By Mary Mergenthal
Roberta ‘Bobbi’ Ann Megard, who led a life of civic and local community service, has died at age 87.
The long-time St. Anthony Park resident passed away on Nov. 16, 2023.
Born in Boise, Idaho, Megard grew up in Hermiston, Oregon. She was a graduate of the University of Oregon and earned a master’s degree at Indiana University. Her 43-year career spanned positions from teaching government and economics in high school to a life-long participation in local government.
Bobbi was president and executive director of the St. Paul League of Women Voters from 1983 to 1985. Bobbi’s passion for her beloved neighborhood led to her becoming a community organizer for the St. Anthony Park Community Council until 1993.
Megard later ran for St. Paul City Council for Ward 4 and was elected in 1993, serving two terms.
Setting her sights even higher, Megard entered the race for St. Paul mayor twice, in 1997 and 2001. After city government, Bobbi returned to education as an adjunct professor at Metropolitan State University in political science. She then went on to become executive director of Kids Voting St. Paul until 2007.
Alice Hausman, former Minnesota state representative whose district included St. Anthony Park, called Megard “a smart, creative thinker and a skilled problem solver. She was also a strong leader and her voice provided clear direction that got us through the difficult moments.”
Michael Russelle, a current District 12 board member, called Megard “a lioness” who made numerous contributions as the council’s executive director. He noted her staunch opposition to plans in the 1980s to widen Cleveland Avenue between Como and Larpenteur avenues.
“She did not want the neighborhood to lose its easy walking connection to the University of Minnesota (St. Paul) campus and did not want the increased traffic and speeds that a four-lane road would support,” Russelle said. “When the decision was made to replace the eight-decade-old iron bridge, she was adamant that the new structure be limited in width to two vehicle lanes, which would impede road widening on Raymond as well.
“I think she would have been ready to lie down in front of a bulldozer, if necessary,” Russelle recalled. “I don’t know how she did it, but the city built a two-lane bridge and Cleveland Avenue is still a two-lane road.”
Ellen Watters credits Megard for inspiring her professional career in local policy development.
“She encouraged me to run for the District Council Board, where I quickly felt a deep engagement in local policy development,” Watters recalled. “As head of District 12, Bobbi was the source for all the important intel on what was happening in the neighborhood. Working with her, I learned about land use and transportation and how the neighborhood could influence decisions.”
Watters noted, “One of my fondest memories working with Bobbi was lobbying at the State Capitol for the Highway 280 sound wall. It was seen as highly unlikely that we could get funding, but a small group persevered and we did. Bobbi gave us the tools and the knowledge to get that done.
“Later I worked with Bobbi as she represented the neighborhood on the City Council while I ran the Midway Chamber of Commerce.”
Bobbi’s leadership earned her many distinguished awards through the St. Paul LWV, St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, Ramsey County Bar Association and the Midway YMCA. She served on the YMCA’s community board both as a member from 1998 to 2011 and as chair from 2003 to 2005.
Bobbi and her late husband, Bob, were avid travelers. Their adventures took them to Iran, England, China and, most often, Mexico, where they spent over two decades in their retirement years appreciating the people, language and culture. During the summer, she enjoyed trips to the North Shore to read, relax and spend time with family. She loved cooking and hosting holiday gatherings, as well as enjoying the arts by supporting the Guthrie, Minnesota Orchestra and Minnesota Opera.
Bobbi was preceded in death by husband Robert “Bob,” parents Roy and Georgia McNeal; brothers Roy “Bo” McNeal and Henry “Hank” McNeal; one grandchild and one great-grandchild. She is survived by children Jason; Allison; Rachel (Jeff) Tranberry; six grandchildren; five great-grandchildren and brother-in-law Stuart.
Memorials can be made online atlwvmn.org, or checks may be sent to League of Women Voters Minnesota, 546 Rice St., Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103. Please make checks payable to League of Women Voters Minnesota with ‘Roberta Megard Memorial’ in the memo line, or YMCA of the North, 1761 University Ave. W., St. Paul 55104 c/o Megard /Tranberry Endowment Fund, attention David Dominick.
Information about a celebration of Bobbi’s life will be forthcoming.
Mary Mergenthal is a former editor of the Park Bugle. Bugle managing editor Scott Carlson contributed to this report.