A Midwestern Hub Joins the Short List of U.S. Cities with an All-Female City Council
Minnesota’s state Capitol will soon be home to a distinction that few American cities can boast: an all-female City Council.
The seven women that will be sworn in next month as council members are all under the age of 40, and six are women of color.
Mitra Jalali, Rebecca Noecker and Nelsie Yang won their re-election races in November and will be joined by Saura Jost, Anika Bowie, Hwa Jeong Kim and Cheniqua Johnson. They have dubbed themselves the “St. Paula seven,” intentionally adding an “a” to the city’s name to reflect its new class of female leaders.
“It’s something that I never thought I would have seen. As a little girl growing up in St. Paul, this is extremely special,” Jost, 35, told NBC News. “We had over 30 people running for the seven seats, but people chose to elect us.”
The women said the council’s makeup reflects a changing city. St. Paul is home to over 300,000 people, according to the latest U.S. census data, and the city has grown increasingly more diverse in the past decade. From 2010 to 2018, the fastest growing racial group in the city was Black or African Americans, whose population grew by 36%, according to the Minnesota State Demographic Center, followed by the Asian population, which increased by 32%.
“St. Paul elected not just women and women of color, but they elected experience and skill sets,” Kim said. “We have a plethora of experiences and also the determination but also the skill set to deliver. And I think what that says about St. Paul, in addition to our identities, is that we will inherently govern differently.”
The council’s longest-serving member, Noecker, 39, has witnessed the transformation in real time.
“When I was elected eight years ago, there was only one woman on the City Council,” Noecker said. “And when I and a fellow council member joined, there were three. Eight years later, the entire council is women. … I think it’s powerful to see just how quickly this change took place.”