South Portland City Councilor Deqa Dhalac was elected to represent District 5 in 2018, and decided to run for a second term this year because, “Representation matters. With what’s going on in the country, with the division we are seeing, with the changes happening locally and nationally, my work is not done yet.” Dhalac is proud of what she helped South Portland accomplish during her first term in office, is pleased about the direction South Portland has taken in recent years, and looks forward to the work ahead. “South Portland has been doing amazing work,” she said. She is running unopposed.
During her first term, Dhalac successfully encouraged South Portland to join Cities for Citizenship, a national initiative to encourage citizenship and civic engagement. She helped pass a 2019 resolution supporting accelerated climate action. More recently, after the city passed a resolution condemning racism in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, she proposed the creation of the South Portland Human Rights Commission. “I didn’t want us to make a statement and think that work was done. We have to look at human beings in general – not just a small privileged group, but also the elderly, disabled, LGBTQ – we formed the commission because we wanted all people to be helped. People are angry, and energized around issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity. I wanted to create a commission that would be long-term, and not easy to get rid of, unlike many such commissions and steering committees, which are set up for the short term.”
Dhalac expressed concern that institutions do not always work for everyone. “We need to figure out why local police stop more people of color than their white peers. And when we look to fill positions, and advertise, we need to be sure we are reaching people of color.” She noted that when new marijuana stores are approved, “all the new shops are always approved for District 5. Why not for other districts?” Other major issues concerning those living in her district are generally the same as those impacting residents of the other four districts: the environment, jobs, education, short-term rentals, and affordable housing.
Originally from a politically active family in Somalia, Deqa Dhalac has lived in South Portland for 12 years, and the United States for 28 years. Before fleeing war-torn Somalia, she studied English, Italian, and Arabic, and earned a degree in accounting. Since moving to Maine, she has earned two master’s degrees – one in social work and the other in development policy and practice. She works as the Family Engagement and Cultural Responsiveness specialist at the Maine Department of Education, has served as a leader of the Somali Community Center of Maine since 2011, and is on the boards of I’m Your Neighbor Books and Emerge Maine. She is co-founder of Cross-Cultural Community Services.