Over 300 citizens gathered in Minneapolis City Hall last Tuesday, May 16 to honor and celebrate former Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton with a bronze bust placed in the City Hall Atrium. Her Honor was recognized for her dedication, perseverance, and service to the Minneapolis community as the first Black woman and female mayor of the city.
The Belton Bronze Tribute Steering Committee, together with the Municipal Building Commission, produced the event. The former mayor was pleased with how many people attended the occasion to recognize her achievements and influence; she had only expected 150-200 people.
There was a variety of public leaders present to highlight Sayles Sayles Belton’s service. Mayor Betsy Hodges offered some heartfelt words: “This isn’t just a monument to the good work that you did or how influential you’ve been, it’s also a monument to your persistence, to your strength, to your vision, to your refusal to do any less than your best and the city’s best, for this city, this country and this state, and it’s a monument to who you are as a person. As strong as this metal is, as strong as this bust is, it is not as strong as you.” Mayor Hodges also shared some commonalities in how both mayors tackled some of the same challenges in public safety, adversity, and more.
Also honoring Sayles Belton was Josie Johnson, co-chair of the steering committee and a founder of the African American Leadership Forum. She said, “Mayor, your service to Minneapolis and [the] desire to recognize you in a very special way brought together a group of exceptional citizens. This group of citizens was excited and eager to honor your history of service to this city and beyond.”
Johnson was accompanied by co-chair Reatha Clark King, who said, “We honor today a sense of community. It reminds me of how our honoree reflected the spirit of respect for each other and collaboration in the community.” Both Johnson and King assisted Sayles Belton in her growth as she served in the Minneapolis office.
When asked about her main goals during her time as mayor, Sayles Belton replied, “I had several; trying to ensure a safe community was number one. People have got to feel safe in their home, neighborhood, and on the way to work. When people feel that your city is safe, people want to invest in it, and that means more jobs for the community.
“[My other goals were] children and families: We need to invest in the next generation.” During Sayles Belton’s time as mayor, she felt her most difficult time was dealing with the spike in crime. She stated that her sole strategy was to create a more permanent solution that would be in the city’s best interest.
She served 10 years as a city council member; she was elected city council president in her last four years of service. Throughout her council service, she worked on citywide issues and developed a citywide voice on public policies that were important to Minneapolis, all of which led up to her being elected mayor from 1994 to 2001.
Sayles Belton is currently vice president of community relations and government affairs for Thomson Reuters’ Legal Business, where she works closely with the government. MSR asked how the position allows her to still actively promote change in the community.
“I pay attention to the problems and issues that our local and national government face and make sure our company understands what these problems are so our services will be designed in a way to help the government run effectively and efficiently and better serve the citizens of the communities,” she responded.
The next project for the Sharon Sayles Belton Steering Committee will be an education symposium this fall at the Humphrey Hall, developed by Sam Myers and Dr. John Wright in honor of Sayles Belton. They want to connect with youth and young professionals to inspire them with the former mayor’s leadership and accomplishments.
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