One employee at the state's Department of Transportation office in Buffalo took an unusual leave of absence: He went back to his native country of Somalia to be its prime minister. Mohamed Adullahi Mohamed spoke with the NY Times about being back in his war-torn homeland, "Every morning when I was brushing my teeth I heard bullets hitting the metal over my window. It was like, pop pop pop pop. The first day I was shocked. But after that I knew the bullets would not get through, so I continued brushing."
Mohamed, who had been making sure NYS DOT contracts comply with non-discrimination policies, became Somalia's prime minister in November 2010, resigning this past June, with BBC News reporting that he initially refused to step down but later agreed "in the interest of the Somali people." (BBC News also added, "Somalia has been without an effective central government since the fall of the Siad Bare regime in 1991, as rival factions constantly fight for power.") But, according to the Times, this is how he ascended to the position:
On Oct. 14, 2010, after a meeting with Somalia’s president in Mogadishu, Mr. Mohamed was appointed prime minister, and by November he was on the job, governing a country ravaged by terrorism and on the brink of dire famine.
“I called my wife every other night so she would know I’m still here,” he said. His interior minister was killed by a suicide bomb carried by the minister’s niece.
“It was a risk,” he said. “But if you want to do good things, a position like that comes with a level of personal risk.” His salary was the same as what he earns at the Transportation Department, from which he took a one-year leave of absence.
Mohamed, 49, had worked for the Somali ministry in D.C. in the 1980s, but when he criticized the Somali government, he applied for asylum in the U.S.
A foreign police expert told the Times, "[Mohamed] came in talking tough on corruption"—a big issue in Somalia—""And there was quite a lot of public demonstration of support for him. But there’s little evidence of any improvement made. The ultimate verdict is that his heart was in the right place; he went in and was immediately fed to the sharks." Another said, "If the argument is that he fought corruption, it’s either a smoke screen or he’s absurdly incompetent. Corruption grew during his tenure as prime minister." Well, NY State is awesome with corruption.
His coworkers are happy he's back—one said, "We weren’t sure he’d return to D.O.T., because once you do something grand like that, to come back to this humble work is something else."