Nekima Levy-Pounds is running for mayor of Minneapolis

Nekima Levy-Pounds is a political rookie, but no stranger to fighting city hall.

Nekima Levy-Pounds is a political rookie, but no stranger to fighting city hall. Star Tribune

Minneapolis has a mayor's race after all.

Nekima Levy-Pounds, an attorney and activist who made a name for herself as a leader with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and the Minneapolis NAACP, announced Monday that she would seek the city's top political post in 2017. Levy-Pounds has not held or sought elected office before. 

Levy-Pounds, 40, took on an increasingly high profile over the past year, becoming a spokeswoman for reaction movements following the police shooting death of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis, and the subsequent occupation protest of the Fourth Police Precinct. In that role, Levy-Pounds regularly clashed with Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau, Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.

The Star Tribune broke the news of Levy-Pounds' plan Monday evening, on the eve of an official public announcement from the candidate. Levy-Pounds will use the site of the long-term protest, outside the police precinct in north Minneapolis, to stage her campaign launch.

Levy-Pounds also agitated for change at the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, which she said was making racially motivated decisions on employment and budget expenses. In July, parks board president Liz Wielinski and vice president Scott Vreeland both stepped down from their leadership posts.

Levy-Pounds worked as a professor at the St. Thomas Law School for 13 years starting in 2003. She was born in Mississippi and moved with her family to Los Angeles as a child, later relocating to Andover, Massachusetts to attend a prestigious private school in that state. 

She received an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California and went to law school at the University of Illinois, where she worked briefly before moving to the Twin Cities. She lived in Brooklyn Park prior to moving to north Minneapolis in 2015. 

Levy-Pounds' name was one of a half-dozen prominent liberal figures used in recent phone call polls in the city of Minneapolis. Other names floated as part of that poll include Minneapolis City Council members Alondra Cano and Jacob Frey; who paid for the polling remains unknown. 

At that time, back in October, Mayor Hodges told City Pages she "won't be making any announcements" about seeking a second term in office until the 2016 general election is over. "I intend to run for reelection," she said. "I'm leading good work at the city, and I'm not done."

Hodges' top priority as a candidate and incoming mayor was to alleviate the city's gross inequity in quality of living for black residents, who make up about 20 percent of the city's population. Levy-Pounds made clear the continuing issues of racial inequality will be a central point of her mayoral campaign.

“Given the high rates of racial disparities that communities of color are experiencing," she told the Star Tribune, "we can no longer afford business as usual.”