By Elijah Awada
Residents of the Como/North-End community voted Tuesday to elect Hwa Jeong Kim to represent Ward 5 in the St. Paul City Council.
Kim, executive director of the civic engagement non-profit Minnesota Voice, and former legislative aide, secured just over 50% of the vote, comfortably beating out her three competitors, David Greenwood-Sanchez, Pam Tollefson and Nate Nins.
Kim will take the place of Amy Brendmoen, who decided not to run for re-election this year after 12 years on the council and six years as its president.
Throughout her campaign, Kim’s major focuses were rent stabilization, the delivery of quality city services, building out the city’s green infrastructure and fighting for workers’ rights. She received the endorsement of the DFL, TCDSA, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Brendmoen and multiple labor unions.
As a resident of the North End neighborhood for 12 years and a former legislative aide in the Ward 5 office, Kim said she feels “uniquely qualified” to take on this leadership position.
Brendmoen agreed, saying Kim is “the most experienced newcomer” coming into the role.
“She understands the budget. She understands funding mechanisms. She understands the relationships. She’ll be a solid council member the day she walks through the door,” Brendmoen said.
Nearly six years of door knocking and countless conversations with residents in the Como, North End and Payne/Phalen neighborhoods informed the issues Kim ran on and the agenda items she said she plans to address in office. Tenant protections, community-first public safety and the enforcement of fair labor standards are among the topics she said she will fight for.
The runner-up candidate in Tuesday’s election, with around a quarter of the vote, was David Greenwood-Sanchez, a political scientist and economic researcher. He said he was disappointed he did not win but is proud of what he accomplished with his low-budget, grassroots campaign.
“I ran on a $6,000 budget with only community members and neighbors helping me out. And my mom,” Greenwood-Sanchez said. “So I am proud in a lot of ways about the outcome, even though it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for.”
Greenwood-Sanchez said he wishes Kim the best moving forward, and hopes “she really listens to our communities, especially a lot of our communities that have been working hard to be heard from the council and have felt very ignored.”
Following Tuesday’s election, Kim is one of four confirmed council members, all of whom are women. While results in the remaining three wards_ — 1, 3 and 7, _ — will not be known until Friday when the city completes rank-choice voting runoff tabulations, the leading candidates in these wards are also all women.
If these leads hold, St. Paul will have the first all-female city council in its history, with a majority of the council being women of color.
“I’m excited. It feels like we are poised to make history here in St. Paul,” Kim said.
While Kim said she is excited to begin her term, she knows there is a lot of work ahead of her.
“St. Paul has a lot of work to do,” Kim said. “We have a lot of organizing work. We have a lot of people we need to reach. And I am deeply committed to making sure that we are talking to everyone and trying to engage as many people as we can.”
Elijah Awada lives in Minneapolis and is a student journalist at the University of Minnesota.