The National Foundation for Women Legislators Jan. 20 announced that Manhattan, Kansas, mayor and U.S. Senate candidate Usha Reddi was among the 43 recipients of their 2019 Elected Women of Excellence Award.
The award recognizes women whose work has overcome obstacles and made elected office a realistic goal for other women in their communities.
In selecting Reddi, NFWL noted her achievements in making Manhattan a more inclusive and vibrant city and providing inspiration and an example for other women, according to the news release.
By winning two four-year terms on the Manhattan City Commission and declaring her candidacy to become a U.S. Senator, Reddi establishes several firsts.
She is the first Indian American to serve as mayor in Kansas; the first mayor of a city in Kansas to simultaneously run for a U.S. Senate seat; and the first woman of color to run for U.S. Senate from Kansas.
Reddi started her second term as mayor on Jan. 7, having been first been elected City Commission in 2013, and re-elected in 2017.
Reddi declared her candidacy in the race for U.S. Senate in August 2019, after the retirement of Kansas Senator Pat Roberts. She believes that issues facing national government are the same basic tasks that confront cities: jobs and the workforce, infrastructure, health and safety, and Reddi’s special interest, public education, the release notes.
Traveling across Kansas since July 2019, Reddi says the problems that concern Kansans most are healthcare, public education, and workforce needs, which she believes overlap with immigration policy.
As a local elected leader, she has prioritized partnerships and built constructive relationships with businesses, social service organizations, state and federal government agencies, and education entities at all levels, it said.
Among her proudest accomplishments are working closely with partners to ensure that National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility is successfully integrated into the greater community; signing the city’s non-discrimination act after expanding it to apply to sexual orientation and gender identity; and leading the city in a collaboration to establish a Crisis Stabilization Center in Manhattan that meets short-term needs for mental health and substance abuse counseling.
Reddi received encouragement to join the Senate race from her family and those who know her success as mayor. She has lived in the United States since 1973, when her family immigrated from Andhra Pradesh, India.
She became a citizen in 1987, and moved to Manhattan in 1992, where she raised her three children.
Reddi decided to become a public-school teacher after years of volunteering in the public schools that her children attended. She earned a bachelor’s from Kansas State University in 2003 and a master’s from Kansas State in 2011.
As an educator, she won the 2004 Kansas Department of Education Horizon Award; the 2011 Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 Teacher of the Year; and the 2017 Susan M. Scott Award for Community Leadership from Kansas State University’s Staley School of Leadership.
Reddi also served as president of the National Education Association of Manhattan-Ogden USD 383, fighting for teacher benefits so other educators could better serve students.
(See earlier India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2O2VRLI)