Why I'm Running

Dear neighbor,

My name is Mitra Jalali Nelson: I’m a lifelong Minnesotan, the proud daughter of immigrants, and have devoted my life to fighting for all families to have the same opportunities as mine. I’m running to represent us on the Saint Paul City Council. I would be honored to earn your support for the DFL endorsement in Ward 4.

My career began in Louisiana in 2008, when I was a high school social studies teacher at an alternative high school on the West Bank of New Orleans, just three years after Hurricane Katrina. My students faced unthinkable trauma, discrimination, and challenges both inside and outside of school, but I never once doubted their ability to succeed. This experience fostered in me an unshakable belief in the potential of all children, and in the importance of giving every child access to an outstanding public education. I was at the very beginning of my journey, but in that classroom, I started on the path to becoming the leader I am today.

I returned to my home state of Minnesota with a strengthened commitment to public service, including teaching for a third year here. I became an organizer with the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers in the 2012 election cycle, working with Ward 4 neighbors and teachers citywide to pass the Saint Paul Public Schools funding levy—a $39 million annual investment in our teachers and students. The lesson I learned from that experience is that good ideas don’t just happen on their own; you have to organize them into reality. I’m bringing this spirited ethic with me to City Hall, through a resident-driven campaign that bridges the gap between residents and government.

Today, I work with Rep. Keith Ellison in his district office as his public safety and immigration outreach director. Rep. Ellison’s progressive leadership and his focus on social and economic inclusion have been a guiding force in my life. As a policy aide and outreach staff member, I have organized briefings, worked on legislation, and partnered with state and city government to drive change in our community and our country.

I'm now running for City Council because our city needs capable leaders who reflect our growth, our diversity, and our shared commitment to equity. That's the kind of leadership I bring to all of my work, and would be proud to bring to the Saint Paul City Council. Saint Paul is growing rapidly, and it’s on us to ensure that every resident of our city can benefit from that growth. That’s why we need a City Council that is laser-focused on equity.

In a city that is roughly 50% people of color and 50% renters, and in a ward with the fastest growing renter population in Saint Paul, I would bring a perspective that is missing on the Council—as both a woman of color and a renter myself. The future of our city is also inextricably connected to the future of our Ward, and our ability to end opportunity gaps that persist by race, gender, class, ability and more. I am running to lead with urgency on these issues, with a specific focus on police accountability, increasing attainable and affordable housing, and building community wealth. Together, I believe we can build a city that works for all.

I would be grateful for the opportunity to speak with you about my vision for our Ward, and hear from you on what you think are the most important issues facing the neighborhoods we love. I’m honored to be running, and I hope to earn your vote.


Mitra Jalali Nelson