Nadia Mohamed celebrates with supporters and campaign staff after she is elected Mayor of St. Louis Park on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

St. Louis Park voters elected Nadia Mohamed as the city’s first Black, first Somali, and first Muslim mayor Tuesday night.

Nadia is also the youngest person ever elected to the west metro suburb’s top public office in the city’s 170-year history. Nadia, 26, previously served on the St. Louis Park City Council. She was elected in 2019 as the council’s first Somali, first Muslim, and youngest council member. 

Nadia is also believed to be the first Somali mayor in Minnesota. In the lead up to Tuesday’s election, only one other Somali mayor had been identified in the country—Deqa Dhalac was elected mayor of South Portland, Maine, in 2021, becoming the country’s first Somali mayor. Deqa was selected by the city council, while Nadia is now the first elected Somali mayor in the U.S.

“This is the second time I’m making history. What I had learned the first time is that this is just a milestone. It is not the destination,” Nadia told Sahan Journal. “It’s amazing to accomplish all these ‘firsts’, but it is not where we want to stop our story.”

Nadia received more than 58 percent of first-choice votes to best Dale Anderson, a retired banker and continuing education teacher who received 41 percent of first-choice votes. She will succeed Jake Spano, who announced in March that he would not seek reelection. Spano also endorsed Nadia.

According to her campaign manager, Nadia’s campaign knocked on 5,000 doors since she announced her candidacy in April.

Nadia’s family immigrated to St. Louis Park as refugees when she was 10 years old. Nadia also previously worked as a diversity, equity, and inclusion specialist for the Minnesota Department of Human Services. 

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Nadia Mohamed makes history as first Somali mayor elected in Minnesota Credit: Hibah Ansari | Sahan Journal

More than 100 people gathered at the Westwood Hills Nature Center for Nadia’s election party. Supporters were excited to witness the potential election of the state’s first Somali mayor.

Kawsar Mohamed, 21, wasn’t previously interested in politics, but she grew up with Nadia and considers her a close family friend. Nadia reached out to Kawsar with an opportunity to volunteer with the campaign as a graphic designer.

“What drew me to her campaign and local politics is, she’s very passionate about her job,” Kawsar said. 

Marwo Elmi, 35, is not a St. Louis Park resident, but she is interested in local politics.

“She’s a young woman dedicated to helping others,” Marwo said. “She gives us hope that we can accomplish whatever we want—women can run for office, we can be mothers. She kind of encourages us.”

St. Louis Park is home to about 50,000 people, according to U.S. Census data. The population is mostly white, but residents of color have nearly doubled in the last two decades to 20 percent. Nearly 10 percent of the population in St. Louis Park is foreign born. The median household income is $87,639. 

Overcoming hurdles

St. Louis Park’s mayor and city council set the policy and overall direction for the city, according to a spokesperson for the city.* The mayor presides over the City Council, but does not have authority over council members. 

When Nadia was elected to the city council at 23 years old, she said residents were hesitant about her age and experience.

“Age doesn’t necessarily mean wisdom,” Nadia said. “We need the younger generation like Gen Z and younger millennials coming out and being present in our civic duties and engagements—whether it’s voting, running for office, or putting your input at the city, at the local level, the state level, the federal level.”

Nadia said she’s been able to combat concerns about her age through her accomplishments on the St. Louis Park City Council. She helped establish an income-based grant program for first-generation homeowners, and hopes to expand that work as mayor.

Nadia noted that as she spoke with voters over the course of her campaign, housing inaccessibility in St. Louis Park was a common concern. Nearly 58 percent of St. Louis Park residents are homeowners, compared to 72 percent of Minnesotans overall, according to Census data. 

“The big thing people are concerned about is the inaffordability of St. Louis Park homes. Even homeowners themselves are saying, ‘I can’t afford to live in this house right now,’” she said. “And you’ll see renters who are trying to buy their first home, but everything is expensive.”

*Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect information from the city of St. Louis Park about the role of its mayor.

Hibah Ansari is a reporter for Sahan Journal covering immigration and politics. She was named the 2022 Young Journalist of the Year by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. She’s a graduate...