In front of a packed room at his alma mater, Central High School in St. Paul, Melvin Carter III took his oath as the mayor of St. Paul, becoming the city’s first African American to hold the position.
The inauguration ceremony began at noon and included remarks from Gov. Mark Dayton and former Minneapolis mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, the first Black mayor of Minneapolis; Native dancing and drumming; and blessings from various faith communities.
Carter was also honored with a presentation by the Boy Scout’s Troup 61 Pilgrim Baptist Church, and spoken word by St. Paul native Tao SaiKo Lee. Mint Condition’s own Stokley Williams performed a soulful rendition of the national anthem.
Carter’s speech struck a hopeful note as thanked his predecessor former mayor Chris Coleman, who is running for governor; his mayoral opponents; Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and his family and many supporters.
“My love for Saint Paul goes back 100 years to when my great-grandparents fled here from the hatred and violence of the Deep South,” said Carter. “They couldn’t have imagined the opportunity this city has shown me. I’m the son of a policeman and a teacher; a product of our public schools and rec centers who grew up to be a city council member, advisor to Governor Dayton, and now mayor of the greatest city in the world.”
Carter pledged to work to improve the city in what he called “the three pillars” of “public safety, education and economic justice.”
“It’s good for the youth to see” someone like Carter succeed, said Devon Gilchrist of the St. Paul City Human Rights Commission. “Seeing folks that look like them become presidents, council members, legislatures, and mayors makes it more tangible. We didn’t see that in our generation.”
Leslie Redmond, vice president of the NAACP Minneapolis chapter, echoed Gilchrist’s sentiments. “It’s a huge moment, not just for Black people, but for all people — seeing someone who looked like me get this opportunity. Historically, when Black people do better in America, it’s better for everybody.”
Redmond said she enjoyed hearing about Carter’s vision and wondered how the Minneapolis NAACP could use his “three pillars” as a model for success.
The inauguration kicked off a week of events for Carter, which include informal meet-ups at community spaces throughout Saint Paul, and at the Rice Street Recreation Center for a service project. The week will culminate with an inaugural ball at Union Depot on Friday, January 5 at 7 pm. For more inaugural week event information, go here.
To read Carter’s full address, go to Melvin Carter Inaugural Address 2018.
Below, video of the full inauguration ceremony courtesy of the City of St. Paul.
Ivan B. Phifer contributed to this report.