Somali mayoral candidate takes job with Coleman

U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) has tapped Lyndale resident and former Minneapolis mayoral candidate Mahamoud Wardere to work as a caseworker in his St. Paul office.

Wardere, 35, will help with immigration issues and Somali community outreach, said Erich Mische, Coleman's state director. Wardere is one of 10 staff members in the fledgling office, 2550 University Ave. West, Suite #100.

"He gives us a different perspective," Mische said. "It is helpful to have somebody who has gone through those life experiences so we have a better appreciation for the challenges that they go through."

Wardere grew up in Somalia but left the war-torn country. He spent two years in a Kenyan refugee camp before coming to the United States in 1995, he said. He became a citizen in 2000, and within a year was running to become mayor of Minneapolis as a "New Voices Party" candidate. He got 160 votes.

He taught at Washburn High School, losing the job to budget cuts. He has worked as a bilingual aide at Pillsbury School and as a concierge for Marquette Place, 1314 Marquette Avenue.

Mische said Wardere was somewhat involved in the campaign and had talked with candidate Coleman several times about issues facing immigrants in general and Somalis in particular.

"When I started pulling the staff together, Norm said, 'You need to talk to Mahamoud,'" Mische said. "He is somebody who fits in with the kinds of outreach and services he wanted to have in his Minnesota offices."