District mourns Samatar

A trailblazer in the East African immigrant community, School Board Member Hussein Samatar was the first Somali-American elected to public office in Minnesota

Hussein Samatar Credit: File photo

School Board Member Hussein Samatar, the first Somali-American elected to public office in Minnesota, died Aug. 25 due to complications from leukemia. He was 45.

Elected to the School Board in 2010, Samatar was an advocate for the district’s immigrant students and English language learners. A native of Somalia, he fled civil war in his homeland in the 1990s and made his home in Minnesota for nearly two decades.

In 2002, Samatar founded the African Development Center, a local nonprofit that aims to help the state’s large African immigrant community achieve financial success through financial literacy, businesses development and home ownership. Having earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of St. Thomas, Samatar previously worked as a commercial banker with Wells Fargo and Norwest banks.

Before winning his District 3 School Board seat, Samatar served as co-chair of the district referendum committee that in 2008 helped win voter approval of a $60-million tax levy for schools. The following year, Samatar was honored at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s Minority Business Awards.

Samatar was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia Dec. 4. In March, he revealed he was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for the blood and bone disease and said he would require a bone marrow transplant.

Prior to the announcement, there was speculation Samatar might make a run to replace Mayor R.T. Rybak. It was Rybak who ushered Samatar into public office, appointing him in 2006 to the Minneapolis Library Board of Trustees.

Samatar is survived by his wife, Ubah, and four children. A funeral service is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Burnsville Masjid.

Minneapolis Public Schools and its foundation, AchieveMpls, plan to set up a fund for Samatar’s family.