Renee Van Nett intends to join the race for 4th District Duluth City Councilor Howie Hanson's seat by the end of this week.
Van Nett's campaign issued a release Wednesday stating that she intends to formally announce her candidacy Friday afternoon at a press conference in Lincoln Park.
Hanson, a web developer and blogger, said last week he will not seek re-election, citing conflicts of interest involving clients that occasionally have arisen during his tenure on the council.
Van Nett, a 47-year-old employment liaison for Community Action Duluth, will join Tom Furman, a 48-year-old consultant, activist and lobbyist, in the race for the council post Hanson now holds. Furman announced his candidacy last week.
In 2015, Van Nett ran for an At Large seat on the Duluth School Board, but she narrowly lost to Alanna Oswald.
Besides raising two 10-year-old nieces, Van Nett also repeatedly has opened her home to other young people in need, as a foster parent.
She is an enrolled member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and graduated from the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School after attending Duluth public schools in her early years. Van Nett went on to earn a bachelor's degree in organizational management and communication from Concordia College in St. Paul.
Van Nett also has been active in the community, founding the Cross-Cultural Alliance of Duluth and serving in numerous capacities, including as a board chair for the DFL, and as a member of the Duluth Citizen Review Board and the Civil Service Board. She also has been active with the Damiano Center and the Lincoln Park Children and Family Initiative.
With the recent rash of shootings that Duluth has experienced, Van Nett said she aims to strengthen ties to public safety officials in her district.
"I definitely think that relationships are important and getting to know your neighbors is helpful, so I think that moving in that direction is positive. Knowing who our community police officers are is also really useful," she said.
Van Nett pointed to her work on the Citizen Review Board and said it has given her a respect for how effective neighborhood outreach can be.
"The community policing model, strengthening the community, working together collectively, collaboratively, all that can really draw people together. And all that can be especially important for underrepresented people," she said.
Van Nett suspects that interest in the District 4 council seat will run high, in lieu of an incumbent seeking re-election. But she said she will focus on running the best possible campaign, regardless.
"The more, the merrier, the better, because democracy needs more people. That's the whole point," she said.
Van Nett said she will seek and honor the DFL endorsement in the approaching election, staying in the race only if she receives the party's nod.
Furman, too, said he plans to seek that same endorsement.