Newspaper article

'It Was Overdue': Gov. Dayton Celebrates Appointment of First Somali- American Airports Commissioner

Newspaper article

'It Was Overdue': Gov. Dayton Celebrates Appointment of First Somali- American Airports Commissioner

Article excerpt

Last month's appointment of the first Somali-American, Ibrahim Mohamed, to the Metropolitan Airports Commission has attracted volumes of plaudits and media attention across Minnesota -- and other parts of the world.

But on Tuesday night, it brought Gov. Mark Dayton, local officials and community leaders to Minneapolis' Brian Coyle Center, where more than 80 people assembled to celebrate and honor the historic appointment of the commissioner, who drives a cart at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for minimum wage.

Appointed in February by Dayton, Mohamed joined 13 other commissioners who operate the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and six smaller airports in the metro area. Dayton said he appointed Mohamed because his employment experience at the airport can be a voice for hundreds of other airport workers in the decision-making process.

"I made appointments to the Metropolitan Airports Commission previously -- and this is overdue," Dayton told the crowd, speaking about Mohamed's appointment. "It was overdue before I arrived, and it's overdue now that I'm in my fifth year as governor. I regret that, apologize for that."

Overdue or not, Mohamed's face beamed with excitement as he expressed his appreciation to the governor for the appointment during a short speech before the crowd.

After escaping the Somali civil war in 1991, Mohamed lived in Kenya as a refugee for more than a decade, longing for a better place with opportunities to work and to pursue his dreams.

"As many immigrants, I came here to change my life and get a better life," Mohamed said. "Now I am a cart driver, which I am happy to be because I am helping a lot of people who need my help, like elderly people and disabled persons. I work five days, and every day I help more than 80 passengers."

In 2004, Mohamed settled in the Twin Cities and immediately secured a job at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. Over the years, Mohamed worked as an aircraft cleaner, a baggage runner and a ticket verifier.

As a full-time electric cart driver now, the 35-year-old Rosemount father of five earns $ 8 an hour -- with no health benefits. …

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