Former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton honored with bridge dedication
Vice President of Community Relations and Government Affairs and former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton was honored on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at a dedication ceremony for the newly redesigned 3rd Avenue bridge, which crosses over Interstate 94. The Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired bridge was dedicated as the “Sharon Sayles Belton Bridge.” Also, on the plaza at the north end of the bridge, a new public sculpture called “Beacon” was officially lit to honor Sayles Belton’s historic accomplishments.
The City first built the now-iconic bridge in 2000, under Mayor Sayles Belton’s leadership. As part of the Avenue of the Arts project, which was aimed at generating civic energy, pride and excitement for the arts, the bridge connects the Mississippi River, the City’s administrative center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Sayles Belton served as Mayor of Minneapolis from 1994 to 2001, and was the first woman and first African American to hold the post. Before becoming mayor, she represented the residents of Ward 8 on the City Council for 10 years, the last three also serving as City Council President.
Among her many accomplishments, Sayles Belton was a champion of the arts and urban vitality. During her tenure, the City renovated the historic theaters on Hennepin Avenue, creating a regional venue for national theatrical and musical productions. She also spearheaded efforts to reconnect the city to the Mississippi River by revitalizing the blighted central riverfront and transforming it into a thriving area for housing, entertainment, recreation and culture.
A recurring question in Sayles Belton’s speeches asks how we can strengthen connections among the public, businesses and City government. Excerpts on the back wall of the plaza include some of her inspiring and thought-provoking words that remain relevant and will continue to guide us.
“Minneapolis is a great city and it was my privilege to serve as its mayor,” said Sayles Belton at the dedication. “My vision for Third Avenue, the Avenue of the Arts, was to enrich the quality of life for everyone by celebrating and building on our core strengths, which are our culture, traditions and common values. My prayer for the city is that everyone may experience hope both in times of desperation and seasons of aspiration, that each of us will seek the light and share its warmth, and that all of us will work for the common good equally as hard as we endeavor to achieve our personal goals. I am grateful for the honor of having this beautiful bridge bear my name and this wonderful sculpture represent my legacy as mayor.”
Offering remarks at the bridge dedication were Mayor R.T. Rybak, former Rector of the Basilica of St. Mary Father Michael O’Connell, Sayles Belton’s former Chief of Staff Colleen Moriarty, and Sayles Belton’s husband Steven Belton.
“Social justice issues were always paramount in Sharon’s mind,” said Moriarty. “Everything we did and every time we gathered together, whether it was a budget hearing with the dedicated department heads or whether it was just in our staff meetings, she always asked ‘who is this going to help? How is this going to make things better for people in our city?’”
Mike Suchsland, president of the Legal business of Thomson Reuters, was in attendance at the dedication ceremony. “We don’t always fully understand the paths that our colleagues walked prior to joining our team,” Suchsland said. “It was inspiring to hear tribute to Sharon’s leadership and her dedication to people and our community – things that we rely on Sharon to bring to the table here at Thomson Reuters – and to see her publically acknowledged for the enormous and positive contribution she had, and continues to have, on Minneapolis and on Minnesota overall.”