replied. “It started out more of a ride than I ever expected.”

Goff is survived by his wife, Phyllis; children Cindy, Paul, Carolyn, Laura, Bill, Emily, Matt; and numerous other family and friends. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Bob Goff
 

Beloved founder of Goff Public passes away

Honoring our generous, inspiring, and fun-to-the-core leader

Bob Goff, Goff Public’s founder and longtime president, passed away peacefully at home yesterday.

Those of us who knew Bob well consider him the epitome of inspiring, authentic leadership. Bob was smart, funny, generous and magnetic. He was a public relations pioneer in Minnesota and a key figure in DFL politics and state government. He was a leading strategist on many public affairs issues, had a pivotal role on civic projects ranging from the Metrodome to Xcel Energy Center, and was a steadfast defender of tribal sovereignty in Indian Country.

While Bob retired from actively working at Goff Public in 2012, his values of respecting and genuinely caring for people remain the cultural core of Goff Public.

Arrangements are pending. If you would like to contribute a memory or story about Bob for the collection we are curating, please send your message to BobGoffStories@gmail.com.

Bob Goff, 1936-2017

Bob Goff, 1936-2017

 

Pioneer Press: Bob Goff, St. Paul public relations pioneer, dies at 80

By Nick Woltman, Pioneer Press

While most Minnesotans have never heard of Bob Goff, all likely know his work.

Goff’s nearly 50-year career in state government and public relations found him advising mayors, governors and countless corporate clients. He was a quiet force behind efforts to secure funding from the state Legislature for the Metrodome and the Xcel Energy Center.

“Bob was the classic behind-the-scenes guy,” said Norm Coleman, a former St. Paul mayor and Republican U.S. senator who relied on Goff’s counsel throughout his career. “He never wanted to be in the limelight. He was never looking for accolades.”

Goff died Wednesday afternoon at his home in Lowertown at 80 years old. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer, a spokesperson said.

In addition to founding St. Paul-based P.R. firm Goff Public, Goff also served in the administrations of Govs. Rudy Perpich and Karl Rolvaag. A life-long DFLer, he made friends on both sides of the political spectrum and was sought out by officials off all ideological stripes for his insight.

“On the inside of (state and local) politics, Bob was a guy that folks just trusted,” Coleman said. “I think everyone in that circle just felt good about him.”

Despite the demands of his professional schedule Goff was never too busy for his family, taking his seven children on annual vacations to Minnesota’s North Shore, New York City and other destinations.

“It’s always funny for us to hear about all of the things he did because he was always there and very present,” his daughter Emily said. “It was so important for dad that we spend time together — that we have adventures together.”

Born in 1936, Robert Eugene Goff grew up in Staples, Minn. As a teenager, he spent summers working road construction jobs in Iowa. After graduating from St. Cloud State University in 1958, Goff took a job teaching history in Mounds View and also became involved in DFL politics.

Goff got his first taste of government work in 1963 when he was hired as an aide to Gov. Karl Rolvaag, seeing up close how things got done.

At a back table in St. Paul’s long-gone Blue Horse restaurant in 1965, Goff, Rolvaag and a handful of other officials worked out a deal to save Minnesota aviator Charles Lindbergh’s childhood home in Little Falls from the wrecking ball.

But a series of bruising political battles soon drove him into the advertising business.

“We had three or four real good dogfights in a row,” Goff told the Pioneer Press in 1978. “It just chews you up and spits you out and after a while your capacity for that kind of acrimony kind of fills up.”

In 1966, Goff and fellow-DFLer Nick Coleman Sr. — father of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (and no relation to Norm Coleman) — founded an advertising firm named Coleman-Goff Inc. Rather than talking their clients into expensive ad campaigns, Goff and Coleman pitched stories about them to local media, inadvertently becoming pioneers in the nascent field of public relations.

“He was kind of like family,” Chris Coleman said of Goff. “He and my dad were not just business partners but the best of friends.”

Goff sold his stake in the company in 1977 to take a job trimming government waste under the administration of Gov. Rudy Perpich, trading in his executive office for a windowless room in the Capitol basement.

After two years as Minnesota’s “Waste Wizard,” as he was dubbed by the press, Goff rejoined his old P.R. firm. There he drew on all of his varied experience to help steer the high-stakes negotiations in the Legislature to fund construction of the Metrodome and the Xcel Energy Center.

“He had ability to read a situation as well as anybody I’ve ever known,” Chris Coleman said. “He really understood that intersection of P.R. and politics and media. He understood that you had to work all three angles to be effective.”

After retiring in 2012, Goff had more time for reading the stacks of books that littered his home and taking the long walks around St. Paul that he loved, Emily Goff said.

A Lowertown resident since 2000, Goff first saw the neighborhood’s potential when he moved his company down there in the mid-1990s.

“You couldn’t get a meal on Sunday when he first moved there and now it’s bustling,” Emily Goff said. “He really was a very forward-looking guy his whole life — politically, socially and commercially. He always knew which way the wind was blowing.”

Goff is survived by his wife, Phyllis, seven children and a dozen grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Bob Goff

 

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