Hamse Warfa, a high-ranking Somali-American official in state government, has been picked to serve in Democratic President Joe Biden's administration.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced Monday that Warfa is leaving his role as deputy commissioner for workforce development to become a senior advisor in the U.S. State Department. Warfa said in an e-mail he will be "helping advance the president's democracy and human rights agenda at home and abroad."
"What I hope to achieve is be an inclusive voice that helps us strengthen our vibrant democracy," Warfa, a former refugee, told the Star Tribune.
The new role comes after Warfa volunteered on Biden's 2020 presidential campaign as an economic policy committee member, according to his LinkedIn profile.
When Warfa starts his new role later this month, he'll join noteworthy members of the administration with Minnesota ties. Others include national security adviser Jake Sullivan, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough and Duluth native Thomas Nides, who is serving as U.S. ambassador to Israel.
Warfa said he's proud of his work for the state's department of employment and economic development, including responding to the pandemic that has impacted the state for close to two years.
"Hamse and his team at DEED advocated for the economic well-being of all Minnesotans during the pandemic and focused on ensuring workers and businesses had the resources and training to survive and thrive," Gov. Tim Walz said in a press release. "I am grateful for Hamse's service to our state and his commitment to building an equitable economy that works for everyone."
Monday's announcement also noted that Warfa's DEED appointment in 2019 made him the "highest ranking Somali American official in the executive branch of government."
Warfa has "more than 20 years of experience in economic development, community building, philanthropy, public policy and entrepreneurship," according to his bio. Turning hardship into leadership has been a major focus of his work, Warfa said, describing himself "as a global citizen, an American in service to the world."
"I feel incredibly honored," Warfa said. "I've gained a set of experiences in different sectors. My mission in life is to help build equitable economy and advance democracy."
His new role also comes during a challenging period in American democracy, an issue that Biden has focused on since being sworn in as president two weeks after last year's violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. As he approaches the start of his second year in the White House, Biden continues to face a difficult partisan climate on Capitol Hill.
Last month, Biden held a global Summit for Democracy. Warfa pointed to the gathering as one that "created important dialogue and initiated concrete action towards this global democratic renewal."
"I really consider it a privilege to serve America and to strengthen the special place this place is because of democracy, and extend benefits of democracy to the world," Warfa said.
Although Warfa anticipates challenges in his new job, he said he is excited about the opportunity. As he talked about the position, Warfa recalled that his father would pray for him, "may you be useful to society."
"I think this is a way in which God is guiding me to serve," Warfa said.