Melvin Carter sworn-in as St. Paul's first African-American mayor

Melvin Carter made history Tuesday in St. Paul, becoming the city’s first African-American mayor. Carter was sworn-in at a noon ceremony at his alma mater Central High School. 

Carter said his love affair with the city goes back to his childhood.

“I’m the son of a policeman and a teacher,” said Carter. “A proud product of our public schools and rec centers, a council member, an advisor to Governor Dayton, and now mayor of the greatest city in the world.”  

As the new mayor he wasted little time in outlining his top priorities of public safety, education, and economic justice.

“I will propose a partnership between business, philanthropy and non-profit leaders to start every child born in St. Paul with a $50 college savings account,” said Carter. “And… because no one who works full time should every be stuck in poverty, I will work closely with our city council to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for every worker in our city as soon as possible.”

But he implored that he can’t do it alone.

“The work of building the city can’t be just on one person in any role,” said Carter. “So, the work of our mayor’s office is going to be designed as I said in my speech not to just lift my voice but to lift every voice in our city and I ask people to come and do the work with us.”  


I’m excited for the future.  Not just because of my new role, but because of our collective spirit; our collective willingness to reimagine Saint Paul; our collective drive to build a city that works for all of us.

We have a lot of work to do. 

Right here in Minnesota, we face some of the worst disparities in the country due to decades of policy and resource decisions that, by excluding whole communities from the table, too often serve to weaken or even weaponize the public systems we look to for help.

We don’t have to look far for a vivid reminder of that truth.

My grandfather, Melvin Carter Sr, owned over a half-dozen properties in our historic Rondo neighborhood, which was destroyed to build the freeway just below us.

It was his parents who fled here from Texas, and no one would have been prouder than my namesake to say the words, “Mayor Melvin Carter”.  If I regret anything about this past year, it’s that Grampa isn’t here with us today.

He was a special man; a jazz musician who played with all the greats and entertained four U.S. Presidents. My grandmother always said he loved his trumpet most, but despite every opportunity to travel the world, he stayed home. Raised his family, taught lessons, and worked 28 years as a custodian at Humboldt High School, before finally retiring at a wage of $15 per hour.

We’ve changed a lot since then, and we’re transforming again now. In neighborhood after neighborhood I hear that as excited as we are about our future, we’re also afraid of what it might bring:

We’re afraid equity means turning our back on those who are doing well;

That bikes, density and transit will change our neighborhoods;

That supporting workers will hurt business, and supporting teachers will hurt students. 

We’re afraid of having to choose – between preserving the traditions our parents loved and building the city our children deserve.

I understand those fears. That freeway cost my family everything, so I'll be first to admit change can be scary.

But we all exist in a long line of immigrants and refugees who’ve conquered incredible odds to find hope in Saint Paul. This beautiful diverse city they built for us is our ticket to the future: 

Imagine the city we’ll be when we start celebrating instead of accepting our diversity; When we see children not as English Learners but as Language Teachers; and invite companies to invest not with big tax breaks, but with the richness of our strong schools; multilingual workforce; and 21st century infrastructure.

We can honor our past and build our future – at the same time – by betting on the limitless potential in our children & families; our workers and entrepreneurs. That's what reimagining Saint Paul is all about.

This work is more urgent than ever, so I need your help. A Mayor can draft a budget and sign policy into law, but the power to transform our city still belongs to all of us.

In a city where a child’s life outcomes can still be better predicted by her race than by her work ethic, we need a new approach to city-building; 

We must examine every law, every system, every policy and process to eliminate structural inequity and give every child born in Saint Paul the opportunity to achieve her full potential.

Building a city that works for everyone can only happen if everyone gets to build.

This can’t just be the work of the mayor and city council, it has to be all of us.  

Many of you have joined over the past 2 years in Imagine Saint Paul, our initiative to convene people across neighborhoods and build a big vision for our city. 

Three hundred of you stepped forward last month to help our community hiring process build our leadership team.

Your words and actions have said loud and clear that you want to help; that you have more to offer, so our City Hall won’t be designed to simply lift my voice, but to lift every voice, starting with those who have gone ignored for far too long.

We’ll expand Imagine Saint Paul into Serve Saint Paul, and invite you to build sweat equity in our city through service.

We’ll invite you to help build the vision; to help advance our values through policy proposals; and to help advocate for the lasting, transformative change we seek.

We’ll invite you to serve on task forces, commissions, district councils and nonprofit boards; and as volunteers in our schools, libraries and rec centers. 

Building a city that works for all of us will require all of us to do the work.

I am honored to accept this great responsibility as Mayor of the City of Saint Paul. 

I am humbled by the enormous work ahead; and ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with you to guide this city forward.

We the people, will build a city that works for all of us.

We the people, are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

And we, the people, ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around.

Thank you & God Bless.


Carter has scheduled several days of Inauguration Week events, including meet-ups at community spaces throughout St. Paul and a community service project at the Rice Street Recreation Center. Those events will kickoff with a conversation about the future of St. Paul at Dark Horse Bar and Eatery at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. 

Tuesday, Jan. 2

Inauguration ceremony at Central High School, 12 p.m.

Imagine St. Paul meet-up at Dark Horse Bar (250 E. 7th Street), 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 3

Imagine St. Paul meet-up at Groundswell Coffee Bar (1340 Thomas Avenue W.), 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Imagine St. Paul meet-up at El Burrito Mercado (175 Cesar Chavez Street), 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Imagine St. Paul meet-up at Dancing Goat Coffee (699 7th Street E.), 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 4

Imagine St. Paul meet-up at Good Thyme Coffee (921 Selby Avenue), 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Imagine St. Paul meet-up at Hmong Village (1001 Johnson Parkway), 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Imagine St. Paul service project at Rice Recreation Center, 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 5

Imagine St. Paul meet-up at Coffee Bene (53 Cleveland Avenue S.), 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Imagine St. Paul meet-up at Awash Market (590 University Avenue W.), 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Inaugural Ball at Union Depot, 7 p.m. to midnight


Carter is taking over for Chris Coleman, who served 12 years as mayor of St. Paul.

Over in Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey was sworn-in Tuesday morning in a private ceremony at City Hall. The former city councilman won the election in November, beating incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges. Frey wants to focus his term on affordable housing, better police-community relations and fueling economic growth. 

Voters in both St. Paul and Minneapolis elected new, fairly young mayors. Minneapolis Mayor-elect 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 said.