In 2021, St. Paul’s First African American Mayor Looks Back At His First Four Years

By: Michael McIntee, UpTake Reporter

Melvin Carter won a surprising first ballot victory Tuesday in the crowded St. Paul mayoral race. He got 50.87% of the vote — more than double the vote total of his closest opponent Pat Harris. Carter will be St. Paul’s first African American mayor.

St. Paul uses ranked choice voting and with 10 candidates on the ballot and no incumbent running, election officials expected no candidate would get the needed 50% plus one vote to win on election night and there would need to be several days of “rolling up” the second, third, fourth, fifth and even sixth place votes of voters to determine a winner.

The Friday before election Carter, along with four other leading candidates in the race, was asked to give a speech imagining he was St. Paul mayor and it was four years from now when he would be summing up the accomplishments of his first term.

Although the premise of the speech the speech Carter gave to the forum organized by The Theater of Public Policy was whimsical, it gives you a good idea of what Carter wants to do in the next four years.

Video and transcript

Good evening. Thank you for coming out with me today to the year 2021. I really appreciate you all being here. Some of us got here four years early so I appreciate that as well. I’m Melvin Carter. I’m excited to have served you these last four years in St. Paul. I’m excited about where we are as a city right now. And I’m equally excited about where we’re going next as a city. Four years ago we had a conversation about getting out of the mode of chasing symptoms around and said we as a city are going to start addressing core issues where jobs and our economy is concerned. We’re going to stop- we’re going to get out of this kind of perennial cycle of whether we’re gonna cut services on the thousands of people who need ’em or raise taxes. We got out of that by growing our city and by approaching things like the Ford plant with a big vision for the future of our city so that we know we’re building St. Paul for the future. When we start talking about jobs we realize the goal wasn’t to give a $100 million to banks or to invest in those institutions. But the goal was to address we realize as a city that in the Twin Cities metro area back in 2017 – it’s hard to remember (laughter). But back in 2017, remember we realized there were more jobs vacancies than job seekers in our city? So we realized our challenge was to address the barriers that are disconnecting people from our economy. That’s why we built our city based on making sure that our schools could provide an education, a high quality education, for all of our children. And we expanded the St. Paul promise neighborhood and made sure we were helping families. That’s why we invested in transit and we’ve got River View Corridor under way. And we got more and more projects under way. That’s why we invested in early education so we know we can get our children off to a great start. And that’s also why weaned our city off of our addiction of thinking that public safety is only about hiring more and more and more and more cops. We realized. We realized that’s what got us into this mess in the first place. That’s what over criminalized and marginalized people from whole communities out of our society. That was what was destabilizing our community. And so we took a different route. We said ‘safe communities are built on stable communities.’ Where families can afford to pay the rent, put food on the table. Where children could feel hopeful about their future. We realized that safety is about police officers who are from our community, who know our community, who reflect our diversity, who have a stake in our neighborhoods. And we realized that none of it would work without that trust in the center. That’s why we worked hard to revise the use of force policies. So that we can all be on one accord about when our officers are and are not authorized to use force. That’s why we established those mental health response teams. So that when our officers met people in crisis we could connect them to help. And no we didn’t have to use force. And that’s exactly why we elevated the visibility of our civilian review team. Because we knew that trust that’s been broken in the light can’t be rebuilt in the dark. We can build on all of those things. I’m excited to continue to do it as mayor for another four years. Thank you so much for being here. (applause)

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