By Harry Colbert, Jr.
St. Paul’s Central High School needs to add another photo on its Hall of Fame wall.
The photo is of an effervescent young man who has risen through the ranks of government to become the city’s current mayor. The photo is of Melvin Carter. Carter was inaugurated inside the gymnasium of Central High on Jan. 2.
Carter said he was driven to lead by his love for the city he has called home since birth.
“My love for St. Paul goes back 100 years to when my grandparents fled here from the violence and deep hatred in the South,” said Carter during his inaugural remarks. “They couldn’t have imagined the opportunity this city would show me.”
Carter thanked outgoing mayor Chris Coleman for his leadership, saying he helped in turning around the fortunes of St. Paul, but Carter said there is still work to be done.
“Right now is an exciting time in St. Paul. St. Paul is a city with momentum, but we are also a city with deep inequity,” said Carter, the city’s first African-American mayor. “I know first-hand how it feels to live on a block devastated by foreclosures, to long for a teacher for my kids that looks like them; and what it feels like to be stopped by police again and again. We have work to do to fulfil St. Paul’s promise to every person in every part of our city.”
Many St. Paulers are excited to see someone with deep roots and ties to the city in the mayor’s seat.
“I am proud to have a person that comes from a legacy family of taking care of others and the community,” said Phaedre Sanders, a resident of St. Paul. “I’m excited for my son to see his possibilities.”
Rob Coleman, who grew up with Carter said he is proud to see Carter in the mayor’s office not only because he is African-American, but also because he is the best person for the job.
“I think it’s the best thing that could happen for the city right now,” said Coleman. “(Carter) was born and raised in St. Paul and knows the history of the city. Not only by living here, but through his heritage. He knows the issues and understands what needs to be done to make the city better and prosper. I also believe that he will be able to get the residents on board to revive the city and make us come together as one cohesive city.”
Christina Benz, a teacher at Washburn High School in Minneapolis and who lives in St. Paul, said Carter’s election offers hope for St. Paul, but also hope for many of her students of color.
“Melvin Carter is breaking the status quo of the typical white man in power,” said Benz. “I’m excited to talk about this with my Black and Brown students because they can see themselves in him. I want them to be empowered. It also provides hope for me that we can come together as a community to push for more and much needed changes. It shows that progress is slow but can be done.”