St. Paul's first Somali-American City Council member was sworn in at City Hall Wednesday, in a ceremony that began with a prayer and ended with two standing ovations.
Kassim Busuri, 32, will represent the city's Sixth Ward, filling the seat that longtime Council Member Dan Bostrom vacated when he retired in December. The other six council members appointed Busuri to serve out Bostrom's term, which lasts until the end of 2019.
"This year is going to be wonderful," Council President Amy Brendmoen told Busuri before he was sworn in. "We're so, so excited to work with you."
Busuri, who is education director at Minnesota Da'wah Institute and child care center director at Bright Start, was one of seven candidates to seek the interim council member position. As part of the interview process, candidates had to confirm that they do not plan to run for the Sixth Ward seat in November. The entire council is up for re-election this year.
Before the speeches and celebration began Wednesday morning, Imam Hassan Mohamud spoke to the crowd, offering a prayer and words from the Qur'an.
"Allah stated in the Qur'an, chapter five, verse two, we work together for the benefit of humanity," he said. "Thanks God giving us this opportunity to serve the people of St. Paul."
Mayor Melvin Carter offered the new council member a few pieces of advice — and accolades.
"When we have an opportunity to seat someone like Council Member Busuri, who has spent a lifetime in community, in service to community in different capacities, who brings not only passion and commitment but a deep capacity and love for our city, that's good not only for Ward Six but it's good for our entire city," Carter said.
The Sixth Ward, located on St. Paul's East Side, includes the Frost Lake, Hayden Heights, Hazel Park, Payne-Phalen, Phalen Village and Prosperity neighborhoods.
"I am thankful and I am humbled," Busuri said after he was sworn in. "This is the city that I love the most, and I will continue to serve."
In an interview, Busuri said he's already started meeting with Sixth Ward residents and business owners. His top priorities for the ward are filling empty storefronts, reducing crime — especially youth violence — and preserving and building housing.
Busuri was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and spent his early childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya before immigrating to the United States with his family in 1996. A St. Paul resident since 2010, he lives with his wife and two children, ages 2 and 4.