(KMSP) - Mayor-Elect Melvin Carter says supporting schools and starting the process of raising the minimum wage are among his top priorities as he plans the start of his new administration.
In his first sit down interview with Fox 9 since his historic election on Nov. 7, Carter says he’s still trying get use to people calling him Mr. Mayor-Elect.
”I walked my children to school this morning and waking back through the park there was a guy in the park who shouted out, ‘Hey, you’re the mayor! I’m really excited and change is coming to St. Paul,’” said Carter.
Carter received more than 50 percent of first choice ballots in the first round of counting in St. Paul’s ranked choice election. He becomes the city’s first black mayor.
“There’s a whole lot to tackle,” said Carter. “We’ve spent a year talking about what it takes to really build St. Paul into a city that works for everyone, and that really starts with our schools and our education system.”
What Carter has in mind is making sure the assets the city already operates, such as community centers and libraries, are doing more to help families.
“In a city like St. Paul, so many of our children - 72 percent of our children - qualify for free and reduced lunch. So we have children in our schools who show up at school worried about where they are going to sleep tonight,” said Carter. “So there are a lot of things our schools can do, but making sure that families are connected to resources.”
Many libraries are already fulfilling Carter’s vision. For early learners, St. Paul Public Libraries offer story time sessions in nine different languages. At the Rondo Public Library, the city’s busiest, the staff offers space for afterschool homework help giving students access to computers to complete class assignments. The library just finished a $500,000 renovation that includes new library materials and rooms for classes such as programs in how to start a business.
Raising wages are also a top priority.
“And, we are going to work really hard as a city to say we are going to invest in the parts of our city and the people and the people in our city how have been disinvested in. That means getting the ball rolling right away on raising the minimum wage,” said Carter.
Carter vows to work with the business community on wages to ensure that the city is improving the economy for everyone. “We’re going to work together really closely with the advocacy community, with our labor community and also with our business community on what they have to say. We have to figure out the best way to do that for St. Paul. That’s not automatically the way that Minneapolis or the State did it,” said Carter.
Voters in both St. Paul and Minneapolis elected new, fairly young mayors. Minneapolis Mayor-elect Jacob Frey is 36, Carter is 38 and reflects that voters have sent many young new leaders into office. “And I’m excited to see that. I think that’s about honoring the generations that have come before us an knowing that we are continuing the build upon the strong legacy that we are continuing to build right here in St. Paul and Minnesota.”
Carter says he also wants to work right away on community-first policing to ensure mutual trust and respect between neighborhoods and officers. But he’s already making the argument for creating a higher minimum wage, believing it will help all corners of the city.
“That means investing in those cultural economic corridors that we have all over our city that hold a lot of promise to build economic vitality and create jobs in the areas that we need it most,” said Carter. “And that means making it easier to open a business and partner with City Hall to make sure that the promise of entrepreneurship is open in every corner of St. Paul.”