History made: Brooklyn Park swears in first Liberian-American City Council Member

From a refugee camp in Africa to taking the oath of office inside Brooklyn Park City Hall, Wynfred Russell made history Monday night when he became the first Liberian-American man 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. After all, Brooklyn Park is home to America's largest Liberian population.

“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,” he said.

After living in a refugee camp, Russell received a scholarship to college and eventually made his way to Minnesota when he was hired by the University of Minnesota.

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

Russell started a nonprofit and then decided to get involved with local government, running for this seat 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 was very active in his community and in his church," he said. "My mother was a school teacher for many, many years, so we’ve always been a family that believes in service.”

His father 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. 

Meanwhile, in neighboring Brooklyn Center, the city elected their first mayor of Liberian descent, Mike Elliott, who was sworn in last week.