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Nadia Mohamed of St. Louis Park could become Minnesota’s first Somali mayor

Reporter: Sahanjournal

 Nadia Mohamed of St. Louis Park could become Minnesota’s first Somali mayor

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St. Louis Park City Council member Nadia Mohamed is planning to make history a second time by becoming the city’s first Black, first Somali, and first Muslim mayor. Nadia, 26, first broke barriers when she was elected to the council in 2019, becoming the city’s first Somali, first Muslim, and youngest council member.

If she wins her bid for mayor this fall, she would become the youngest person ever elected to the west metro suburb’s top public office. Many believe she would also become the first Somali mayor in Minnesota. Additionally, Nadia would potentially become the second Somali mayor in the country, and would be the first elected Somali mayor.

Deqa Dhalac became the country’s first Somali mayor in 2021 when the city board of South Portland, Maine, appointed her to the position. “I love our city, I love the work that I’ve done for the past four years,” Nadia said. “I want to continue being a leader and bring my lived experience to the forefront of my decisionmaking.

I want the city to be empathetic to people in need. That’s why I want to run.” Nadia first arrived in St. Louis Park as a 10-year-old refugee with her family. She hasn’t moved out of the city since, including during her college years attending Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. Nor has she ever wanted to. Nadia said her family experienced enough instability living in Somalia during the civil war in the early 1990s, and then living in a refugee camp in Kenya after that. “It’s hard to leave once you get settled,” she said.

“A lot of people in St. Louis Park talk about having roots here. I talk about building roots here.” Nadia has four siblings, including an older, a twin brother, a younger brother, and a younger sister. She lives with her close-knit family in a home that they rent together. For fun, she likes to paint at the Westwood Hills Nature Center and try out new brunch spots around the city.

She also recently took up skateboarding. Nadia, who is an at-large council member, is currently the only candidate who has declared their run for mayor. She announced her candidacy in late April, roughly one month after current Mayor Jake Spano announced he wouldn’t seek reelection. Nadia said her platform is a continuation of work she’s been doing since before her term on the City Council began in 2020.

Her campaign is focusing on affordable housing, small businesses, and public safety. Thom Miller, her predecessor in the at-large council seat, said he hopes to see Nadia become “the face of St. Louis Park.” “It would be a beautiful thing to see someone from an underrepresented population serve that role,” said Miller, who managed Nadia’s 2019 City Council campaign and serves an advisory role in her mayoral campaign. St.

Louis Park’s city government is a weak mayor system, meaning that an appointed city manager is in charge of executive-level work. The mayor’s tasks are similar to a City Council member—proposing and voting on ordinances—but the mayor also serves as the face of city government, attending ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremonies and official city functions.

Additionally, the mayor presides over City Council meetings and tries to bring the council to consensus on issues. The city is seeking federal funding for mental health response on the city’s police force, and Nadia said she wants to continue the effort if elected mayor. Nadia said the police response to people undergoing mental health crises is personal because her younger brother has autism and epilepsy. When she ran for council four years ago, Nadia ranked expanding access to affordable housing as a priority.

She wants to continue that as mayor, with a bigger focus on incentivizing homeownership. She noted that immigrants and people of color often don’t own homes and thus lack generational wealth to pass down to their children. The rising cost of housing in the metro area doesn’t make that any easier. “I have two jobs, and I cannot afford to buy a home in St.

Louis Park,” Nadia said of her work as a city council member and as a diversity, equity, and inclusion specialist for the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Recently, the city developed grants to support first-generation homeowners buying their first home. The grant amount is determined by income level.

Nadia said she supports “casting a wide net” to gain additional funding and expanding programs like this. Nadia’s public role in the city began in the mid-2010s when she served on the city’s Multicultural Advisory Committee, which worked to improve relations between the city’s police force and its increasingly diverse communities. Shortly before then, a friend asked her to help host a community iftar dinner during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The conversation, which included how to make St. Louis Park more inclusive to its growing Muslim population, set Nadia off on a path of community work. That work included hosting iftar dinners to facilitate community conversations during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. After hosting more dinners like this, Nadia quickly won a human rights award from the city for that work and became acquainted with Miller. Miller decided to not run for reelection on the City Council in 2019 and sought out candidates of color to run for his seat.

Miller, who was elected to the seat in 2015, said early in his term it became “glaringly obvious to me that our residents could be better represented by somebody who’s not a middle-aged white male.” “Our entire structure of government has been created by and for primarily white men,” Miller said.

“I think it’s long overdue that we bring in more diversity.” With a population of about 50,000 people, St. Louis Park is mostly white, but its residents of color have nearly doubled over the past two decades, and is now close to 20 percent. Miller asked Nadia if she knew anyone who would be interested in the seat.

She eventually stepped forward herself. Now, three women of color make up half of St. Louis Park’s City Council members. Lynette Dumalag, who has represented the city’s second ward since 2020, said she’s excited about Nadia’s mayoral candidacy. “She’s very inquisitive and curious,” said Dumalag, who is Filipina and also a first-generation immigrant.

“She’s always been accessible, has new American viewpoints, and is also super tied to the community.” Nadia also volunteers around the community. She spent an afternoon at the State Capitol last week to celebrate Somali Day and to support the Muslim community in the wake of alleged arson at two south Minneapolis mosques.

Several Minnesota legislators, other elected officials, and community leaders gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 26 to denounce the fires and express solidarity with the Muslim community. Nadia’s first public campaign event is planned for Wednesday, May 31, at 6:30 p.m. at Westwood Hills Nature Center.

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