Minor settled in Port Townsend in 1868 when he went into partnership with the owner of the Marine Hospital located there. Although only 24, his oratorical skills and interest in politics soon made him a leader in the community. He was active in the territorial and national Republican Party. In 1880 and 1881, Minor was elected to the largely ceremonial post of mayor of Port Townsend.
Minor continued his leadership role after moving to Seattle in 1883. He joined the newly formed Chamber of Commerce and worked with others to bring regular transcontinental rail service to the city. In 1886, Minor was part of a group of conservative business and civic leaders who organized a "law and order" party known as the Loyal League in response to the labor unrest and anti-Chinese riots of 1885-1886.
The Loyal League's mayoral candidate in 1886, Seattle founder Arthur A. Denny (1822-1899), was defeated. Under the city charter in effect at the time, the mayor's term of office was one year. In 1887, the Loyal League encouraged Minor to run in an effort to "regain control" of city government for the "conservative element" (Pelly, 87). The election was held on the second Monday of July -- July 11, 1887. Running on the "Citizens' ticket," Minor was elected mayor by a substantial majority.