Days after her election as Mankato’s first woman mayor, Najwa Massad wasn’t quite used to the idea.
“It still seems kind of surreal,” Massad said last week, after voters chose her with about 57 percent of the vote. “I’ve been so blessed; I’ve had so many phone calls and texts congratulating me.
“Being the first female mayor of Mankato — dang, that’s great. It’s left me speechless, and that’s not easy,” she said with a laugh.
Massad, a native of Lebanon who came to Mankato with her parents at age 5, opened a restaurant with her husband, John, in 1984. The family now owns four restaurants in the city, as well as a catering business.
Massad has a long record of involvement in the community. She served for more than 15 years on the city’s Planning and Zoning Committee, including a stint as the chair, and also spent more than five years on Mankato’s Multi-Modal Transportation Committee.
She’s an active member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and helped raise more than $1 million for a building campaign.
It’s a busy schedule for anyone, much less the owner of several businesses.
“Sometimes in life, the busier you are, the more organized you are,” Massad said. “When you love something, you just find the time. Mankato, this is home to me. This is my community, this is my family.”
Massad praised the current city administration and said she hopes to build on its record.
“The city manager and staff and my predecessor have done a wonderful job,” she said. “My focus is to keep Mankato as vibrant as it is.”
Massad is among several “firsts” in Greater Minnesota this election season. In Rochester, voters elected Kim Norton as the city’s first woman mayor. In Moorhead, attorney Johnathan Judd will take office as the city’s first African-American mayor.
Besides being Mankato’s first woman mayor, Massad said she’s also proud to be the city’s first first-generation American mayor.
An area of particular concern, she said, is keeping young people in Mankato.
“We’ve got a wonderful school system; the trails, the beautiful river, concerts, indoor and outdoor activities,” she said. But it “takes a community to show our young what a wonderful place this is to raise children and live.”