Rybak strengthens Somali connection

Categories: Minneapolis

Appointment to library board highlights emerging political class

Word just came in trumpeting the mayor's appointment to the library board, Hussein Samatar. Normally, such an appointment would barely be news, but the selection is notable because it underscores what became apparent in the latest round of citywide elections earlier this month: The Somali community is gaining ground as an active and viable constituency.

Rybak benefited from this, according to most observers, as did Eighth Ward council member-elect Elizabeth Glidden. Hizzoner, apparently, has decided to return the favor in kind.

(Six library board members are elected to at-large postitions, and the city council and the mayor each get one appointment.)

The opening graph of the press release offers some context on the choice:

"Mayor R.T. Rybak today announced that he has appointed Somali businessman Hussein Samatar to the Minneapolis Library Board of Trustees. When he takes office in January, Samatar would become one of the highest ranking Somali public officials in the nation, symbolizing the political progress of this rapidly growing immigrant population."

Politics aside, Samatar's CV is nothing to sneeze at. He came to Minneapolis from Somalia in 1994, went to work for Wells Fargo, and founded the African Development Center in 2002.

An interview with Samatar on finances and Muslims can be found here on the Federal Reserve's web site. And there's an interesting profile on Samatar on this Somali web zine.

The entire press release:

Mayor Rybak Appoints Somali Businessman Hussein Samatar to Library Board

Hussein to be among highest ranking Somali public officials in the country

Mayor R.T. Rybak today announced that he has appointed Somali businessman Hussein Samatar to the Minneapolis Library Board of Trustees. When he takes office in January, Samatar would become one of the highest ranking Somali public officials in the nation, symbolizing the political progress of this rapidly growing immigrant population.

"Appointing Hussein to the Library Board is about bringing new voices to lead our libraries into the future, especially voices from our growing immigrant communities," Rybak said. "Hussein has shown incredible leadership helping many entrepreneurs get their start and will bring excellent business and financial planning experience to our libraries."

Minneapolis Public Libraries are governed by an independent Board of Trustees responsible for overseeing the establishment, management, and maintenance of public libraries in the City of Minneapolis. Six board members were elected to four-year terms in the recent municipal election and two members are appointed for two-year terms by Mayor Rybak and the City Council.

"I am humbled and honored to be selected to help lead our libraries," Samatar said of his nomination by Mayor Rybak. "My family and my community have benefited tremendously from public libraries and we have a big stake in ensuring access to the educational opportunities that libraries provide."

Samatar is the executive director of the African Development Center, which works with African communities to start businesses and promote community reinvestment. Before starting the Center in 2002, Samatar spent eight years at Wells Fargo where he managed a $15 million commercial and real estate portfolio.

Samatar has an MBA in Financial Management from the University of St. Thomas and completed a one-year policy fellowship at the Humphrey Institute Policy Forum. Samatar was one of the Business Journal’s 2002 "Forty Under 40" and he currently serves on the boards of the Home Ownership Center, the Citizens' League and the Advisory Committee of the Payne-Lake Community Partnership.

Samatar came to Minneapolis in 1994 from Somalia. As many as 40,000 immigrants from Africa are estimated to now live in Minnesota. Thirteen percent of Minnesota's foreign-born residents in the 2000 Census were from Africa--a higher percentage than any other state in the country. Most of these individuals have come to the United States as refugees fleeing civil strife in Liberia, Somalia, and the Sudan.

A community celebration of Samatar's Library Board appointment is being planned for Monday, December 5th at Franklin Library from 5:30–7:00 p.m.

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