I was invited to the home of the First Lady of Fridley, Cindy Lund, to ask her about her experience as the wife of Mayor Scott Lund, raising a child with special needs, and learning more about the woman behind the name.
I arrived at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in Fridley on a winter Minnesotan day, to interview Cindy Lund. The neighborhood is studded with graceful trees, large backyards spill out from behind well-kept homes and I could see Rice Creek winking at me as I drove up. The Lund home greeted me warmly with an attractive evergreen arrangement standing guard out front, still looking fresh long after Christmas, and a vibrant red door promised good things inside.
Cindy ushered me in with her famous bubbly personality. Her voice (and eager laughter) carries the unique dichotomy of having both elven lightness and the sultry undertones of a late night jazz singer. Cindy’s stature remains girlish, a petite woman who is always stylishly dressed, eternally accessorized with her signature golden locks, bright blue eyes and open smile. I am offered coffee (which I happily accept) and a brief exchange about our families is made before we comfortably sit down in her dining room.
You've lived in Fridley for over 30 years. Did you grow up in the Twin Cities area? No, I grew up in Springfield, MN. Springfield is an extremely small town of 2,500 people. I remember when we got our first street light! Can you imagine?!
How many kids are in your family? I come from a family of eight. There are five girls, and three boys. It’s what people might call a “Good Catholic family”. We were all very close growing up, everyone pitched in to help with the younger children and chores, and we remain close as adults today. One is in Florida, four are still around Springfield. The boys took over the family business (in Springfield), Meissen's Color Center, which sells paint, and home decor items.
Tell me about your early education. I went to a private catholic school during my elementary years, then public school in high school. I started college at Winona for a short time to study social work. I never finished (college), and I sometimes wish I had.
Where and when did you meet Scott? Cindy laughs, and energetically tells me. I met Scott on an airplane. There was a huge blizzard coming through Iowa and Minnesota. After take-off we learned a landing in Iowa wasn’t possible, so we made an early landing in Minneapolis. I had actually come from Kentucky, from the Appalachian Mountains, after a stint volunteering there.
Wait. What were you doing in the Appalachian Mountains? I was there doing social work. I gave support to families who lived in the mountains, helped to provide clothes, brought toys, and set up pre-school early education programs. I still remember the people who lived off the land, the mountains. This is a beautiful, but really rugged part of the world. They all had very little; basic shelter, basic clothes. They grew or hunted their own food, but they were immensely happy. Peaceful… Anyway, it was my first time on an airplane. I ended up sitting next to Scott. There weren’t very many people on-board, so Scott “found” a seat next to me! After we landed in Minneapolis, he waited with me until my family came to pick me up— which ended up being four hours due to the blizzard. The rest is kind of history. I decided to no longer pursue my degree, ended up getting a job in the Twin Cities as a receptionist, and started dating Scott. Scott was working as a service man for mobile homes at the time. He was doing really hard work and putting in long hours. We dated for two and half years, got married in Springfield, and settled down in Fridley.
Tell me about your children. We had Josh after about a year of marriage. We were both thrilled. Then Andy was born about three years later.
Andy was a special needs child. How did you find out, and what was it like for you 30 years ago? Cindy sighs... We weren’t prepared at all. The pregnancy was “normal” and we had no indications that anything was amiss. I was still coming to my senses after a C-section. Everyone else had gotten the news, but me. I was told that my baby had Downs Syndrome. I hadn’t even seen him yet. Between being shocked with this information and not being educated in what Downs Syndrome meant at the time, my first reaction was the fear that my baby somehow looked, I don’t know. Different. Bad. Her quick laughter is replaced by a delicate catch in her throat, her eyes become moist. I told myself I wouldn’t cry at this…! But when they brought the baby in. She tears up some more, her voice is soft with a steely center . He was absolutely beautiful. An adorable, perfect baby. My baby. And I just knew right in that instant everything would be fine. And it was! It really was.
What kind of support did you have to raise Andy? We had amazing neighbors. The other moms on our block at the time were so generous with their support, I can’t even tell you! Kathy Schroer (wife of the original owner of Bob’s Produce) was particularly wonderful. We also had the Balin Developmental Achievement Center. They came once a week to help with physical therapy, and we went there once a week to learn. At age two, a “special” bus came for him every day to go to school, and he went every day after that. Andy was a happy baby, and a happy kid. Honestly, he brought so much joy to our family... I feel lucky to have raised him.
What is different, if anything, for children with special needs today? I think kids have more options now. Most special needs kids are integrated in the regular school classroom (as opposed to being in a “special school” like Andy was). There is also a much bigger scope for extracurricular activities. The Special Olympics is well respected and supported, fundraising efforts like the popular Polar Plunge are significant (my oldest Josh, donates hundreds of dollars to various Plungers). These things weren’t really around when Andy was little.
Tell me about Andy’s life today, as an adult. Andy is living at a group home run by Lutheran Social Services, very close by. It’s a three bedroom home, he has two roommates, and it’s staffed 24 hours, so I feel confident all of his needs are being met. But Andy still comes home every weekend to spend the nights with us. We all look forward to it. He goes to work every day at Rise doing assembly projects for various companies. It’s a full time job. He keeps busy! He delivers Meals on Wheels, and every week he goes to a dance with music and dances the night away! He loves karaoke at the Blaine VFW and goes as often as he can. She pauses. He enjoys his life and is a productive, contributing adult. He’s done good!
So you had two boys. And then… She laughs. Liz was born nine years after Andy..! She was our “bonus baby” for sure. I love having a daughter, and really enjoy who she has become. She recently graduated from Stout University and is working at Northtown Mall as the assistant manager at Maurice’s, and part time for the (Northtown) marketing department. I’ve noticed I don’t go to Rosedale as often I use to, and head to our own Northtown instead!
I hear you’re a new grandma (again)! Are you enjoying being a grandparent? Oh yes! Josh, my oldest, has two little boys. We’re very proud of Josh. He’s very successful at what he does (he’s a mortgage broker with Gold Star Financial), married to a sweetheart, and doesn’t live too far away. We see the boys once a week. Either, Scott and I travel to their house, or they come to ours. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
How did Scott become Mayor – over 12 years ago? Scott was introduced to the community as a young man first by way of the Jaycees, then the Lions Club, and later the Fridley 49er Days. He was president of the Fridley 49ers Committee for several years and only decided to run for Mayor after he was approached by several community members. They really liked his work, and how involved he was with the community. He actually lost the first time he threw his name in the hat, as a write-in, then won the next term – and every election he’s run for ever since.
So, what is it like to be the First Lady of Fridley—all these years? You know, it’s really been great. People have been so nice to me over the years. I’m not directly involved in local politics, but I support Scott 100% for as long as he wants to do the job. As the “First Lady”, I was afraid people would confront me a lot about issues they weren’t happy with (and I would know nothing about), but people are truly very pleasant to me. Occasionally I politely get asked about something and I direct them right to Scott. My life has remained surprisingly unchanged. Although, we do go to a lot of fundraisers now!
What do you like to do for fun? I enjoy spending time with my family first and foremost. Then, I would say going out to eat! And I like to eat at many different places. We’re at Shortstop a lot, the Shorewood, but we like NE Mpls too. Stanley’s is one of my favorites, but I always like to try new places.
OK. I have to comment about your sense of style. It’s impeccable. I have never seen you look like you just ran out to the grocery store—even if you just ran out to the grocery store! Where do you get that from? She laughs. Well, thank you. Geez, I don’t know. My mom was always known for her stylish-ness. Even in tiny Springfield. So I guess she inspired me to “jazz it up” in your own way, no matter where you are!
We end our interview with the sound of the Mayor’s voice booming over the phone from a distant room in the house, doing work of some kind or another. She laughs and tells me this is how it’s been for a long time. Scott is always working on something as Mayor at all hours of the day -- and night.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Cindy Lund yet, I highly encourage you to take a moment to introduce yourself if the opportunity arises. You can see her around Fridley, most often.
Looking like a million bucks.