City Council approves Abdi Warsame as head of Minneapolis Public Housing Authority

The vacated seat triggers a special election for Ward 6, which could take place in August.

Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame addresses the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority on Wednesday, Jan. 29. Warsame was selected as the next executive director and CEO for the MPHA.

Nur B. Adam

Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame addresses the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority on Wednesday, Jan. 29. Warsame was selected as the next executive director and CEO for the MPHA.

Mohamed Ibrahim

The Minneapolis City Council approved Ward 6 Council member Abdi Warsame as the next director and CEO of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority on Friday.

The six-year council member will vacate the seat representing Ward 6, triggering a special election in the district — which includes the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and surrounding areas. With uncertainty surrounding how long the coronavirus outbreak will last, city officials are looking at alternatives to in-person voting for constituents of the district.

The City Council met virtually Friday morning and voted unanimously to approve Warsame for the position.

“This is a really critical time for public housing, for affordable housing,” said City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins at the meeting. “I’m thrilled to know that the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority is going to be in really good hands.”

Warsame declined to comment at this time.

The MPHA board of directors approved Warsame for the position in late January, replacing interim director and CEO Tracey Scott, who was chosen to lead Chicago’s housing authority earlier this month. Warsame begins his new position as head of the agency on Tuesday, according to Jeff Horwich, MPHA’s director of policy and external affairs.

“At this time of great challenge and potential, MPHA will benefit from Abdi Warsame’s leadership and lived experience as we continue our work to preserve public housing, expand opportunities for thousands of families with housing vouchers, and provide a bedrock of housing and financial stability for the 26,000 people we serve across our programs,” Horwich said in a statement.

Conflict of interest guidelines from the U.S. The Department of Housing and Urban Development prevents housing agencies from hiring public officials for at least one year after leaving office. For Warsame to assume the position immediately, the MPHA applied for a waiver to the restriction, which it received on March 13, Horwich said.

City Clerk Casey Carl said the city is tentatively looking at holding the special election for Ward 6 in conjunction with statewide primaries on Aug. 11. As the COVID-19 restrictions continue indefinitely, the city is working with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office to discuss alternative voting strategies like voting by mail, he said.

“It’s one of those things that we’re trying to explore — how could that work? What would it look like? How would it feel?” Carl said. “We’re looking to other states that have already implemented all vote-by-mail operations, such as Washington and Oregon.”

After receiving Warsame’s resignation letter and taking it to the City Council next week, the city clerk’s office will establish a timeline for the Ward 6 special election process, including a notice sent out to constituents and the candidate filing period.