What you need to know:
- Mr Boni Njenga’s mother sent him to the US in 2003 to keep him away from bad peer influence after his high school education.
- Today, Mr Njenga, an American citizen with a Master’s degree in Public Administration, is seeking to become the first Kenyan-American to sit as a commissioner in one of the county boards in the US.
- Mr Njenga is challenging first term incumbent Debbie Goettel, whom he acknowledges as a formidable opponent but adds that he is up to the task.
Mr Boni Njenga, a Kenyan-American born in Nakuru Town, has risen from a boy with a troubled childhood to a man with an interest in an elective post in the US, come the elections on November 3.
Mr Njenga’s mother sent him to the US in 2003 to keep him away from bad peer influence after his high school education.
The single mother of six was concerned about the future of her troublesome son who attended four secondary schools.
He attended D.N Handa Secondary School in Naivasha for his Form One, moved to Coulson Secondary School in Gilgil the following year and then transferred to Kalou Secondary School in Ol Kalou for Form Two and Form Three.
He returned to D. N Handa where he sat his O’level exams.
He passed his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams but his mother worried about the effects peer pressure would have on him.
“My mother was concerned about my discipline. I was giving her a difficult time due to bad influence from my peers,” he says.
“To save me from engaging in drug abuse and crime, she decided to send me to the United States of America to live with my brothers. I arrived in the US with a near-empty suitcase and $50 as pocket money.”
Today, Mr Njenga, an American citizen with a Master’s degree in Public Administration, is seeking to become the first Kenyan-American to sit as a commissioner in one of the county boards in the US.
He will vie for a position in the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, District 5 (Bloomington, Richfield and Eden Prairie).
“We are facing challenges like the Opioid crisis, homelessness, lack of public safety, racial disparities and tax levy increases with no accountability and transparency on spending,” he says.
Mr Njenga has lived and worked in Hennepin County for the last nine years.
Being a policy analyst, he says his campaigns are focused on five key areas - creating community wealth, closing achievement gaps, children protective services, safe and affordable housing and improving the quality of life for all residents.
“We can only solve these issues with fresh and bold 21st century governance and by applying evidence-based policy making, which will enable us to curb wasteful spending in Hennepin County, keeping more money in your pocket," he says.
“I want to advocate for the rights of all residents. Today’s challenges require more than a single approach. They require fresh ideas, action and strong advocacy.”
Mr Njenga is challenging first term incumbent Debbie Goettel, whom he acknowledges as a formidable opponent but adds that he is up to the task.
Hennepin is Minnesota’s largest county with an annual budget of $2.5 billion that is overseen by a seven-member board of commissioners.
Mr Njenga criticises the county’s dismal record when it comes to contracting minority entrepreneurs and says one of his desires is to create community wealth, informed by the challenges marginalised communities face.
“Hennepin County, with its millions of dollars, spends less than one per cent in contracting the minority groups,” he says.
“I want to bring a 21st century approach to policy making,” adds Mr Njenga who has previously pushed for opportunities for marginalised groups.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Njenga has been forced to run his campaigns on social media platforms.
“I reach out to voters through my Facebook page (Boni Njenga), my website (www.boninjenga.com) and Twitter account(@Boninjenga). It is not easy but the circumstances have forced us to keep social distancing.”
After moving to the US in 2003, Mr Njenga joined Minnesota State University-Mankato from where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and later a Master’s degree in Public Administration.
He has held supervisory and project management roles with the State before joining the private sector.
He says this background will enable him to offer ideas and innovative approaches for creating sustainable jobs and economic security.
“It will be quite an honour if residents of District 5 give me a chance to serve them and give back to the community that gave me a home and accepted me years ago.
“I have always had the passion for public service and politics. I value the quote by former US President J.F. Kennedy - ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your county’.”
He adds, “I came here as a young confused man, unsure of what the future held for me, but through focus, hard work and mentorship by my lecturers, I can look back and thank my mother for sending me here. I know she is proud of me.
“My mother instilled in me discipline and the value of service to the people. Minnesota gave me an elite education and job experience and I have come to call it home. It will be an honour to serve Minnesota.”
Mr Njenga joins the long list of Africans seeking elective posts in Minnesota since the election of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to the Minnesota Legislature in 2016, and to the US House of Representatives two years later.
She is the first black person born in Africa to be elected to the US Congress and is the highest ranking elected African immigrant politician in the State.