New heights for Somalis in Minnesota

By the start of the new year, 2019, there were a number of new governors taking the reins of power across the United States. Governor of Minnesota, Tim Waltz, was one of those governors who took the oath of office on January 7th 2019. Traditionally, most governors-elect have about 8 to 10 weeks between Election Day and Inauguration Day to get a lot of preparatory work done. Governor Tim Waltz ran on inclusiveness and promised to have a cabinet that reflects the diversity and demographics of Minnesota. The first step to achieving that was the selection of his transitional advisory board of 30 individuals, who were compromised of CEOs, business owners, religious leaders and community members of many different ethnic backgrounds.

Two of his transitional advisory board members were Somali Americans, Abdirahman Kahin, and Jaylani Hussein.

Abdirahman Kahin is restaurateur and owner of Afro Deli. He is also an activist and philanthropist who is well known among the Somali community of Minnesota. Jaylani Hussein is the Director of Minnesota Chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN).

Jaylani Hussein worked as the Community Liaison Officer at Metro State University and as a Planner for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture prior to being appointed as Director of CAIR-MN.

The purpose and main aim to setting up the gubernatorial transitional advisory board is to assist the new Governor in filling the most senior positions in the state government such as commissioners for state agencies as well as assist in determining his priorities in his pitch for the first two-year state budget.

So far Gov. Waltz has appointed 11 new commissioners to lead the state agencies; Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, Department of Administration, Department of Transportation, Minnesota Revenue, Minnesota Management and Budget, Department of Public Safety, Department of Commerce, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Department of Labor and Industry, Department of Veterans Affairs and Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

Each commissioner, then, appoints their own deputy commissioners. Two of those deputy commissioners are Hamse Warfa and Anab Gulaid, both Somali Americans. Hamse Warfa is one of 5 Assistant Commissioners under the Commissioner of Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Each assistant commissioner is assigned to oversee the functions of a key division within the department. Hamse Warfa is in charge of the division of Economic Opportunity. In this role, Hamse will work with other state agencies, state partners, stakeholders, local officials and boards to advance economic equity by shining a light on the DEED programs whose main aim is to serve under-invested and under-capitalized communities of color. Prior to being named as Assistant Commissioner, Hamse Warfa was tech entrepreneur and founder of Banqu, a consulting firm that helps uplift people out of extreme poverty by connecting them to global supply chains.

Anab Gulaid has been appointed as the Deputy Assistant Commissioner Community Supports Administration at Minnesota Department of Human Services. Anab Gulaid was a lecturer at the University of Minnesota, and she worked as a program coordinator at the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota Campus.

Although there are many Somalis that held senior positions, Anab Gulaid and Hamse Warfa are the first to hold such positions within the state of Minnesota.

Another such first is the appointment of Abdirahman Muse, by Gov. Tim Waltz, to the Metropolitan Council, a policy-making and planning body that delivers vital services to the Twin Cities metropolitan region. Abdirahman Muse is a member representing the 8th district. Abdirahman Muse is also the executive director of Awood Center, a community-based organization that promotes and educates East African communities about their rights as working individuals. He was senior policy aide on housing, neighborhoods and also acted as liaison to the Somali Community under the former Minneapolis Mayor, Betsy Hodges.

The year 2019 has been an incredible year for Somali Minnesotans. Three Somali Minnesotans have been sworn-in and another three have been appointed to senior positions. This is evidence of their resilience and eagerness to integrate and contribute not just to the economy of Minnesota but also play key roles in shaping the future of our great state.

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