Nadia Mohamed becomes US first elected Somali American mayor

Nadia Mohamed has been sworn in as mayor of St. Louis Park, a city in the State of Minnesota, United States. This made her the city’s first Black mayor in 170 years, the first elected Somali American mayor in U.S., and the second known Somali mayor in U.S. history.

Nadia Mohamed won with 58% of the vote, defeating retired banker Dale A. Anderson, who got 41% of the vote. She was elected in November 2023, but officially sworn in last week.

She represents a new generation of leadership in both the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and St. Louis Park. She’s just 27, though she had already been elected to a citywide at-large seat on the City Council in 2019.

“As mayor, I want to make sure people see themselves reflected in our policies,” she declared.

Deqa Dhalac of South Portland, Maine, was the first Somali American to serve as mayor of an American city, but she was selected by that city’s six-member council in 2021, not elected by the voters. Nadia Mohamed is the first elected Somali-American mayor in the US.

Mohamed garnered endorsements from Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a St. Louis Park resident, and former St. Louis Park Mayor Jake Spano, who commended her for her service on the St. Louis Park City Council. 

“One thing I’ve learned over the years is that to do the job of mayor, you have to love people, love solving problems and believe in the people in your community to do good things. Councilmember Mohamed and I agree on this,” said Jake Spano.

Her family emigrated to Kenya after the Somali Civil War and she lived in the Kakuma refugee camp until she was 10 years old. Then she immigrated to St. Louis Park and grew up in the St. Louis Park School District.

In 2020, Nadia Mohamed took office on the City Council at just 23 years old, making her the youngest person to ever serve on the St. Louis Park City Council.

The city’s population is 80% white. The new mayor focused her campaign on increasing homeownership and community policing.

Nadia Mohamed is close to another prominent Somali American elected official, State Senator Zaynab Mohamed, who praised Nadia Mohamed, saying they have been best friends since sixth grade. Zaynab Mohamed was among the first Black women elected to the State Senate in 2022.

Mohamed’s status as the first Somali mayor is notable in St. Louis Park, which has long been known as a haven for another Minnesota religious minority — Minnesota’s Jewish community.

Because neighboring Edina and Minneapolis placed discriminatory covenants on homes, restricting the rights of Jews (and other racial and ethnic minorities) from buying them, Jews flocked to St. Louis Park. The city was at one time home to notable Americans including the journalist Thomas Friedman, the filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen and former U.S. Sen. Al Franken. 

St. Louis Park was also a haven for Mohamed’s mother, who uprooted her life in Somalia to create a life for her kids, Mohamed said in her election victory speech.

“She gets to watch her daughter go and legislate at the same building where she used to pay her public housing rent,” Mohamed said. 

Source: Minnesota Reformer

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