A Liberian in the United States is running as a candidate for city council in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
Wynfred Russell will contest for Brooklyn Park’s West District against Bob Mata, a current council member in an election scheduled to take place on November 6 this year. This is Russell’s third run for public office in Minnesota, and he is the officially endorsed candidate of the Democratic Party, the Minnesota Regional Labor Federation, and the local Fire Union.
He first attempt fell short of the required votes to be qualified as a candidate for a city council seat in 2010. In 2011, he became a candidate for mayor of Brooklyn Park after the death of Mayor Steve Lampi. He also contested in a special election in 2012 to fill a West District seat that previously held by Jeanette Meyer, a long-time council member who died of lung cancer. In that race, Russell lost to Robert Mata (also his competitor this year) by five votes. He and Mata were the top finishers of the election with 531 and 536 votes, respectively.
In an email interview with The Bush Chicken, Russell said if elected as a council member, he intends work to sustain the gains made in crime reduction and ensure that the district’s fire department is properly staffed. He also proposed to advance an affordable housing policy, support functional wages, and encourage small business growth development.
“My vision is a thriving city, vibrant neighborhoods, world-class parks and trails, an unrivaled quality of life, and a transit system that connects us all,” he wrote.
He said his leadership would focus on long-term youth engagement efforts, keeping at-risk youth busy with productive programs and activities, and giving them an alternative to truancy and petty crimes.
“I will collaborate with community-based organizations and the faith community to design programs that will be at the center of efforts to promote civic activism and community service among young people in Brooklyn Park,” he said.
Russell boasts of substantial experience in public service and working to improve the lives of marginalized people in Minnesota.
“I served four years as a Brooklyn Park planning commissioner, three years on the community advisory council of the Metropolitan Council in St. Paul, two years on the Hennepin County Library Board, and one year on the Brooklyn Park Stable Neighborhood Action Plan,” he noted.
The state of Minnesota is the home to the largest community of Liberians in the U.S. However, the last time a Liberian-American was elected to a significant political post in the state was in 2008, when Paye Flomo became mayor of the small town of Hampton, Minnesota, in rural Dakota County.
Russell believes that low turnout among the minority community may have diminished his odds in past elections.
“What may have hurt my chances the last time is voter apathy. Many people, especially in the minority and Liberian community, didn’t show up to vote. We are trying to counter that attitude with education and civic engagement exercises,” he said. “However, I am confident this time, I will be able to garner enough votes to jump over the hurdle.”
Should Russell triumph, his victory will mark another major win by a Liberian in a municipal election in the U.S. On Jan. 2 of this year, Wilmot Collins was installed as the mayor of Helena, Montana.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed Russell’s endorsements. Featured photo courtesy of Wynfred for Brooklyn Park City Council