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By Houssein Mouhoumed
South Portland, Maine — Deqa Dhalac, 53, is a mother of three, mentor, active community member, and now a mayor. South Portland residents voted for their new leader this week, making her the nation’s first Muslim Somali-American mayor.
Dhalac received a master’s degree in community development and practice from the University of New Hampshire in 2014.In 2017, She got another master’s degree in social work from the University of New England.
In 2018, Dhalac was elected to the city council to fill the last two years of a three-year term held by another city councilor. She was reelected in 2020 for a three-year term.
After serving District 5 of the city as councilor for three years, Dhalac was elected by her fellow councilors to lead the city in 2022.
Dhalac is believed to be the first Muslim women to hold such a position in the history of the city, which is 90% white. Her election has made national headlines.
“I am so proud and humbled that the voters of South Portland have placed their trust in me. It’s a privilege and a responsibility, and I’m ready to go to work for them,” said Dhalac after she was sworn in.
She opened her inaugural speech as mayor on Monday by giving thanks to the Wabanaki people on whose land South Portland is located, and to the employees in the public works, police, fire, and other municipal departments who keep the city running and safe.
A spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ibrahim Hooper, told News Center Maine that Deqa’s election is “a sign of the increasing civic involvement of the American Muslim community.” He continued by saying, according to News Center Maine “We hope Mayor Dhalac will help inspire a new generation of American Muslims as they take an increasing role in building a better society.”
Local politicians congratulated and praised Dhalac’s election. U.S representatives Chellie Pingree tweeted “Congratulations Mayor Deqa Dhalac on your historic victory.”
Ilhan Omar, Somali American representative of Minnesota’s 5th district also congratulated Deqa for her new role as a mayor.
Qamar Hussein, a South Portland resident, believes Deqa’s election speaks volumes and sends a clear message of representation.
“Deqa is a role model for women in general. For women of color and Muslim women… even more…,” Qamar said. “She represents us in every room she walks in because she gives us voice, which is particularly important.”