Liberian-American Makes History, Takes City Council Oath


BROOKLYN PARK – Wynfred Russell made history Monday night when he became the first Liberian-American and first black person to take a seat on the Brooklyn Park City Council.

It was a historic moment inside City Hall as Russell laid his hand on his late father’s Bible and took the oath of office. Brooklyn Park is the sixth largest city in the State of Minnesota and home to America’s largest Liberian population.

“The City of Brooklyn Park is made up of a very diverse population with one in five residents born in a foreign country,” said Mayor Jeffrey Lunde.

“All of Brooklyn Park is now reflecting its true identity, as far as I’m concerned, so this is a big win for all of us,” Russell said.

“This state has been good to me; the people here have been great and opened their doors and opened their hearts,” he said.

Russell founded a nonprofit organization, taught at the University of Minnesota, and then decided to get involved with local government, running for the council six years ago when he lost by just five votes. He said he was inspired by his parents to get involved with politics.

“Service is a big part of my family—my dad worked for the United Nations and was very active in his local community and in his church,” Russell said. “My mother was a school teacher in Upper Caldwell for many, many years, so we’ve always been a family that believes in public service.”

His father, James N. Russell, has since passed, but with close family both at City Hall and in Liberia watching his swearing-in ceremony live, Russell said the American Dream can be achieved by any of us with a little bit of hope and a lot of hard work.

“It’s not about the color of our skin or the country that we are from or originally from, but it’s about what we bring to the table,” he said.

Russell replaces West District incumbent Bob Mata, who he defeated during the November mid-term elections by 55% of the votes. Meanwhile, in neighboring Brooklyn Center, the city elected their first mayor of Liberian descent, Mike Elliott, who was sworn in last week.