Dr. Carolyn Salter: Bringing medicine to U.S. Congress
Updated: Jan 21
Dr. Carolyn Salter is running for United States House of Representatives, Congressional District 5—a district situated in rural East Texas. But this is not Dr. Salter’s first interaction with politics. Dr. Salter was the first woman ever elected as Mayor for the City of Palestine, holding this position for 4 years. Dr. Salter also served on the City of Palestine’s Landmark Commission as an appointed official. And before this, Dr. Salter worked in a Veteran’s Affairs Hospital where she was exposed to the political ebbs and flows of operation. To say the least, Dr. Salter is steeped in experience and pride for her East Texas community.
Dr. Salter was born in Denver, Colorado where she was adopted by her parents (FUN FACT: Dr. Salter’s husband was also born in Denver, Colorado only three months after her). Her family would eventually move to Odessa, Texas where her father worked in oil fields. Into her early teenage years, her father accepted a superintendent role with the oil company and moved to Cushing, Oklahoma. Her parents were fairly conservative, yet Dr. Salter recognized early on that she fit a different political ideology. However, both of her parents provided an environment that nurtured Dr. Salter’s love for learning.
Dr. Salter vividly remembers her mother—a speech and English teacher—allowing her to run around the Oklahoma State University campus. This is where Dr. Salter discovered her passion for education. Her mother went on to become a counselor at Dr. Salter’s high school. Dr. Salter remembers her mother holding her to a higher educational standard, expecting performance and inspiring her to do her best. Her mother wasn’t the only force in Dr. Salter’s pursuit of education; Dr. Salter also credits her teachers and professors that inspired her along the way. These roles models influenced Dr. Salter to pursue higher education. She would go on to attend Stephen F. Austin and acquire her medical degree from UT Southwestern.
Following her medical residency, Dr. Salter took on faculty in anesthesiology at a Veteran’s Affairs hospital in New Mexico. There, Dr. Salter was exposed to politics. In this capacity, Dr. Salter realized the importance of government funding, pre-meeting preparation, and majority voting. Dr. Salter mentioned how critical it was for her to come to every meeting fully prepared, reading every agenda item and researching background information on these topics. This sparked her passion for change on the policy level.
Dr. Salter eventually settled into Palestine, Texas—a rural city located in East Texas. She immediately became involved in her community, joining the Landmark Commission, a citywide historic review board for landmarks and buildings. In this role, she began applying for different grants and government funding. She felt her service on this board spurred her passion for recovering rural communities existing in disrepair. Dr. Salter eventually stepped down from this role to run for Mayor in the City of Palestine.
Dr. Salter was approached to run for Mayor 10 years before she actually did. Yet, Dr. Salter didn’t run for the mayoral seat until 2005. Her first campaign ended successfully: Dr. Salter became the first woman ever elected Mayor in the City of Palestine. During her term, she prompted projects that made a lasting impact on her community. Dr. Salter helped spur a public-private partnership to save a local railroad tourist attraction. She was a catalyst for Palestine’s modern billing system, moving all utility and permit payments online. She also helped publish all meeting minutes and agendas online. Finally, Dr. Salter spearheaded responses in Palestine to two massive hurricanes, providing emergency shelters for victims who were evacuated to the area. She served in this role until 2009. From then on, she shifted her focus to her medical practice that she shared with her husband.
Dr. Salter used her mayoral experience as the foundation for her current campaign for U.S. Congress. Dr. Salter’s campaign platform is focused on issues predominantly affecting her rural community. If elected, Dr. Salter hopes to expand access to healthcare in her rural district. She notes that there is a rural hospital in Palestine but much of her district constituents live over thirty minutes away from medical care. She also notes that strict Medicaid qualifications have left out many folks needing care in rural communities. She wants to cure these deficiencies, using her experience as a medical doctor to guide her decisions. Dr. Salter also plans to build rural infrastructure. She notes that many rural cities are burdened with the cost of repairing dilapidated streets and buildings. She believes there is a need for involvement from statewide and federal government.
Another topic of concern for Dr. Salter is limited access to high-speed internet in rural areas. These issues were exemplified because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With students learning from home and employees working from home, Dr. Salter believes the weak broadband available limits constituents. As a result of the pandemic, Dr. Salter had to cut back on her in-person campaign outreach. However, she has adapted. Dr. Salter began hosting weekly Facebook Live “town halls” where she is able to communicate safety procedures and pandemic updates with constituents. Dr. Salter believes this is critical for her community, especially knowing her husband—a physician—is on the frontlines in COVID medical response.
Campaigns for office can be exhausting but Dr. Salter draws strength from her campaign staff, volunteers, and family. Specifically, Dr. Salter leans on feedback from her campaign volunteers. Most importantly, Dr. Salter relies on her husband for support and guidance.
To learn more about Dr. Carolyn Salter, visit her website at www.salterforcongress.com.