ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Voters in St. Paul will go to the polls in five days. In addition to the referendum on trash, they’ll also be voting for City Council.

In Ward Four, incumbent Mitra Nelson is being challenged by Chris Holbrook and Tarrence Robertson.

Robertson is a National Guard bronze star recipient with more than 14 years in the military. He’s hoping to turn that service to country into public service.

WCCO’s Reg Chapman first met the candidate in Kuwait. The last time they spoke, Robertson was leading Minnesota National Guard troops in Kuwait.

“It was a week after I got home that I made the decision to run for office,” said Robertson.

Tarrence says he is running for Ward Four City Council because he hears the concerns of his community.

“[People are] very concerned with crime, they are concerned with gentrification, [and] rising costs for renters and homeowners,” said Robertson. “Concerned with homelessness, they’re concerned with city processes, more broadly, you mentioned trash, but I think people are concerned more broadly with how our city is functioning.”

Tarrence and his team hit the Hamline-Midway area passing out campaign literature and answering questions from prospective supporters. With crumbling infrastructure, taxes rising and city services declining, Tarrence hopes to put an emphasis on things that impact people’s lives every day.

“This isn’t a ploy, this isn’t a platform, this is real. And I want people to know that I am taking that time because it is very personal to me, and I also do put my personal cell at the bottom of every letter because I want to be as accessible as possible,” said Robertson.

Voters in Ward Four will have a tough choice in deciding who to support for city council, because none of the candidates are politicians. The race is neighbor versus neighbor.

Tarrence’s walk to meet neighbors was in candidate Chris Holbrook’s neighborhood. The two shared a handshake and plans to continue to be active in politics no matter who wins the election.

Mitra Jalali Nelson is running to be re-elected as Ward 4 City Councilperson.

“Lead with our hearts and faces and eyes forward to the horizon we want to work together for change that brings all of us with it,” said Nelson.

“My election represented a new rise in politics in having younger, more diverse, more complex kind of mixed backgrounds and perspectives, and the politics sort of embodies that makes room for people in all intersections,” added Nelson.

In the past year she says she’s seen what’s possible, and she is looking forward to doing more.

“Attainable and affordable housing, action on climate — which is something cities increasingly need to take up very urgently — community first public safety, and not just police accountability, but safety beyond policing intervention that reduce crime,” said Nelson.

Nelson is the only openly LGBTQ person on St. Paul’s city council.

If elected, Tarrence will be the first transgender member of the council.

Both say this election is not about them but the people they hope to represent.

Reg Chapman