The Saint Paul City Council will have a majority of new members in 2024, with four of the seven incumbents stepping down at the end of next year. The latest to announce he will not seek reelection is Ward 3’s Chris Tolbert.

Tolbert, who represents the Highland Park and most of the Macalester-Groveland neighborhoods, made his announcement on social media on December 15. He joins council president Amy Brendmoen from Ward 5 and council member Jane Prince from Ward 7 in announcing that they would not run again in 2023.

Russel Balenger will also not run next year. He was appointed earlier this year to fill the Ward 1 seat on an interim basis after Dai Thao resigned to take a new job in Florida.

“It’s just time,” said Tolbert when announcing his decision. He said he would like more time for his family, which includes wife Kelly, daughter Natalia and son Dylan, who was born almost a year ago.

Chris Tolbert
Ward 3 City Council member Chris Tolbert.

“It’s been an absolute honor to be a council member for the city that raised me,” Tolbert said. “This is a city that I love with absolute bias, a city that continues to evolve and change, a city with even brighter days in its future. But more than anything, this amazing city is the one that we all have the privilege of calling home.”

Tolbert cited the transformation of the former Ford Motor Company site into the Highland Bridge development as a major accomplishment during his council years. Not long after he was elected, the last Ford Ranger rolled off the plant’s assembly line.

Tolbert said he never avoided difficult issues and cited many accomplishments during his time representing Ward 3.

“In just over a year, my 12 years on the City Council will come to end,” he said. “However, this won’t be goodbye. Rather, it’ll be the start of the next chapter of public service and family for me.”

“It’s been an absolute honor to be a council member for the city that raised me,” Tolbert said. “This is a city that I love with absolute bias, a city that continues to evolve and change, a city with even brighter days in its future.”

Tolbert was born and raised in Saint Paul. A Central High graduate, he played sports including football and hockey. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Saint John’s University in 2005, and a juris doctorate from Hamline University School of Law in 2008.

After law school, Tolbert served as a clerk for Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin, and then became an assistant attorney for Hennepin County.

Tolbert currently chairs the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority board. He also chaired the Library Board and is a member of the Board of Water Commissioners, where he championed efforts to replace lead water service lines to homes. He was the council representative on a work group that focused on the city’s rent stabilization regulations.

His other experience includes serving on the boards of the League of Minnesota Cities, Ramsey County League of Local Government, Saint Paul Children’s Collaborative, Ramsey County Workforce Innovation, Greater Metropolitan Workforce Council, Metropolitan Council Transportation Advisory, and Visit Saint Paul.

He has been involved with the proposed Riverview Corridor modern streetcar line and serves on its Policy Advisory Committee. As part of that work, he sought a study of transit options for the Highland area.

Other efforts include work on the Right Track youth jobs program, and Full Stack economic development initiative.

Tolbert also worked to make changes to Saint Paul’s on-sale liquor regulations, to make it easier for restaurants to get licenses.

Brendmoen, who represents north-central Saint Paul, and Tolbert will finish their third, four-year council terms in 2023. Prince, a former Ward 4 legislative aide, will complete two terms representing a large chunk of the East Side.

All seven council seats will be on the ballot next November. Council members Nelsie Yang, Mitra Jalali and Rebecca Noecker are seeking reelection.

— Jane McClure


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