Melvin Carter III made history as he was recently elected the first African-American mayor of Saint Paul. Taking home over 50 percent of the votes, the new mayor-elect says that the path to his journey first started as a student on campus.
“At FAMU, both the education I received, the care beyond curriculum I received from my professors and, just as importantly as all of that, the honing and sharpening I received from my classmates have all served me throughout my life and career,” Carter said.
Born and raised in Saint Paul, Carter received a bachelor’s degree in business administration at FAMU. As a student in the School of Business and Industry (SBI), Carter was able to experience firsthand how the classroom can prepare you for the real world.
“I share with people that there are a whole lot of schools that can teach you financial accounting, there’s significantly fewer that can prepare you for a life as an African-American professional in corporate America,” Carter said.
While at FAMU, Carter was also a member of the track team, under the coaching of legendary Bobby Lang, and the Beta Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. It was while being involved in these organizations that Carter said he began to flourish and build a dynamic foundation for himself.
“In both of those places, [along with SBI], I was constantly around students who just challenged me to do and be even better than I thought I could be,” Carter said.
Fourth-year SBI student Dajuh Sawyer, who is from Saint Petersburg, is inspired by Carter and his historic victory. She credits her involvement on campus and her internships as inspiration to becoming the first African-American female mayor of her hometown.
“I hope to one day walk in Mr. Carter's shoes. I commend him for breaking barriers by becoming the first African-American mayor of Saint Paul,” Sawyer said. “Mr. Carter has sparked an even bigger fire in me to never lose sight of my purpose.”
Admittedly, Carter says that a career in politics was not his initial goal when he first came to FAMU’s campus.
“I came into SBI focusing on a corporate career. I came into track and field which is an individual sport and I would do my community service cause I’m passionate about community. But, I actually never saw, when I was younger, electoral politics as really even being relevant,” Carter said.
It wasn’t until an incident occurred during the 2000 presidential elections, that everything changed. Living with his older brother-in-law and sister, also FAMU students, he was encouraged by the couple to go vote. While at the voting precinct, Carter’s brother-in-law was one of hundreds of FAMUANs turned away from voting.
Upset at the mistreatment, FAMU students decided to take action. Led by then Student Government President, Andrew Gillum, a big student movement that included marches to the Capitol took place. Having been friends with Gillum since sophomore year, Carter was more than willing to join the movement. It was then, that passion and purpose came together.
“I wasn’t one of the student leaders, but it was just one of these moments that said ‘being here and thinking hard just wasn’t enough,’” the mayor-elect said.
After graduating from FAMU, Carter eventually went on to obtain a Master’s degree in public policy from the University of Minnesota. Since then, Carter has committed his time and resources to being a voice for everyone in the community. Carter has been actively involved in education reform, housing reform, law enforcement reform and equal employment just to name a few.
Applied social sciences graduate student, Victoria Moore said that Carter’s victory shows that everyone has the potential to leave behind a legacy.
“At Florida A&M University, we stress ‘standing on the shoulders of giants…,’ Moore said. “We forget that someone will ‘stand on our shoulders.’ The ‘giants’ are indeed our ancestors, but the giants dwell within us as well and I believe the victory of Melvin Carter III represents that beautifully.”
Carter encourages students to strive to be as active as possible in the classroom and their community.
“Take full advantage of both the high powered curriculum and the incredible nationwide network that FAMU opens up for us and use the power of both of those things. Not for our own individual good but for the community around us. However we define that community,” Carter said.