Shortly after he officially assumed his duties, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III received yet another reminder of his historic achievement as the city’s first Black mayor.
“We were sitting there with” other newly elected Black mayors, incumbent Black mayors, and former Black mayors at a national mayors’ conference in Washington D.C. in January, Carter remembered. “All of these incredible people… these older mayors just went way out of their way to check in with us [and show] how can they support our success.
“It was an honor for me to see these people — momentous figures in American history. That was a momentous moment.”
Carter said he has been taking in all the breathtaking moments since his election last fall as he embarks on his first term as mayor of his hometown.
“I have an amazing family, from my wife Dr. Sakeena Carter to our children to my parents,” the fourth generation St. Paulite proudly noted. “I see it through their eyes. These are the folk who prop you, who lift you up, and pull you away so you can relax and breathe.”
Carter is also the second consecutive St. Paul native to serve as the city’s top executive, a feat he said was not lost on him. “My life in many ways [provides]… the incredible opportunity to show what St. Paul has to offer. I think my life experience gives me a perspective and context, and the nuances.
“Being a son of a St. Paul police officer, I prayed [for his father’s] safety every day,” Carter said. “Being an African American growing up in this city, I also know what it feels like to be pulled over for driving while Black. Being able to get these two experiences together gives me a real context of policing.”
The mayor last month released an updated use of force policy for St. Paul police officers and supervisors to apply on all calls. It includes new guidelines in de-escalation, medical services, training and intervention.
St. Paul must be “a welcoming place” for all citizens, and the city’s police department plays a key part in ensuring that all St. Paul residents are served and protected fairly, Carter said.
The new policy is expected to be included in his first State of the City address on Saturday at Johnson High School, along with his vision for a St. Paul “that works for all of us,” he said.
Finally, “I am very aware of the importance of this role, the magnitude of things that rely on us getting this right,” Carter stated. “It is very natural to build a team and administration that reflects the diversity of this city. In doing so, that makes resources and policy decisions more natural for our administration as well.
“If we are really going to be innovated, resilient and drive equity, that means people across the city have to [be involved],” Carter stressed.
Carter will deliver his first State of the City address April 14 at Johnson High School. The event will be part of a half-day State of Our City Summit open to the public of all ages from 9 am to noon.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org