Carmel’s West District councilor explains decision to enter 2023 mayoral race


In 2019, Miles Nelson became the first Democrat elected to the Carmel City Council. Now, he’s aiming to become the city’s first Democratic mayor.

His party affiliation, however, is not his focus.

CIC COM 1220 MN Mayor

“My goal is to be the mayor of Democrats and Republicans and Libertarians and unaffiliated Independents,” Nelson said. “I don’t know if I ever thought so much about being the first Democrat ever elected. I was running to be an advocate and a representative of the people of the West District. Many of the calls that I receive, I have no idea (the caller’s) party affiliation, and that’s a good thing.”

Nelson described himself as a moderate who has worked well with many of his Republican colleagues on the council to address various issues that are important to residents of all political parties, such as street maintenance and public safety.

He didn’t initially expect to run for mayor after his first term and said he was surprised by Mayor Jim Brainard’s announcement in September that he would not seek reelection. Nelson said he would not have run for mayor against Brainard, a Republican who has been in office since 1996.

Nelson said he supports much of the work Brainard has done to develop and grow Carmel over the years, including efforts to ensure the city is welcoming to all as its population becomes more diverse.

“I’m running because I want to keep moving Carmel forward,” he said. “I want to continue to make this one of the best places to live in the entire country.”

He said his campaign will also focus on environmental issues, which he said will help attract more young residents, and thus business headquarters, to the city.

Nelson and his wife, Carolina, have two children and have lived in Carmel for nearly 20 years. He owns executive search firm American Opportunity Incorporated.

In 2019, Nelson and his daughter, Olivia, formed the Carmel Cleanup Crew, which has become a nonprofit dedicated to improving the environment in Carmel by picking up trash and committing to plant 10,000 trees. So far, the group has distributed more than 2,700 trees throughout the city.

No other Democratic candidates have announced a run for mayor. Two Republicans on the council, Kevin “Woody” Rider and Sue Finkam, will face off in the primary in May. Other candidates could enter the primary races until Feb. 3, 2023, when candidate filing ends.

Learn more about Nelson’s campaign at