MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was an historic election Tuesday night for the city of Minneapolis as voters elected two openly transgender people to the city council.
Phillipe Cunningham beat Council President Barb Johnson to represent the 4th Ward in north Minneapolis. Johnson held her seat for 20 years.
Cunningham will be the first transgender man to serve on the council. He has more than 10 years of experience as a senior policy aide and advisor in the mayor’s office.
Andrea Jenkins is the first openly transgender black woman elected to a major U.S. city council. Jenkins has spent 25 years in public service as a Minneapolis City Council policy aide and Hennepin County employment specialist.
“It really came down to me being authentic with myself and other people,” she said.
Her journey to the ballot hasn’t been an easy one.
“I relied on love of my family when I came out,” she said. “We had a strong enough bond of family.”
Andrea Jenkins decided it was time to live her truth 25 years ago.
“It opened up a whole new world to me,” she said.
Her work in public service catapulted into new heights because of her private mission.
“It feels incredible,” she said. “I think it is a symbol of hope for not only transgender people, but all people.”
As the first openly transgender black woman elected to a major city council, Jenkins knows the people of Minneapolis have given her the biggest opportunity of her life to tackle issues of social injustice.
“We are going to say no to hatred, no to racism, transphobia and sexism,” she said.
It’s a symbolic win, but Jenkins says she’s also put in the work to earn it.
“We have been able to get rid of drug houses and build economic development in our communities,” she said.
Jenkins believes her years as a Minneapolis city council policy aide will help her continue working on goals around community policing and economic development.
“My work my passion is about helping people live better lives,” she said.
The new council members will be sworn in to office in January.
Jenkins will leave her current job at the University of Minnesota to be a full-time council member. She also weighed in on the mayor’s race, saying she is friends with almost everyone who ran and excited to work with mayor-elect Jacob Frey.