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Two incumbents, four newcomers elected to Duluth City Council

Clockwise from top left: Gary Anderson, Em Westerlund, Noah Hobbs, Elissa Hansen, Jay Fosle, Joel Sipress1 / 5
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There will be many new faces on the Duluth City Council come January, with four of nine seats to be filled with rookie councilors.

But on Tuesday, voters in Duluth's westernmost 5th District returned incumbent Councilor Jay Fosle to office. Fosle received more than 56 percent of the vote to defeat challenger Janet Kennedy.

Fosle, a 54-year-old route coordinator for the Duluth public schools, said: "I thank all the voters, because they must feel that I'm doing something right."

He pledged "to continue to be the councilor that I am, taking care of citizen concerns, watching the tax dollars that are spent and questioning."

With eight years of experience, Fosle will be the most senior member of the newly seated City Council and said he probably will seek to be elected council president.

On the opposite end of town, in Duluth's 1st District, Gary Anderson won election over Karl Spring, with 62 percent of the unofficial vote total reported by the city clerk's office. He will replace Jennifer Julsrud, who opted against running for re-election in the district that includes the Lakeside, Lester Park, Hunters Park and Woodland neighborhoods.

Anderson is a 56-year-old Hunters Park resident and owner of BodyWise Duluth, a yoga-based studio. He is perhaps is best known for his successful efforts to legalize same-sex marriage as lead organizer of Minnesotans United for All Families.

"I think my team and myself worked really hard. We had a solid plan from the get-go, and we stuck with our plan, which meant reaching out to the voters one at a time from the very beginning," he said.

Describing his campaign message, Anderson said: "First and foremost was the idea of building for our future, continuing to move forward and take the momentum that's developed over the last number of years and just really keep working it."

In the citywide At Large race, Elissa Hansen and Noah Hobbs prevailed, with 37.8 and 28.8 percent of the unofficial vote total, respectively, to claim two seats to be vacated by Linda Krug and Mayor-Elect Emily Larson. Candidates Jim Booth and Kriss Osbakken brought up the rear in the race with 21.5 and 11.5 percent of the vote, respectively.

Hansen, a 37-year-old business owner with a background in economic development, said she and her team had been actively knocking on neighborhood doors since June.

A first-time political candidate, Hansen said: "Knowing that we were seeing and talking to so many people was making me feel confident in the fact that I knew we were out there doing the needed work. But I was on pins and needles until I absolutely saw the numbers, because I've never done this before."

Hansen said she thinks her experience helped persuade voters to give her an opportunity to serve on the council. She pointed to her track record of "working at APEX, really digging in deep, being on so many advisory boards and committees, and understanding and being able to talk about how we make policy in our city."

Hobbs, a 26-year-old Denfeld neighborhood resident and planner for the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, said he is the first At Large candidate from western Duluth to be elected in many years.

"That's a big deal, especially with all the (St. Louis) River corridor stuff being discussed, I think people west of Lake Avenue really want more equitable geographic representation, and I think that was one of the large reasons why I came out ahead of others," Hobbs said.

Voters in Duluth's 3rd District elected Em Westerlund to represent them in a relatively uncompetitive race against Barri Love, who announced she had suspended her campaign several weeks ago, although her name remained on the ballot. Westerlund received 82.4 percent of the unofficial vote to Love's 16.8 percent, with less than 1 percent of ballots marked for write-in candidates.

Westerlund, a 29-year-old coordinator for Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault's nurse examiner program, will replace Sharla Gardner, who chose not to seek a third term on the council. The 3rd District includes the Hillside, downtown and Park Point.

In Duluth's 2nd District, voters returned Joel Sipress to an office he has held since February 2014, when he was appointed to fill a void left by Patrick Boyle, who had been elected to the St. Louis County Board. Sipress collected 2,891 votes in an uncontested race. Sipress is a 51-year-old history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. The 2nd District includes much of the Kenwood, Endion, Chester Park and Congdon Park neighborhoods.