Mitra Jalali Nelson was sworn in as St. Paul’s newest City Council member Wednesday morning, giving the seven-member council its first elected female majority.
The mood in the council chambers was giddy as dozens of people, from city staffers to U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and state Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, filed in to witness Nelson’s inauguration.
“I love moments like this where we sort of stop the chaos, stop the hard, ongoing, driving work and take a moment to pause and celebrate incredible accomplishments,” said council President Amy Brendmoen.
Nelson, 32, previously worked for Ellison and is the only renter and one of two people of color on the council.
Before the swearing-in, Mayor Melvin Carter, who endorsed Nelson during her campaign, acknowledged the historic transition on the council and in the city as a whole.
“We are all here together to welcome in this next phase for St. Paul,” he said.
Nelson won an Aug. 14 special election for the Fourth Ward seat, which Russ Stark left early this year to take a job in Carter’s office. Samantha Henningson, Stark’s former legislative aide, served as interim council member.
Nelson is joining the council at one of the busiest times of the year. She will weigh in on the 2019 budget and the citywide minimum wage, which Carter has pledged to pass by the end of the year.
After she was sworn in and the crowd leapt up in a joyous standing ovation, Nelson reiterated her campaign pledge to support a $15 minimum wage, as well as to work on housing, transportation and public safety issues.
“I’m here because all of you have gotten me to this point,” she said, “and I’m here to do what I said I would do.”