Amer Ghalib, a 42-year-old immigrant from Yemen, who secured a significant election victory in Hamtramck – a city in the US state of Michigan – said his message is inclusive and he will represent everyone in the city.
He is the first Arab American as well as the first Muslim mayor of the city.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ghalib said his job as a certified nurse practitioner at the local clinic in the city has enabled him to serve the community and build cordial relations with people.
“My message was inclusive, people needed a change, and I proved to them throughout my campaign that I am the one who can do it,” he said.
On Nov. 2, Ghalib was declared elected by securing 69% of the votes. He defeated the incumbent four-time Mayor Karen Majewski, who secured just 31% votes.
Ghalib, who is going to serve a four-year term as a mayor promised that he will work as a team with the elected officials to bring investments to the city and get more grants from the county, state, and federal government.
The city of Hamtramck, the densely populated municipality of Michigan and surrounded by the cities of Detroit and Highland Park hosts the highest number of immigrants, half of them believed to be Muslims.
Ghalib, a father of three children, said that the Muslim community supported him “especially Yemenis”. But they were not the only supporters, he said.
“A lot of support came from non-Muslims as well, and that is why I won by a big number,” he added.
Describing his victory historic which provided him an opportunity to lead the city, he said that the Yemeni community is particularly feeling proud about his accomplishment. But Ghalib said that he will represent everyone.
“I also understand that it is a big responsibility, and we have to work hard to succeed,” he said.
- Freedom of choice important
Regardless of his stand against issues of marijuana and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), which were widely debated during the campaign, Ghalib still managed to win.
“I believe in freedom of choice and I respect people’s choices. However, I may not agree with some, but we learned in this great country that we should respect people’s choices and we expect respect to go both ways,” he said.
In his victory speech, Ghalib said he would do his best to represent all corners of the community, no matter your faith, your background, who you love, or your political views.
“I am proud of my values and beliefs, but I do not try to impose them on others and I expect others to do the same. During the campaign, my message was based on tolerance, respect, inclusivity, and transparency. People of all backgrounds voted for me for that reason,” he painted.
Born to middle-class working parents, Ghalib spent his first 11 years of education in a small school in his village in the al-Awd district of Ibb governorate in Yemen. He migrated to the US at the age of 17.
“I used to help my family with farming besides going to school. In the US, it was difficult to finish the final year of high school while working in a factory. I also worked in a gas station while attending college until I finished my bachelor's degree,” he said.
Ghalib believes that his journey from a small village in the mountains of Yemen to becoming a mayor in the US has inspired many young people.
“I went to medical school, but my love for politics and community service made me decide to run for a public office to continue serving the community more efficiently,” Ghalib said.
Hamtramck also has three new Muslim city council members Khalil Refai, Amanda Jaczkowski, and Adam Albarmaki.