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Former Wilmington city council member Rysheema Dixon passes away unexpectedly


Former Wilmington City Council member and community activist Rysheema Dixon passed away unexpectedly this week.

Dixon served as a member of Wilmington City Council for five years, becoming the youngest and first African American woman to fill an at-large seat.

As a council member, Dixon led efforts to add sexual consent-focused lessons into public school curricula and pushed for a study of disparities in Wilmington’s economic development programs.

Dixon was also the CEO and President of RD Innovative Planning, a community development consulting business that works with nonprofit organizations and provides personal coaching for entrepreneurs.

She resigned from her position on the council in January to pursue new business opportunities. She was replaced by Albert Mills.

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzyki issued his condolences to Dixon’s family on Friday and thanked her for her service to the city.

Wilmington City Council also remembered Dixon in a joint statement.

"As a former At-Large City Council member, educator, community activist, and business entrepreneur, Rysheema had an incredible impact on our city," the statement read. "She was a tireless community champion who continuously went above and beyond for her city since first being elected to the Council in November 2016 and again in November 2020. As the city's youngest and first African American woman in the At-Large seat, Rysheema's passion for serving others, diversifying Wilmington, and improving the quality of life for all citizens will not be forgotten."

Condolences also came from all corners of Delaware's political world.

“She was passionate about lifting up the people of [Wilmington], from fostering other entrepreneurs to introducing consent-focused lessons in our schools," said Sen. Chris Coons. "My staff and I both knew her well, and strongly admired her. She was far too young to be lost, and her passing will have a ripple effect far beyond just this community.”

“Wilmington has lost a bright light in our community today. Rysheema Dixon was a dedicated councilwoman and community leader who spent her life in the service of others. I know her commitment to the greater good — including her extraordinary work at Pathways to Apprenticeship — will ensure that her legacy continues to live on," said Sen. Tom Carper.

"A professor, entrepreneur, and public servant, Councilwoman Dixon dedicated the better part of her life to helping others. Those lucky enough to work with her in any capacity saw first-hand her commitment, passion, and love for her community and its people," said Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. "It was those guiding principles that inspired her to run for City Council where she spent the past five years pursuing policies to improve public schools, address the housing crisis, and combat racial disparity in Wilmington. Most recently, she served as Executive Director of Delaware Pathways to Apprenticeship where she helped low-wealth individuals and returning citizens gain the skills, confidence, and connections to secure apprenticeships – a common passion we both shared."

"Her passing is a tremendous loss to the community she represented and served throughout her life, said Delaware's Legislative Black Caucus in a joint statement. "Rysheema was an activist, a leader, an entrepreneur, and a friend to all those she encountered. Through her own company, she brought Wilmington Play Streets to communities throughout the city, promoting healthy lifestyles and community programming for children and families. Her passing leaves a void that cannot be filled."

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.