IOWA CITY — Iowa City Council member Bruce Teague was appointed to serve two years as the city’s mayor. Council member Mazahir Salih was selected to serve as mayor pro tem.
Teague was approved over nominees Pauline Taylor and Susan Mims by a 5-2 margin during a second round of voice voting Thursday morning at the city council’s first meeting of 2020.
His selection followed an initial round of voice voting in which none of the three candidates received majority support.
Salih also edged out Taylor Thursday morning, also by a 5-2 council vote, to become mayor pro tem.
Salih is believed to be the first Sudanese-American woman elected to hold public office in the United States, according to a representative of the Sudanese American Public Affairs Association.
About 40 people listened in on the meeting, including many of Teague’s family members and friends, some of whom traveled from Chicago in support.
Teague, an openly gay black man, owns home health care business Caring Hands and More and won his at-large city council seat in a special election October 2018.
Speaking before the votes, Teague said he sought out the position as mayor because, “I have a servant’s heart, I have a humble spirit and I am not on an ego trip.” Rather, he said, he hopes to foster “productive and collaborative” discussions, involve all community members and leverage his institutional knowledge both as a council member and longtime Iowa City resident.
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Teague moved to Iowa City from Chicago in November 1993, as a 17-year-old high school senior “who was failing chemistry and in danger of not graduating.”
From there, Teague attended and graduated from West High School, Kirkwood Community College and the University of Iowa.
He worked in senior living facilities and hospices before founding Caring Hands and More in 2004, which he said grew from a three-person business operating out of his mobile home to a larger company that now has about 90 employees.
Teague said he hopes his story can serve as an inspiration for other community members.
“We will be the city where the people of Iowa City can say, ‘I have hope because of this kid with all those Fs and Cs, because if he can strive, so can I,’” he said.
Asked about priority issues he hopes to champion as mayor, Teague laughed, “Oh, my God, we have a lot of stuff.”
Some focuses will include reducing Iowa City’s carbon emissions, as outlined in its recent “climate crisis” report, ensuring the city is “a just city for all” and maintaining financial stability, he said.
Salih traveled to the U.S. from Sudan in 1997, initially moving to Virginia, where she became a citizen and met her husband.
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She and her family moved to Iowa City in 2012, where she graduated with an associate’s degree from Kirkwood Community College.
Since November 2012, when the Center for Worker Justice was established, Salih has served in several roles, including as vice president, president and community organizer. The center advocates on social and economic justice matters, including civil rights, education and wage theft.
After the meeting, Salih said she was “very, very happy” to become the first Sudanese-American mayor pro tem as well.
“This will inspire a lot of people, especially immigrants and people of color,” she said, of her title and Iowa City council’s new black leadership. “This will be inspiration for a lot of people in this community.”
Salih said she plans to continue focusing on her three campaign priorities — affordable housing, economic development for all and public transportation.
“That’s why (Iowa City) elected me, for those three issues,” she said. “I’m going to continue working hard to serve the people of Iowa City.”
In Iowa City’s form of government, the City Council members select one of its members to be mayor.
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