116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Mazahir Salih won’t seek re-election to Iowa City Council
She is supporting Shawn Harmsen for district seat
IOWA CITY — Iowa City Mayor Pro-tem Mazahir Salih announced Wednesday she will not seek re-election to the council this fall, focusing instead on her work at the Center for Worker Justice.
Salih, in her first-term on the seven-member council, also said she is supporting the candidacy of Shawn Harmsen for the council’s District B seat being vacated by Susan Mims.
Salih became executive director of the Center for Worker Justice this spring.
“Now, I am called to serve my community in a new way,” Salih said in a statement. “As a co-founder of CWJ, I’m proud to devote my full energies to leading the organization in its work to confront workplace abuses, promote dignity in jobs and housing, and create an inclusive community.
“As much as I knew I had to focus on my new position at CWJ and family demands, I agonized about stepping down from the council because of all of the work there is to do.”
Elected in 2017, Salih was the first openly Muslim candidate elected in Iowa City and the first Sudanese American elected to public office in the United States.
In a news release announcing her plans, Salih said she is most proud of securing a $15 minimum wage for all city employees, advocating for affordable housing and fighting for responsible development.
Harmsen, 48, is an educator and community activist.
“Mazahir is a powerful leader who leaves behind enormous shoes to fill,” Harmsen said in a statement. “Nobody can really replace what having her on the council has meant for Iowa City.
“But I can do my best to continue enacting our shared vision for a community that lives up to its potential for economic, racial, and social justice.”
Harmsen previously served as campaign manager for Salih and Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter. He was on the campaign committee for North Liberty City Council member RaQuishia Harrington and was campaign manager for Megan Alter during her unsuccessful run for city council two years ago.
Harmsen said in a statement he is supporting the candidacies of Alter and Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague, who is seeking re-election this year for an at-large council seat.
A graduate of Wartburg College, Harmsen had a career in radio and television before earning a master’s degree in communication education from the University of Northern Iowa. He was an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and has taught at Coe College since 2016.
Harmsen moved to Iowa City in 2010 with his children and wife, Dr. Jody Harmsen.
“I love Iowa City,” Harmsen said in a statement. “I am well aware that our community isn’t perfect. But between my job and my wife’s job, we’ve lived in a lot of places in the Midwest, and this is the place we’ve chosen to make our home. This city, and the people here, are worth every effort to keep creating a better, more equitable community.”
Along with Teague, Harmsen and Alter, Jason Glass is seeking a seat on the council in the Nov. 2 election. He is vice chairman of the city’s Human Rights Commission.
Iowa City Council members are paid $12,106 this year.
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