Sharon Sayles Belton

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sharon Sayles Belton
Sharon Sayles Belton as mayor of Mayor of Minneapolis in the 1990s
45th Mayor of Minneapolis
In office
January 1, 1994 – December 31, 2001
Preceded byDonald M. Fraser
Succeeded byR. T. Rybak
President of the Minneapolis City Council
In office
Member of the Minneapolis City Council
from the 8th Ward
In office
Personal details
Sharon Sayles

(1951-05-13) May 13, 1951 (age 72)
Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic (DFL)
Alma materMacalester College

Sharon Sayles Belton (born May 13, 1951) is an American community leader, politician and activist. She is Vice President of Community Relations and Government Affairs for Thomson Reuters Legal business.[1]

She served as mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1994 until 2001, the first African American and first woman to hold that position.

Early life and education[edit]

Sayles Belton was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, as one of four daughters of Bill and Ethel Sayles.[2] After her parents separated, she lived for one year with her mother in Richfield, Minnesota, where she was the only African American in East Junior High School, then moved to south Minneapolis to live with her father and stepmother. She attended Central High School in Minneapolis.[3] She volunteered as a candy striper at Mount Sinai Hospital, and later worked as a nurse's aide. She was briefly a civil rights activist in the state of Mississippi.

Sayles Belton attended Macalester College in Saint Paul, where she studied biology and sociology. She later worked as a parole officer with victims of sexual assault. Like her grandfather Bill Sayles, she became a neighborhood activist.[4]


In 1983, Sayles Belton was elected by the Eighth Ward to the Minneapolis City Council. She was inspired by working with mayor Donald M. Fraser. She represented the state at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, where Minnesota politician Walter Mondale was nominated for President of the United States. A member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, Sayles Belton was elected city council president in 1990.

In 1993, she announced her candidacy for mayor. With the help of three phone banks and a staff of ten, she was elected on a platform that included reform of the police department, the first African American and the first woman mayor in the city's 140-year history. She defeated DFL former Hennepin County Commissioner John Derus. She was reelected in 1997, defeating Republican candidate Barbara Carlson. Sayles Belton held the position for two terms, from January 1, 1994, to December 31, 2001.[4]

The city also addressed archaic utilities billing, outdated water treatment and neighborhood flooding. By the end of the decade, Minneapolis had increased property values, the city had its first increase in population since the 1940s, and there was reversal of a "50-year economic slide." Fraser credits Sayles Belton with stabilizing neighborhoods amid racial tensions, supporting the school system, and being an able and savvy city manager. Critics opposed the use of city subsidies for downtown development, said to total $90 million combined for the Target store and Block E.[5][6]

In the 2001, election Sayles Belton lost her party's endorsement and the Democratic primary to R. T. Rybak, who received the support of the powerful Minneapolis Police Federation. After leaving the mayor's office, Sayles Belton became a senior fellow at the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice. The center is part of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Sayles Belton worked in community affairs and community involvement for the GMAC Residential Finance Corporation, headquartered in Minneapolis. In 2010, she joined Thomson Reuters as vice president of Community Relations and Government Affairs, based in Eagan, Minnesota.

Personal life[edit]

She is married to Steven Belton, with whom she raised three children: Kilayna, Jordan, and Coleman.[7]


Sayles Belton is involved in race equality, community and neighborhood development, public policy, women's, family and children's issues, police-community relations and youth development.[8] In 1978 she co-founded the Harriet Tubman Shelter for Battered Women in Minneapolis. She is a co-founder of the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She contributed to the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, Clean Water Partnership, Children's Healthcare and Hospital, the American Bar Association,[9] the Bush Foundation, the United States Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, and Hennepin County Medical Center by chairing or serving on their boards.[8][10]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • Gertrude E. Rush Distinguished Service Award presented by the National Bar Association
  • Rosa Parks Award, presented by the American Association for Affirmative Action
  • A bust of Sayles Belton was unveiled in Minneapolis City Hall[11][12] on May 16, 2017, which was declared Sharon Sayles Belton day in Minnesota by Governor Mark Dayton.[11]


  1. ^ "Thomson Reuters Names Sharon Sayles Belton VP of Community Relations and Government Affairs for Its Legal Business | Minnesota Business Magazine | Minnesota Business Blogs". Minnesota Business. Retrieved 2010-07-20.
  2. ^ Minnesota Historical Society quoted by the African American Registry (2005). "Sharon Sayles Belton, the first Black and woman mayor of Minneapolis". Archived from the original on 2006-10-19. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
  3. ^ Brandt, S. (2013-07-03). "Central alums mark alma mater's centennial". Star Tribune. Minneapolis-St. Paul. Retrieved 2020-05-24.
  4. ^ a b Anderson, G.R. Jr. (October 31, 2001). "The Education of Sharon Sayles Belton". City Pages. Vol. 22, no. 1091. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
  5. ^ Olson, Dan (November 7, 2001). "The political legacy of Sharon Sayles Belton". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
  6. ^ Hughes, Art (October 24, 2001). "Profile: Sharon Sayles Belton". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
  7. ^ "Sharon Sayles Belton". Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  8. ^ a b University of Minnesota (February 20, 2006). "Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs: Sharon Belton". Archived from the original on May 19, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
  9. ^ National Organization for Women (2007). "NOW National Conference 2002: Speakers". Archived from the original on 2004-03-21. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
  10. ^ Star Tribune (September 20, 2013). "New HCMC leader looks to improve systems, care and costs". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  11. ^ a b Colbert, Jr., Harry (May 17, 2017). "Minneapolis' first Black mayor, first woman mayor, Sharon Sayles Belton, honored with monument". Insight News. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  12. ^ Belz, Adam (May 16, 2017). "Minneapolis honors former Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton with bronze bust". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2017-05-17.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of Minneapolis
1994 – 2001
Succeeded by