Roslyn Harmon declares victory in tight race for Golden Valley mayor

A woman in a purple coat smiles
Roslyn Harmon, a nonprofit executive, is poised to become Golden Valley's first Black mayor.
Dymanh Chhoun | Sahan Journal.

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Roslyn Harmon, a nonprofit executive, led Golden Valley’s mayoral race by just 26 votes with all precincts reporting on Tuesday night.

Reached by phone Tuesday night, Harmon said she felt “amazing.”

“It was the people,” she said, explaining her strong night at the polls. “And the people want change.”

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Harmon, 47, is poised to become Golden Valley’s first Black mayor. She received 2,819 votes, while city council member Gillian Rosenquist received 2,793. Harmon’s margin is less than half a percentage point — meaning that under Minnesota election rules, Rosenquist could request a publicly funded recount.

Rosenquist was not immediately available for comment Tuesday night.

“A disappointing night and not the result I wanted,” she posted on Facebook on Tuesday night. “Thanks for all the support these months.”

Harmon’s win would mark a remarkable turn for Golden Valley, an 85 percent white suburb just west of Minneapolis. The town’s segregated history stems in part from a history of restrictive racial covenants, and rapid development when General Mills moved its headquarters to town.

Looking back at her campaign, Harmon recalled her first conversation with Shep Harris, the current mayor, about possibly running. “The first thing I said was, ‘Do you think Golden Valley is ready for a Black mayor?’”

But she saw that her approach resonated with voters. Harmon is executive director of the Dispute Resolution Center, a St. Paul–based mediation center that provides restorative-justice diversion programs for the Ramsey County court system and the St. Paul City Attorney’s Office. She has also been an educator, a mental health practitioner, and a pastor. 

“It’s so important to be able to find common ground, and not only to find common ground, but to have all voices at the table,” Harmon said Tuesday night.

Harmon’s apparent win also comes on the same night that Nadia Mohamed was elected to be the first Black mayor of St. Louis Park—and the first Somali mayor in Minnesota.

“I think this is a major statement for this part of the west metro,” said Harris, the outgoing Golden Valley mayor. 

Golden Valley reckons with a changing police force

In recent years, Golden Valley has been grappling with its legacy in part through an internal investigation of the police department. That investigation found a culture of racism, and led to the firing of one officer and the departure of many others. At its lowest point, a department funded for 31 officers dwindled to eight active officers. Now, under its first Black police chief, Virgil Green, the department is restaffing—it now employs 19 officers—and developing a new culture.

Harmon criticized the investigation for pushing change too fast, resulting in the turnover of many officers she described as “like family” to Golden Valley residents.

She went on, though, to praise the police department for moving forward with positive change. “We’ve been able to really hit the reset button and reimagine a better department moving forward.”

Harmon said her priorities as mayor include expanding affordable housing options, supporting the new police chief in his reform efforts, and creating a vibrant downtown.

Roxanne Gould, who described herself as an Indigenous elder, said she was excited when she learned a woman of color was running for mayor. She was impressed with Harmon from their first meeting.

“She listens,” Gould told Sahan Journal last week. “And she brings people together.”

Those skills are what made Harmon want to run for mayor, she told Sahan Journal.

“That’s what people really want,” she said Tuesday night. “It’s not about politics. It’s about do you hear me? And do you understand that this is what I need in order to be the best that I can be? That’s what I represent.”