Fifty-seven-year-old Usha Reddi, who served as the first Indian-American Mayor of Manhattan, Kansas, and the first woman of color ever to run for a United States Senate seat from the State, was sworn in as State Senator on January 11, 2023.
Soon after being sworn in, Reddi, who supports pre-K to 16 education funding, small business, voter rights, Medicaid expansion, mental health funding, and is pro-choice, tweeted “I was sworn in this afternoon as State Senator for District 22. It was great to have my family join me today. I look forward to representing you. Yours in public service.”
Reddi also thanked Senator Tom Hawk, who she replaced in the State Senate. Reddi, who will complete Senator Hawk’s tenure, which will expire in 2025 said, “Thank you, Senator Tom Hawk for your dedicated service. You lead with sincere love for community and built strong relationships along the way. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement.”
Reddi who has lived in Kansas for over 27 years, has been involved in public life for over a decade and served as Mayor twice. She was first elected to the Manhattan City Commission in April 2013, and re-elected to the Commission twice in 2017, and 2021. Reddi also launched her campaign for the United States Senate in August 2019, to contest for an open seat soon after Senator Pat Roberts announced his retirement. But a few months into her intense campaign, in May 2020, Reddi withdrew her candidacy.
Kickstarting her campaign for the US Senate, Reddi said, “Kansas needs a champion who will fight for education, health care access, and economic and workforce policies that benefit all people, not just the wealthy,” adding “Too many children are going to bed hungry, too many individuals are struggling with mental illness and too many hard working families are having trouble making ends meet.”
Voicing her deep frustration about the constant blame game, excuses, and people’s archaic unyielding mindset that it’s difficult to change things, Reddi shared painful personal details, “The public knows me in a variety of ways, but the other part to my narrative is I’m also a victim of sexual assault, and the perpetrator in this instance happens to be my father [Venkata Yeleti].”
“I have faced and defeated many challenges in my life with tenacity and resolve for a better future,” Reddi added. “Now, I am ready to take that power, energy and fortitude to the United States Senate to work on a better future for Kansans.”
Soon after her launch, Reddi’s campaign for the US Senate gained national attention when she participated on the annual IMPACT Summit’s panel “Women of Color, Here to Lead” in Washington DC, along with a number women of color running for elected office. “Whether I win the seat or not, I have a voice that can speak to so many things,” she said. “We need to move away from the status-quo conversation and really start talking about issues that matter to people.”
In January 2020, Reddi also received the 2019 Elected Women of Excellence Award from the National Foundation for Women Legislators for being an inspiration to minorities running for elected offices.
However, in May 2020, Reddi suspended her campaign stating, “These unprecedented times of the coronavirus pandemic require that my work as the Mayor of Manhattan be my first and only priority… Working together, we will beat this virus and re-make our vibrant community and economy… My attention must continue to be focused on the people, organizations, and businesses of Manhattan and our region.”
“I’ve learned so much from you and know we must continue to press for needed changes in improving health care, addressing climate change, strengthening public education and protecting the right to vote,” she pointed out.
Reddi who was an elementary school teacher at Ogden Elementary School in Ogden, KS, received her Bachelor’s in Developmental Psychology from Ohio State University, and Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and Master’s in Educational Leadership from Kansas State University. She came to the United States from Andhra Pradesh, India, at the age of eight in 1973. She and her husband, Brian Neuhoff have four children, Ben, Ravi Reddi, Srikanth Reddi, and Santhi Reddi.