In its 136 years, Golden Valley has never had a Black mayor— but that will change when Roslyn Harmon is sworn in next month. Harmon, a 47-year-old Black woman who runs the nonprofit Dispute Resolution Center, was the first person of color to run for mayor in Golden Valley, which is roughly 80 percent White. Harmon beat her opponent, Gillian Rosenquist, by 26 votes.
Harmon says her priorities as mayor of Golden Valley will be affordable housing, public safety, community healing, and making sure citizens are heard. She plans to create town-forum meetings and other avenues where citizens who either do not have time or may be too intimidated to speak at a council meeting can voice their concerns.
Harmon says she doesn’t like politics and did not consider herself a politician before running for mayor. While Harmon has been volunteering for the city for seven years, this election was her first time running for an elected political position. She decided to run after seeing issues in the city while fulfilling her duties as vice chair of the city’s Police Employment, Accountability, Community, and Engagement (PEACE) commission.
“It wasn’t until I really started doing a lot with the city of Golden Valley that I just saw concern,” she says. “Not only within the divide in city leadership but the divide in community, in city leadership as well as city staff. And for me in my day job—at the Dispute Resolution Center—that’s what I do. I work really closely on behalf of disputes and restorative work.”
Harmon believes her work in conflict resolution will be useful in addressing issues that continue around Golden Valley’s police department. The city lost over 20 officers in the past two years after an investigation found Golden Valley police officers made racist remarks as well as other misconduct. Harmon says this has left a lot of discord between the police department and city council, as well as within the council itself.
Along with new police chief Virgil Green, Harmon hopes to have officers’ concerns heard while also continuing the work of reforming Golden Valley’s police department. Harmon affirms the investigation’s findings of departmental racism, but says she does not believe that all officers who chose to leave were racist.
Harmon says they are currently holding the first community engagement sessions on what changes city residents want to see in the police department. The PEACE commission has been working for two years to start a process that she is hoping will allow both Golden Valley’s community and police officers to feel heard.
“We’ve had to be very careful with community response. But we also wanted to be careful with the police response. Because we don’t want anyone to feel like they’re being attacked or they’re being blamed, or feeling as if the community is putting them under surveillance or anything like that,” Harmon says.
“I saw how there was just such a need for the city to have more courageous dialogue and for voices to be heard,” Harmon says. “I truly felt this was perfect timing in terms of restorative work, in terms of repairing harm, in terms of conflict resolution. In all of these things, I just felt like it was my time to be able to help the city move forward, and not so much the politics.”
Initially, Harmon says, she was worried about running into racism while campaigning, saying one of her biggest fears was being cursed at or being called the n-word, especially given the city’s history of racially restrictive covenants, segregation and discrimination. But Harmon says everyone in Golden Valley was very kind to her during the campaign, and that she believes people judged her based on her qualifications and not her race.
One group Harmon says she did not feel supported by was the local Democratic (DLF) chapter, SD43. Harmon says that the SD43 chapter of the party gave Rosenquist a letter of recommendation one day before the filing date for the race but did not write one for her.
Harmon says she did not let doubt get in the way and decided to “go for it,” advice she would give to other Black women in suburban communities who may be thinking about running for political office. Harmon says she had many doubts during her campaign, but despite them, she still won the race.
Harmon’s victory celebration will be held at The Trailhead, 1221 Theodore Wirth Parkway, on January 3, 2024, from 5-8 p.m. It is open to the public.