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Women Mayors from North America
> Black women mayors in the US

> Des Moines' first woman mayor tells girls to dream big

> First Somali-American mayor in the US starts work in Minnesota

> Five newly elected women mayors take charge in New York State

> American cities elect more women mayors

Lelia-Foley-Taft

Leila Foley became the first Black female American mayor when the citizens of Taft, OK, elected her in April 1973. She stepped down in 1989 but was re-elected in 1999.

Black women mayors: Campaigning and governing in America

March 2024: Political Black Girl Magic* explores black women’s experiences as mayors in American cities. Sharon Wright Austin, the book's editor, and some 20 additional contributors to this comprehensive volume examine American Black female mayoral campaigns and elections where race and gender were a factor and where deracialised campaigns garnered candidate support from white as well as Hispanic and Asian American voters.

 

The book also explores how Black women mayors govern. The publication’s contributors review the mayors’ pursuit of economic growth and how they use their power to enact reforms. Great attention is paid to the challenges Black women mayors face particularly in their pursuit to cater to neglected communities.

 

Case studies in this interdisciplinary publication include female mayors in Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago, Compton, and Washington DC, among other cities. Covering mayors from the 1970s to the present, Political Black Girl Magic identifies the most significant obstacles black women have faced as mayors and mayoral candidates and seeks to understand how race, gender or the combination of both affected them.

 

REVIEWS

By Marcia Chatelain, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author

“An impressive, well-researched, and thorough look at the complex leadership of Black women mayors. The editor and contributors explore the impact of race and gender in the elections, administrative styles, and media coverage about Black women in positions of power and offer provocative questions and answers about the nature of politics in the United States. With a depth and scope that recognises the distinct features of region and location, Political Black Girl Magic is essential reading for anyone interested in leadership and racial justice.”

 

By Keneshia N. Grant, Associate Professor of Political Science at Howard University

“Sharon Wright Austin has assembled a dynamic team of mostly women scholars to cover an important yet understudied topic: Black women in American state and local government and politics. Thick with carefully detailed demographic data and individual case studies of Black women’s campaigns and governance, Political Black Girl Magic takes readers from the election of the first Black woman mayor through to the politics of today. This book is an outstanding and significant contribution to the discipline.”

 

By Ethnic and Racial Studies

"The book answers the call for research on Black female mayors in an admirably detailed, comprehensive, and instructive fashion.... The book should serve as a valuable sourcebook for future research on this vital topic."

 

*Political Black Girl Magic is published by Temple University Press and available from online and high street booksellers. (ISBN 1439920273)

Further reading: US Women Mayors)

Des Moines’ first woman mayor tells girls to dream big

January 2024: On Monday, 8 January 2024, Des Moines’ first woman mayor took office with much anticipation. Only standing room remained in the city’s council chamber as Connie Boesen was sworn in. She was strongly applauded when she expressed her hope that this moment would serve as an example for young girls and women who aspire to hold executive office. “Everything can be possible, you just have to dream big”, Mayor Boesen said.

 

Connie Boesen added she was honoured and humbled by the trust and support of the residents of Des Moines (Iowa) and pledged to work hard to improve the city’s safety, economy, and neighbourhoods. She also thanked her predecessor, Frank Cownie, for his leadership and service. Cownie, who endorsed Boesen before the election, did not seek re-election after serving as mayor for 20 years.

 

In 2017, Connie Boesen was elected city councillor at-large, meaning she did not represent a particular district. Previously, she was on the Des Moines School Board for 14 years. She is affiliated to the Democratic Party.

 

During the election campaign, Connie Boesen often referred to her upbringing in Des Moines’ culturally mixed east side. She said that her priority as mayor was to tackle liveability issues and public safety. And, she added, that with education being her first love, she would fight for high-quality schools.

 

Des Moines, the state capital of Iowa, has a population of some 215,000. The city was founded in 1843 and incorporated in 1851. (Further reading: US Women Mayors) BACK TO TOP

 

First Somali-American mayor in the US starts work in Minnesota

January 2024: Nadia Mohamed, a 27-year-old Somali woman who grew up in the Kakuma refugee camp, has been sworn in as the mayor of St Louis Park in Minnesota. She is the first Somali-American mayor elected in the US. The city of St Louis Park, with a population of 50,000, is part of the Minneapolis metro region.

 

Born in Somalia, Nadia Mohamed migrated with her family to Kenya as a refugee during the civil war in her home country. They lived in the Kakuma refugee camp which is one of the oldest and largest in Africa. In 2006, the Mohamed family emigrated to the US and settled in St Louis Park. After obtaining a degree in HR from Minnesota State University, Nadia was elected to St Louis Park’s city council. Aged only 23, she became the youngest-ever and first Muslim council member.

 

Asked by the New York Times what motivated her to go into politics, she said she grew up during the Barack Obama presidency and during that time didn’t think much about politics. But when Donald Trump ran for President in 2016 and attacked the Somali community in Minnesota, she felt she had to reconnect with her community in St Louis Park.

 

Nadia Mohamed cited as her political role models Deqa Dhalac and Mana Abdi, both members of the House of Representatives in Maine.

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Five newly elected women mayors take charge in New York State

January 2024: On 1 January 2024, in five small cities in New York State, women mayors took over the realm of their communities. Carmella Mantello, a Republican, was sworn in as Mayor of Troy, a city of some 51,000 people. She is the first woman elected mayor of the city. Mantello said she wanted to serve as a role model for other women. "Women have overcome so much and we have so much more to overcome," Mantello added.

 

Long-time Jamestown (population 28,000) councilwoman Kim Ecklund has become only the second female elected mayor in almost 30 years. Upon taking office, she said that while women have broken barriers across the world, it has been a little slow here. “There is still plenty of work to be done, and I think this raises the ceiling a little bit more for us and makes us be recognised and that we have a voice at the table."

 

Yvonne Flowers, the newly elected mayor of Poughkeepsie (population 32,000), is the city’s fourth female mayor, but the first black woman to take charge of the city. “I was very happy that voters had confidence in me to lead this city, she said before the swearing-in ceremony. "But my thing about being the first Black mayor now gives other black and brown children the opportunity to know that this is another option for them."

 

Other NY cities with newly chosen women mayors include Watertown (population 25,000) and Little Falls (population 5,000). Both, Sarah Compo-Pierce (Watertown) and Deborah Kaufman (Little Falls) were sworn in on 1 January 2024.

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St. Paul’s all-women council sworn in January
December 2023: On 1 January 2024, history has been made in St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota, when an all-female city council was sworn in. Six of the seven candidates elected on 7 November 2023 are women of colour. All are under 40 and members of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labour Party (DFL), which is affiliated with the US Democratic Party. In a joint statement, the women said that the new council, the youngest, most progressive and most diverse in St. Paul’s history, reflected the city’s voters and their values.

Following their success in November’s elections, the seven women reiterated their radical programme for the coming four years. “We are excited to be able to govern alongside our community, building toward our shared vision for St Paul, including: upholding and improving rent stabilization, championing equitable development and housing options at all income levels, community wealth-building through community ownership, building climate resilience through modernizing our streets and bike/pedestrian infrastructure, investing in community safety programs that are interrupting cycles of violence, expanding workers’ rights and protections, and more.”

According to the Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics, there is no other US city as large as St. Paul that has an all-women council.

St. Paul’s Mayor Melvin Carter told journalists that he was looking forward to working with the new council but accepted that there were policy differences between him and the elected women. The mayor and the majority of councillors certainly seem to disagree on rent control. While the mayor is in favour of retaining the current 20-year exemption or even extending it, members of the incoming city council have publicly stated they are looking at ways to strengthen the city’s current rent stabilisation ordinance which caps most rent increases at three per cent.

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American cities elect more women mayors

December 2023: In January 2024, several women will commence their first terms as mayors. In the November 2023 elections, voters in three of the largest US cities voted female mayors into office. Philadelphia (PA) elected Cherelle Parker, who will be the city’s first woman mayor and first Black woman mayor.

 

Lily Wu became the first Asian American woman elected as mayor of Wichita (KS) in a nonpartisan election, while in Spokane (WA) Lisa Brown defeated incumbent mayor Nadine Woodward in an all-woman contest.

 

Several incumbent women mayors in America’s most populous cities won re-election. Incumbent Mayor Lauren McLean won re-election in Boise (ID), where she became the first woman mayor in 2020. In Charlotte (NC), Mayor Vi Lyles won re-election. Lyles became the first Black woman mayor of Charlotte in 2017. Regina Romero, the incumbent Mayor of Tucson (AZ), was also re-elected. In 2019, she became the first woman and first Latina mayor of Tucson.

 

Women of colour also made history in several smaller American communities. Deborah Whitfield is the first Black mayor of Lawrence, Indiana and the first Black mayor in all of Marion County, an area that includes the state capital, Indianapolis. Whitfield worked in health care for 40 years. She formally entered politics in 2019.

 

Nadia Mohamed became the first Somali-American mayor elected in the US this year. Se will serve the town/suburb of St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Roslyn Harmon is the first Black mayor of Golden Valley, Minnesota, a suburb west of Minneapolis. A 30-year resident of Golden Valley, Harmon has a background in education and non-profit leadership. Yvonne Flowers is the first Black mayor of Poughkeepsie, New York. A native of the mid-Hudson Valley town, she served as councilwoman for eight years and spent over 30 years in accounting at her alma mater, Dutchess Community College.

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On other pages

News pages: North American women mayors | South American women mayors | European women mayors | Asian women mayors |

 

Mayors' Code of Ethics | American Women Mayors | Canadian Women Mayors | Mexican Women Mayors | French Women Mayors | British Women Mayors | Polish Women Mayors | Dutch Women Mayors | Spanish Women Mayors | German women mayors | Obituary: Leila Mustapha, Mayor of Raqqa, who died aged 35 |

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