Politics and Government

Mayor Frey calls for unity as new, diverse Minneapolis City Council sworn in

In one of their first votes, members chose Andrea Jenkins as council president

A crowd gathers to show support for Mayor Jacob Frey.
Mayor Jacob Frey speaks to supporters in Minneapolis as early election results come in on Nov. 2, 2021. The second-term mayor and new Minneapolis City Council face challenges to getting the city back on track amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, crime surge and public calls for police reform.
Tim Evans for MPR News 2021 file

Vowing to bring a healthy Minneapolis back, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey urged incoming City Council members to work together at his inaugural address Monday morning.

“Will it be difficult? Yes, it will, but we are up to the challenge because our city does not quit,” Frey said. “We will blow by the old normal to recover in a way that uplifts Black and brown communities that have traditionally been left behind and excluded.”

Frey presided over the city in May 2020 when a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, sparking protests and unrest. Frey said he’s learned many lessons over the last four years.

“It’s on us as leaders to hold in our hearts the weight of this chapter in our history — not burdened, but reminded to our solemn responsibility to the unrelenting pursuit of better serving the people of Minneapolis,” Frey said.

The future of policing and public safety are just a few of the challenges facing Frey and his new council.

“Public safety is not a police only issue and will not be a police-only solution,” said Frey, citing several of the city’s non-law-enforcement-based public safety efforts, like the Office of Violence Prevention.

The Minneapolis City Council also unanimously elected 8th Ward Council Member Andrea Jenkins as the new council president. Jenkins, who represents neighborhoods in south Minneapolis near the site of Floyd’s killing, is the first openly transgender Black woman to hold that position.

The new City Council includes seven new members. Eight of the 13 council members identify as people of color. Jenkins said in the meeting that the body is now “reflective of Minneapolis, in almost every diverse identifier possible.”

“That is not even the most important diversity because we represent a diversity of thought, of ideas and solutions to the most pressing issues of our time,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins told council members that they have a responsibility to continue to press forward on issues like sustainable transit, safety beyond policing and rent stabilization that prioritize equity and fairness.

Council members also elected 13th Ward Council Member Linea Palmisano as vice president. The vote split council members between support for Palmisano and a challenge by incoming Ward 1 Council Member Elliott Payne.

Five council members voted in support of Payne, including new Ward 10 Council Member Aisha Chughtai.

“We are in an incredibly historic moment,” Chughtai said. “We have an overwhelming majority of people of color now on our City Council, and I think it would be incredibly historic to see that represented in our council’s leadership.”

New Ward 4 Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw said she supported Palmisano’s nomination because of her long history of collaboration.

“I’m supporting Council Member Palmisano because not only does she represent her ward, but she’s open to the idea of listening and learning from others in my ward as well,” Vetaw said.

Council members are taking office as the city transitions to a new governmental structure, which voters approved in November. The new system shifts more executive authority to the mayor and makes the council a more purely legislative body. A working group appointed by Frey will present recommendations on how best to structure the new system sometime early this year.

Council members will be up for reelection in 2023 due to redistricting.