SIT Impact: A city official with a global view

July 9th, 2019   |   Mexico, SIT Graduate Institute, SIT Study Abroad

Saint Paul {Minnesota] Deputy Mayor Jaime Tincher

I needed to leave the U.S. to understand our country more realistically and assess our actions as a global power from a completely different perspective.

Can an SIT Study Abroad program influence the day-to-day functioning of state and city government in the United States? Jaime Tincher, deputy mayor of the City of Saint Paul, Minnesota, says yes.

Tincher, whose SIT experience took her to Mexico in 1997 followed by graduate coursework in conflict resolution, makes it very clear that SIT helped shape her career, starting with her early work in political advocacy and electoral campaigns in the South. Her work eventually brought her to Minnesota, where she immersed herself in party politics at the highest levels.

Originally from West Virginia and now the mother of two children, Tincher graduated from Denison University with a degree in communications and dreamed of being an international journalist in the mold of CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. From her junior year experience in Mexico, however, she developed a fascination with politics and power dynamics, with a rare view of class disparities and the scourge of racism.

“I needed to leave the U.S. to understand our country more realistically and assess our actions as a global power from a completely different perspective,” she says. “I began to pay close attention to who gets to sit at the policymaking table. I saw more clearly the barriers that prevented people from participating in the system, and I wanted to help create opportunities for those who were historically left out. I asked myself, is it a true democracy if you’re not knocking down those barriers?”

On a personal level, she says, “being able to travel and make my way in a different culture gave me confidence at a relatively young age. I became much more comfortable taking career risks and trying new things.”

I began to pay close attention to who gets to sit at the policymaking table. I saw more clearly the barriers that prevented people from participating in the system, and I wanted to help create opportunities for those who were historically left out

Confidence and risk-taking helped when she arrived in Minnesota in 2006. There, Tincher began working in voter outreach and mobilization and later as a campaign manager for a gubernatorial candidate who lost in a primary bid. After the election, she was asked to shift from politics to policy as the chief of staff for the newly elected governor, Mark Dayton, and Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith. When the governor’s term ended, she was tapped to become Saint Paul’s deputy mayor.

“A key benefit of my SIT experience,” she says, "was developing insights into the challenges of a multicultural society in the public sphere, which helped me in my work and worldview, especially when hiring staff,” as compared to those colleagues who came into politics and government with only academic or law school experiences. And she was able to draw on her education in conflict resolution in every job she’s had.

In fact, as deputy mayor, Tincher manages the daily operations of Saint Paul’s government, including its 14 departments and more than 3,000 employees. Managing statewide teams and multimillion-dollar budgets, she implements Mayor Melvin Carter’s vision of a city that works for all of Saint Paul’s 304,000 residents, applying the values of equity, innovation, and resilience by focusing on the administration’s three strategic pillars – lifelong learning, economic justice, and community-first public safety.

A key benefit of my SIT experience was developing insights into the challenges of a multicultural society in the public sphere ...

When she was chief of staff in the governor’s office, Tincher managed the daily operations of the state government and its 34,000 employees, serving as a key advisor and leading the administration’s efforts on such high-profile issues as budget negotiations, transportation, education, hiring, and emergency and crisis management. 

With a much broader perspective from her SIT experience, Tincher said she always strives to structure more open processes in which policy decisions are made with greater participation from the larger community.

“Politics and government are not just about votes and hearings,” she says. “Understanding the diverse needs of people and connecting with those people who have traditionally been left out of the political system are incredibly valuable,” Tincher says. “I credit SIT for this, and it’s helped me achieve success by drawing on a global perspective that I value.”