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Duluth City Council selects three finalists to replace Hansen

From left: Arik Forsman, Janet Kennedy and Jeff Anderson

The Duluth City Council selected three finalists from a field of 20 candidates Thursday night to serve out the remainder of At Large Councilor Elissa Hansen's term.

Janet Kennedy, Jeff Anderson and Arik Forsman will advance to a second round of interviews on Monday evening, when the council is expected to pick Hansen's replacement.

Hansen plans to step down July 17 due to the demands of her new job as president and CEO of the Northspan Group Inc., a regional nonprofit development organization. The City Council will select her interim replacement, with that person expected to serve until January of 2020.

Although Hansen did not participate in the selection, she said: "Thank you everyone for being here. It's truly humbling to see the amount of applicants and the amazing aptitude of the applicants, as well as their diverse backgrounds. So once again, it makes me incredibly proud to be from Duluth that we have people like all of you wanting to serve our community."

Also abstaining in the selection of finalists was 5th District Councilor Jay Fosle who was absent Thursday, as the council narrowed the field.

Councilor Joel Sipress said he was "astounded and blown away" by the quality of the candidates.

"It causes me great anguish that I can only vote for three people," he said.

Councilor Zack Filipovich said the council could hardly go wrong with any of the candidates.

"No matter what, we will have a very good councilor to replace the incredible Councilor Hansen," he said.

Other applicants for the post included Timothy Meyer, Edwin Hall, Maya Mattke, Gay Trachsel, Terese Tomanek, Bruce Lorenz, Jim Booth, Danelle "Dani" Dunphy, Thomas Jovanovich, Sumair Sheikh, Patricia Stolee, Barbara Montee, John Klaers, Ken Buehler, Dean Casperson, Debra Smith and Melissa Swor.

Arik Forsman works in an economic development capacity for Minnesota Power/Allete and said he would like to see the city do more to address the need for quality child care and a wide range of housing options.

"I have a lot of passion. I would work tirelessly in this job for the people of Duluth," he told councilors.

Janet Kennedy, a parish nurse and small business owner with a background in physical therapy, unsuccessfully ran for a 5th District seat in 2015 and an At Large seat in 2017.

She said she wants to build "policies that improve the lives of everyone, whether it's housing, transportation or economic development. And economic development also includes thriving businesses, jobs, entrepreneurship, wealth, individual and community health."

"We need everyone at the table, because we are only as strong as our weakest link," Kennedy said.

Jeff Anderson, a former At Large City Councilor who now serves as deputy chief of staff for Rep. Rick Nolan, also co-owns three businesses in Duluth employing more than 100 people.

"I've always been drawn to public service. That's what led me to run for the council back in 2007, and I'm applying for this seat because I think during that time I was a good city councilor and can be again. I believe that my knowledge of city government ... along with knowledge about both the state and federal government can be an asset to this body and to the city," Anderson said.

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