The “For the People” mayoral candidate Sheila Nezhad is running a “winnable” and community-oriented campaign

The Bernie Sanders-esque candidate has an activist background to bring to city hall.


Liam Armstrong

Sheila Nezhad, a mayoral candidate outside Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio on Thursday, June 24. Nezhad is running because she believes “the best solutions come from people leading change on the ground.”

Emalyn Muzzy

Sheila “For the People” Nezhad, the grassroots Minneapolis mayoral candidate, described herself as the “top challenger” to incumbent Jacob Frey in the upcoming election.

Although she did not earn the 60% of votes required for a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) endorsement, she was the clear leader of the caucus with 53% of votes. Mayor Frey came in second with 40% of votes. The Stonewall DFL, the Minnesota Young DFL and the Twin Cities Mutual Aid Project have all endorsed Nezhad.

Nezhad, a queer woman of color, has a background in activism and if elected, plans to support renters, emphasize crime prevention over policing and make it easier for Minneapolis residents to be involved with city government.

“She’s not someone who has been in politics her whole life and made being mayor her goal,” said Elham Mohamud, Nezhad’s communications manager. “She is an activist who, after last summer, decided, ‘I need to do something.’”

Nezhad’s policies

Nezhad said she wants to make sure Minneapolis citizens are able to participate and understand city government. One way she plans to do this is by paying community advisory committee members, such as people on the pedestrian advisory committee.

“The city has all these wonderful advisory councils … There are over 700 volunteers right now,” Nezhad said. “What happens when those positions are volunteer, unpaid positions is only the people who can afford to be there … so working class people and parents really get left out.”

Along with that, she wants to better the city’s communications so that residents are knowledgeable about what is happening in city government. Nezhad’s goal is to allow the community to decide on government budgeting by introducing a $10 million participatory budget. Minneapolis citizens would decide how to spend it, rather than the government.

“People will have a direct say in being able to advocate for what they want to see funded in the city government,” said Janet Nguyen, campaign fellow and University of Minnesota graduate.

Focusing on a preventive approach to crime is one of Nezhad’s objectives.

“When we talk about safety, we need to talk about the things that keep us safe, which are housing, youth programs, education and mental health care,” she said.

Nezhad spent several years working as a policy organizer for Reclaim the Block, a local group that aims to move the police budget to other safety measures. During her time there, she helped create the Office of Violence Prevention.

This fall, ballots will contain a charter amendment dubbed Yes 4 Minneapolis that Nezhad helped author. If voted in, it would take the police department out of the city charter and replace it with a Department of Public Safety.

Nezhad said she has been a renter for 12 years and believes in renter protections. She supports the tenant’s opportunity to purchase, which means renters have the first chance to purchase their house when it is up for sale. She also supports the upcoming rent control bills and preventive programs that keep people from living on the streets.

“I know what it’s like to be displaced by increasing rents. I know what it’s like to have bad landlords,” Nezhad said. “That’s why we also fight for a fully funded tenant protection board.”

Nezhad has an uphill battle to defeat incumbent Frey, but if the DFL caucus results mean anything, it is that she has a real chance to win.

“I feel very confident that she is not only equipped to be able to serve in office, but she holds
all these genuine experiences with the community,” Nguyen said. “I really, really believe in the fact that she will carry those voices with her.”