Massad speaks on Mankato, the community, and how it feels to be mayor
Walking into the city council room, I was bombarded by a sense that I did not belong; a fresh young reporter walking into a room filled with men and woman in business suits.
As I walked over to an open chair, I noticed a cluster of people crowded around near the center of the main council desk and it was at that glance I saw the newly elected mayor of Mankato, Najwa Massad.
Smiling and having casual conversation with the other council members, I had a sense that she was just as nervous about the meeting as I was.
It wasn’t long until the meeting began. As it went on I began to notice that, besides our Editor In Chief, and a fellow writer, we were not the only citizens watching the council proceedings. In fact, there was a large group of citizens sitting behind us; a much larger group than a regular council meeting would normally have.
By the time the City Manager, Patrick “Pat” Hentges, had finished his “State of the City” report to the council, it came time for public hearings to follow and what transpired may very well have been Mayor Massad’s first real challenge as Mayor – dealing with angry citizens.
A project feasibility hearing on a proposed reconstruction of sewer systems in the Mankato neighborhood of Germania Park was held and the residents of the neighborhood came to the meeting to express their anger over the proposal that would involve deconstructing their driveways and front yards.
One frustrated resident after another came and spoke to the council. Mayor Massad did her best to listen to both sides of the argument and tried to calm tensions from the residents, many of whom were close to tears as they spoke.
The resident’s anger did not subside nor did they go away as Mayor Massad watched the back and forth arguing getting nowhere. She then called for a vote to end the public opinion and push discussions about the plan to a later date. This only infuriated the crowd more as some residents wished for their time to speak.
Mayor Massad looked visibly tired after the exchange with the angry residents who shuffled out of the chambers and continued to yell and argue outside. They got so loud that some in the room had to walk out to quiet them.
The meeting did not last long after as adjournment came and a large majority of people soon left, leaving us to speak with Mayor Massad.
Mayor Massad spoke about her life before becoming mayor as a small business owner and what she plans to do now as mayor to the fifth-largest city in Minnesota.
“This community where we built our business from nothing, our first restaurant, and the way the community embraced us, and just Mankato itself and the people,” said Mayor Massad. “That’s what drove me to wanting to become mayor.”
When asked how she felt about her becoming the first elected female mayor of Mankato, she said, “I personally never thought of it that way. All I knew was I was a woman that was running for mayor.”
She later went on to say, “I hope we were elected, the females that were elected to Congress, to mayors, to anything, they elected us because of our knowledge, and what we said we were going to bring forth.”
Midway through the interview, I asked Mayor Massad what makes Mankato a great city. She said that the community is what makes Mankato so special.
Using a story as an example, she tells of how her daughter fought to bring her adopted son back from Lebanon and residents of Mankato rallied to the Massad family’s side and called for the aid of Senator Klobuchar who helped bring Mayor Massad’s grandson home.
“It was this community that engulfed us and prayed with us and wished us the best and did everything they could. That’s how we got Senator Klobuchar involved, it’s because someone from the community said, “we need help.”
Smiling and candid throughout the interview, I went on to ask her what her plans were for the city of Mankato.
Mayor Massad said, “There is a lot of goals and objectives, but I’m going to have to take them one step at a time because I’m learning as we did tonight.”
Mayor Massad is a woman who has raised not only her family, but her small business in Mankato for decades and was welcomed and supported with open arms by the community.
Now given the title of mayor, she wishes to give that support back.
Feature photo by David Bassey | MSU Reporter.