From the Star Tribune:
For Abdi Warsame, trust is everything.
It's a sentiment the former City Council member thinks about often as he navigates his first year in his "dream job" leading the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority.
For months, he's worked through Zoom video calls from his office at 1001 N. Washington Av. But he said in a recent interview the best way to build confidence is by delivering results for the 26,000 people depending on the agency for housing.
"I don't think residents are looking for a leader in terms of what they look for in a Minneapolis City Council member or mayor or elected official," said Warsame, who's the first Somali American to lead the agency. "What they are looking for is that their properties are safe, that they themselves are safe, that they can find shelter and housing that they deserve."
Warsame's appointment as executive director in January 2020 surprised his fellow council members and was greeted with fanfare and selfies with supporters. But it came at a time when the public trust in the agency was shaken by the November 2019 fire at its Cedar High apartments that killed five residents.
The agency found itself confronting questions about why sprinklers had not been installed sooner on the upper floors and facing blowback from residents, many of them Somali Americans. The agency has also endured criticism over a lack of communication about plans to renovate aging properties using private funds, and struggled to quash residents' fears of displacement, even though many were fed by misinformation.
Mary McGovern, a resident at the Elliot Twins and president of the Minneapolis Highrise Representatives Council, which represents 5,000-plus tenants, was unsure if Warsame could handle the job.
But now she meets with him every Friday. She said he has worked hard to secure funding for capital improvements for the 42 aging high-rises and keep residents safe during the pandemic.
"He's always been 100% behind the residents, and that's what I have looked for in any kind of director for MPHA," McGovern said. "He wants to make sure the high-rises are comfortable and feel like home to residents."
Read the Star Tribune’s article “In his 'dream job,' Abdi Warsame works to rebuild trust at the Minneapolis public housing agency.”