In the early to middle 1800's the Sioux Native American villages of Kaposia (on the east) and Mendota (on the west) bordered the area that is now West St. Paul. The first permanent settlers arrived in 1848. Many of the names of these settlers are still familiar in West St. Paul.
By 1855 the area was platted. In 1858 the lands directly across the river from present-day downtown St. Paul were incorporated as the original City of West St. Paul, presumably taking the name from the West Bank of the Mississippi River as opposed to being located west of the capitol, St. Paul. That municipality, which was legally unrelated to the present-day West St. Paul, got into financial difficulties and ceased operations.
During 1887, the City of South St. Paul was formed; comprising generally what are now South St. Paul and West St. Paul combined. Disputes regarding representation resulted in a split in 1889 when present-day West St. Paul was incorporated. West St. Paul and South St. Paul share fire and DMV services but operate individual police departments.
In 1907 the City Charter was adopted providing for a mayor and seven council members. In 1962, the City Charter was amended to provide for a city manager. The mayor and council members form the legislative body and the city manager performs the administrative duties as provided by the Charter.