By Abeni Hill –
Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter believes in serving her community and that people from the community are the keys to change.
“The favorite part about my job is getting to meet so many people who have bright ideas and being able to convene together with people and seeing the results of minds coming together,” said Carter. She said the community helped with ideas for the county’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative, a project designed to reduce the time students spend in detention centers as well as other important decisions like the Metro Green Line, the light rail line that connects St. Paul and Minneapolis.
When talking about the most challenging aspect of her job, Carter said bringing people of differing opinions together for a common cause. She explained that sometimes people become so focused on their own ideas they miss the big picture.
“The intersection of our ideas (is) what we think should happen and what we can make happen together is the real opportunity,” said Carter. “Getting through that process takes time and takes patience. It really takes wanting to work through difficulty and wanting to make a difference.”
The community-driven commissioner has been serving District 4 in Ramsey County since she was elected in 2005. After serving as a member and chair on the St. Paul Board of Education, she ran for District 4 commissioner. Carter described her campaign one of hope.
“Our voices were rarely heard in areas of decision making, so it was hopeful that I would be a voice for the African-American community,” said Carter, who said she wanted to bring voices other than her own to the forefront.
Before running for commissioner, Carter became involved in local politics through her children’s schools. She describes herself as an “active parent.”
“I was a working mother and my husband was a working father and our first concern was what would happen with our children whether they were at a good school (and) getting a good education,” said Carter. While being a volunteer on school committees, Carter also became a mentor for the young people in the district.
With her extensive experience in schools and her ability to hold a position in local government for more than 10 years, she sees herself as a strong advocate for people getting involved in local politics and their communities.
“We have the responsibility to work on the things we care about,” said Carter. “There is this phrase, ‘All politics is local.’ You can look around and find things that you are concerned with and when you turn that concern into care you can connect to other people who have a similar concern. Building power then becomes possible. I really believe that is starts with one, but the responsibility is to connect to that one other. which becomes two, 10, and eventually 100,” said Carter.