Sharmarke Issa has been tapped to lead the governing board of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, the first time a Somali-American immigrant has held the role.

Issa said after his appointment on Friday that he is “truly humbled” by the opportunity and is looking forward to working with the agency’s board of commissioners and connecting more public housing residents with the organization. He said he believes that everyone has a right to safe and affordable housing.

He will serve as chairman of the nine-member board that oversees decisions about the agency’s annual budget and policymaking.

Issa received both his bachelor’s degree and a master’s in urban planning from Minnesota State University in Mankato. Issa grew up in public housing after coming to the United States as a refugee at age 11.

“Growing up I lived in subsidized housing,” Issa said, “I understand the viewpoints of those who are recipients of affordable housing.”

City officials say he is the first Somali-American immigrant in the country to lead a public housing agency’s governing board. Approximately one-third of Minneapolis Public Housing residents are members of the East African community.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said that Issa’s background and appointment to the board, which was approved by the City Council, “highlights public housing as vital asset in Minneapolis.”

“At a time when the federal government continues to shortchange housing funding, he will be a skilled steward of our public housing infrastructure who understands and centers the needs of residents,” Frey said in a news release.


Correction: Previous versions of this article misstated who selected Sharmarke Issa to serve on the housing authority.