Ward 6, meet your new city council member


submitted photo Kassim Busuri will serve as the city council member for Ward 6 through the end of 2019.

Kassim Busuri, the new Ward 6 St. Paul City Council member, was officially inaugurated on Feb. 6.

Busuri will serve through the end of 2019, finishing the term of former city council member Dan Bostrom, who announced in December that he was retiring at the end of 2018, leaving with a year remaining on his term.

Following that December announcement, 15 community members applied for the position and seven finalists were interviewed by the city council. Beyond Busuri the finalists included Mara Humphrey, Hlee Lee-Kron, Wintana Melekin, Crystal Norcross, Neal Thao and Gary Unger. Those who applied for the interim position could not be running in the election this fall for the seat. 

 

From Mogadishu to St. Paul

Busuri, 32, lives in Ward 6 with his wife and two children — a four-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter. Busuri spent much of his childhood moving around — first from Somalia and then criss-crossing the Midwest.

Born in Mogadishu prior to the 1991 civil war, Busuri and his family fled to Kenya during the war, living in a refugee camp there for five or six years. 

In 1996, his family was sponsored by a family in Illinois, their destination when they first came to the United States.

For the next few years his family moved around, living in Columbus, Ohio, for a while, eventually coming to St. Paul to be closer to other Somali refugees.

The family didn’t stay in St. Paul for long though, and moved to southern Minnesota, living in St. Peter for a bit and then Mankato. 

Busuri went to middle and high school in Mankato, graduating from Mankato East High School in 2008. He spent two years in college in Iowa and eventually went to the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities to finish his bachelor’s degree in political science. 

He continued on and got a master’s degree in education, which he finished in 2013. He and his family have been living on the East Side since 2015. 

 

Mentoring youth as a life calling

Most of Busuri’s career has been spent working with young people. He’s worked for the Minnesota Da’wah Institute since 2010 as its education director, where he’s helped create an after school youth mentorship program.

He also serves as dean of students at Universal Academy Charter School in Minneapolis and volunteers as a community ambassador through the City of St. Paul, where he mentors youth, helping them with anything from education to employment. 

“I always wanted to give back,” Busuri said, explaining that he is where he is at today to due the mentorship he received as a young adult. 

A busy term

While Busuri will serve for less than a year, he said he has big ambitions for what he wants to get done in the next 11 months. 

Some of his goals include guiding the development of the Hillcrest Golf Course, which Busuri wants to make sure is done in a way that benefits the East Side. 

“I want what Highland is getting for Hillcrest,” Busuri said, a nod to the attention and consideration the Highland Park neighborhood has received while planning for the redevelopment of the former Ford Plant. 

He said he wants to see the Hillcrest site “enriched” with housing, parks and businesses.

Other initiatives include the continued revitalization of the business corridors of Payne Avenue and Arcade Street, and continuing to work on police and community relations. 

Despite the short timeframe, Busuri’s appointment is already history-making, as Busuri is the first Somali-American to serve on the St. Paul City Council.

“I’m humbled by it,” he said, adding he believes he serves as a role model for youth of color, allowing them to see themselves in their city representation. 

He said he hopes it encourages others to serve. “I don’t want to be the last Somali person to be on the council.”

Overall, Busuri said he’s excited to work with the community, which he sees as being full of caring neighbors and full of potential.

“I want people to know who I am, and I want their help to do what is good for our ward,” Busuri said. “I don’t want complaints, I want action.”

To connect with Busuri, contact the Ward 6 office at 651-266-8660 or send an email to Ward 6 executive assistant Heidi Lagos at heidi.lagos@ci.stpaul.mn.us.

 

–Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com

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