In today’s polarized society, what leads someone to get into politics? For Rebecca Noecker, it’s what she’s always wanted to do. Noecker is the city councilwoman representing Ward 2 in St. Paul, where she is getting to kick off her second term after winning re-election last month. Noecker talks about she got into politics, what her long-term aspirations are, and how her politics and Judaism mix, in this week’s Who The Folk?! Podcast.
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What is St. Paul’s Ward 2?
Ward 2 is downtown, the West Side, West Seventh, and a little bit of Summit Hill. It’s South Central St. Paul, but nobody calls any part of St. Paul South Central. I pretty much don’t leave my ward. It’s by far the greatest ward in the city.
You grew up in the western suburbs, right?
I did. I did. I grew up in the western suburb of the Western suburb. I think I actually think that’s outdated. St. Paul’s growing, we have 305,000 people, we have more people than we’ve ever had almost any time before except in one part of the 60s but we’re almost above that. That’s great. So people are pouring back in and most of the new people you talk to, they don’t get the Minneapolis/St. Paul thing. They see both of us as assets to each other. So it’s kind of like a joke from 30 years ago that you still sort of laugh at, but it’s not really relevant anymore.
Congratulations on winning re-election last month; I know every city is different, but is being a city council member in St. Paul a full-time job?
It’s called a part-time job. You make $66,000 a year, you have a full-time to help you out. And you represent about 41,000 people, which is more than the mayors of all the other cities in Ramsey County. So I do it full time, most of my colleagues do it full time. I just would never want to have another job competing for my attention when I have this opportunity. Like you only get four years, or I guess in my case, luckily, now eight years, but I want to pour my whole self into it. I’m someone who loves getting stuff done and frankly, right now, cities have become the place where things do get done. I think the part-time councils are kind of back from an age where you come in once a week, you look at the budget, you make sure the lights are on you check the water quality, makes sure everybody’s cutting their grass. But now, cities have become these laboratories where the new progressive ideals get worked out. There’s just there’s so much space to do stuff where, frankly, like the state and federal governments can’t anymore. I don’t want to do that half-time.
What led you into wanting to do politics in the first place?
I’ve always loved politics. I’ve loved the debates over how to organize ourselves to get along in this crazy world to decide how we are going to make things happen and structure a society. When I think about where those decisions are made, I think politics is where the framework for how everything else in society happens is decided and I wanted to be at that table. I’ve never shied away from controversy. I don’t mind taking responsibility for hard decisions. I’m terrified of like any athletic activity, but public speaking? Not a problem. So you know, it kind of like it kind of fit. And I will tell you, I didn’t know how much I would like it when I ran the first time and I just love it. Even the hardest parts are engaging and they make me grow.Click here to nominate your favorite TC Jew to be featured on our weekly Who the Folk?! series!