Nadia Mohamed has made history by becoming the first Somali American to be elected mayor of St. Louis Park, Minnesota. The 27-year-old is also the first Somali American to be elected mayor of any city in the United States.
She told CNN, “It feels amazing. Honestly, I’m grateful, I am thankful to the voters of St. Louis Park for voting me in.” She told the outlet that she and her family moved to the suburbs west of Minneapolis when she was 10 years old.
Mohamed was elected to the city council in 2019 at the age of 23. After serving for four years, she decided to run for mayor. She admitted that the campaign was difficult, and critics frequently hurled insults at her on social media, citing not only her young age but also her Somali heritage.
The 27-year-old plans to devote her tenure to elevating and addressing the concerns of St. Louis Park’s approximately 50,000 residents.
“I am somebody from the community,” she remarked. “I want to include people’s voices and highlight their stories – as I would have wanted somebody to do for me – regardless of their skin color, identity and religion.”
Mohamed stated that she is conscious of the fact that she is taking on her role during a nationwide wave of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiment. In the days following the Hamas attack on Israel, Mohamed shared that her priority was to ensure the safety of her Jewish and Muslim residents.
“One of my first calls was to the police department to make sure that our synagogues are safe and protected and that we take the necessary security procedures,” she said.
Since Israel and Hamas’ violence intensified a month ago, Mohamed said she has kept up her meetings with local Muslim and Jewish leaders in St. Louis Park.
Representative Ilhan Omar, the first woman of color elected to represent Minnesota and the first Somali American elected to Congress, praised Mohamed’s victory on social media.
“These milestones we are breaking as Somali Americans isn’t accidental, it’s hard work and believe in ourselves,” Omar wrote. “I am glad to have paved the way and can’t wait to see what more milestones we will cross as a community.”
Mohamed will take office in January. She stated that she will continue to focus on the city council’s housing and public safety initiatives until then.
The 27-year-old appointee expressed her delight at having her picture lined up on the walls of City Hall in St. Louis Park alongside the photos of the mayors who have represented the Minnesota city for over 100 years.
“And now my picture gets to go up there. Fifty years from now, there’s going to be the next generation who will see my photo there,” she expressed.
“Representation absolutely matters because it shows people that things can happen, and they can see themselves reflected in their story books and their policies. We’re front and center and we’re going to be visible in our identities. This is a big milestone, but it’s not the destination,” she said.
Two years ago, one other Somali American served as a mayor of a U.S. city. Deqa Dhalac became mayor of Portland, Maine, however, she was appointed to that position by the city council, not elected.
According to Ghida Dagher, president of New American Leaders, the rising number of Somali-American women in U.S. politics is a sign of a new era. Dagher noted that Mohamed has been a committed public servant and expressed her hope that the newly elected mayor would infuse new life and voice into the city government, “that maybe has not always represented its people.”