(NEW YORK) — Mayor Yemi Mobolade made history in May when he was elected as the first Black immigrant and non-GOP mayor of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The former pastor ran as an independent on a platform, he says, that focused on “quality of life” over party lines.
“To [any]one in this room who is in utter disbelief that Republicans and Democrats and Independents can work together, can find common ground, maybe even like each other, tonight is for you,” Mobolade told supporters after he was elected.
Mobolade immigrated to the United States from Nigeria almost 30 years ago. He became an American citizen in 2017. To coincide with the 6-year anniversary of his naturalization, Mobolade spoke to “GMA3” hosts Eva Pilgrim and DeMarco Morgan about his platform and vision for Colorado Springs.
EVA PILGRIM: You became a citizen six years ago. I’m curious, though, why did you decide to run for mayor?
YEMI MOBOLADE: Yeah, today is a special day for me. Six years ago, I rose my right hand and swore my allegiance to this great country. And, you know, for 21 years leading up to that, I’ve loved my city. I’ve participated in this democracy, but there was one thing missing – I wasn’t able to vote. And six years ago, that all changed.
I’m all in, and to be all in, I took that one step further, and I felt I ran for office because my city needed my leadership. My city needed what I had to offer. And what I have to offer is sound leadership, pragmatic leadership and a leadership that transcends and puts our quality of life ahead of politics.
DEMARCO MORGAN: And mayor, talk about a historic win. Colorado Springs is a heavily conservative, Republican-run city, and you flat out won it unaffiliated. You say you want to disrupt politics. How do you plan to do that? You’ve already done it.
MOBOLADE: We’re already doing that. I believe my city is hungry for leadership that puts our quality of life ahead of special interest, and I just think there’s a tiredness. There’s a tiredness with the political landscape. And they say, you know, desperate times call for desperate measures. I actually say, desperate times call for a new kind of leadership. And sometimes it takes someone with my story, my profile, especially my immigrant story, to remind us of the best of who we are as Americans.
PILGRIM: Let’s talk a little bit about some of the issues facing our country. So many cities across the nation are dealing with gun violence. It’s an issue your city knows all too well after the 2022 mass shooting at Club Q. I mean, what can we do to stop this? Is there anything we can do?
MOBOLADE: No, absolutely. And this is a perfect example where good leadership is needed – not just leadership that prioritizes partisan talking points, because public safety is one of the things I ran on. And I ran on public safety, because that’s what I heard from my residents. That’s a No. 1 priority.
My wife and I are parents of three young kids, so it’s always on the top of our minds. And Club Q was a devastating event in our community. And while justice has been served, the work of justice has only begun. And that’s bringing healing to many of the survivors affected and their family members, but also ensuring that our community is safe. So for my city, ensuring that we are able to recruit and retain our law enforcement officers and provide them the training that they need to do their job well and effectively and to keep our community safe.
MORGAN: Mayor, let’s talk about the problems at the border. It’s a top issue for voters. Migrants are being shipped to cities all across the country, including here in New York. What goes through your mind when you see that happening?
MOBOLADE: Right, I think the immigration story right now is a very complex one. And many times, it is limited to the border issues. And we have to do that dance between caring for people; at the same time, ensuring that we are keeping our country safe. It’s very similar to the work of being a mayor of this great city, even when we talk about issues like homelessness. How do we balance, how we do the dance between showing compassion at the same time and ensuring that we are keeping our community safe?
I do believe the immigrant story, though, it’s limited to the border conversation. And there are so many immigrants like me who have chosen to come here and find community, find work, find family. We are entrepreneurs. We are business owners. We provide jobs. We are in the tech sector, medical sector, and we are bringing in the values that are very aligned to the American way of life of hard work, family and also a brighter future.
And I think that whole story must be told – not just a fragment of the story. And that, from my assessment, I’d say that’s one of the challenges of this conversation.
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