St. Paul’s leader

May 22, 2018
Melvin Carter, with the Wabasha Bridge and downtown St. Paul in the background

As St. Paul’s first African American mayor, Melvin Carter III has been building social capital in the capital city since taking office in January. Carter recently talked about his plans and his time at the U’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. 

You’re a fourth-generation St. Paulite. What does leading the city mean to you?

I grew up in the recreation centers, I grew up in the libraries, I grew up in the public schools. As an African American child, I got a chance to see the richness of opportunity that exists in this city and the depth and alarming breadth of people who seem to be locked out of it. … The goal for me is to build a city without outsiders. 

You’ve proposed creating a $50 college savings account for every child born in St. Paul. How will that help?

My story at the University of Minnesota starts long before I started at the Humphrey School. I was a sprinter in high school. We had our summer meets at Bierman. I was also a UMTYMP (University of Minnesota Talented Youth in Mathematics Program) student all through junior high and high school. … I got a chance to see myself as part of the University community. That’s part of the conversation around college savings accounts: for our children to see themselves in college. 

Why come back and enroll in the Humphrey School?

I did an internship in the St. Paul department of planning and economic development during college. I had conversations with planners who would talk about how the design of a neighborhood impacts things like the quality of education children receive and the number of 911 calls. I got excited about that and needed the methodology to figure out how to approach those issues.

What about the U of M stays with you?

One thing I learned in Florida (as a student at Florida A&M) is what an incredible jewel the University of Minnesota is. I would be reading a case study and see that the research had been done at the University of Minnesota. The impact this university has on the country and the world is something.