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 continue representing us on the Saint Paul City Council, and I would be honored to earn your support for the 2019 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 as part of Teach For America, just three years after Hurricane Katrina. 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.

I went on to work directly on policy and constituent services as a congressional staffer for three years, most recently with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison in his district office as his public safety and immigration outreach director. As a policy and outreach aide, I have organized briefings, worked on legislation, and partnered with state and city government to drive change in our community and promote social and economic inclusion for all.

I'm now running for re-election 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 that I strive every day to bring to City Hall. Saint Paul is growing rapidly, and it’s on us to ensure that every resident of our city can benefit from that growth. Now more than ever, 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 have worked to bring a perspective to the Council that reflects that growth. The future of our city is also inextricably connected to our ability to end opportunity gaps that persist by race, gender, class, ability and more. I am running to keep leading with urgency on these issues, with a specific focus on police accountability, increasing attainable and affordable housing, transit and sustainability, and building community wealth. Together, I believe we can achieve progress that brings all of us with it.


I am also deeply honored to have received the endorsement of our Mayor Melvin Carter; former Ward 4 Councilmembers Russ Stark and Samantha Henningson; Council President Amy Brendmoen and Councilmembers Dai Thao and Chris Tolbert; School Board Members Jon Schumacher, Zuki Ellis, and Steve Marchese; U.S. Congresswoman (MN-5) Ilhan Omar; the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation; AFSCME Council 5; SEIU Minnesota State Council; the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers; Take Action Minnesota; Stonewall DFL; Women Winning; and OutFront Minnesota. I am running to unite who our Ward has been and who our Ward is becoming to organize a coalition for positive change throughout our Ward and our City. Together, I believe we can achieve progress that brings all of us along. View more endorsements >

I would be grateful for the opportunity to speak with you about my vision for our city, 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