Ely commissioner to lead St. Louis County Board in 2022

Leadership role familiar one for Paul McDonald, a longtime college basketball coach who calls himself a "team builder."


DULUTH — Commissioner Paul McDonald was selected to lead the St. Louis County Board in 2022, a position the retired college basketball coach from Ely seemed intimately familiar with as he delivered a unifying theme throughout Tuesday’s meeting in Duluth.

“We are all united in one mission to make St. Louis County a better place each and every day for each and every one of our citizens,” McDonald said. “We’ve got a big job and with help of everybody and input from everybody we will make 2022 a very good year for St. Louis County.”

Paul McDonald
Paul McDonald

McDonald replaces Chisholm-based Mike Jugovich, the board chair for the past two years.


McDonald’s selection was unanimous and unopposed even as Duluth’s commissioners were kept out of the chair for a third straight year. In a seeming nod to working together, eastern Duluth’s Patrick Boyle was selected unanimously as vice chair.

Prior to his election in 2018, McDonald spent 29 years as an instructor, men's basketball coach and athletic director at Vermilion Community College in Ely.

"I've been a team builder and working with and meshing people together on a common goal all my life," McDonald told the News Tribune. "That's what I know. That's what I'm going to continue to do."

McDonald said he was working on securing an entertaining guest appearance next week for the first meeting of 2022 in greater St. Louis County, in White Township , south of Aurora and Hoyt Lakes.

"I promise to bring in a little flavor as we get into the outlying areas of St. Louis County," McDonald said. "I'm confident we're going to have a very good year."

Last year’s effort by the rural majority to keep Jugovich in the seat of power atop the board drew a contentious opening meeting to 2021. But Tuesday’s organizational meeting to start the new year was polite and conciliatory.

Patrick Boyle.jpg
Patrick Boyle


As Jugovich left the chair, he suggested a return to tradition come 2023.

“We want to make sure this (chair) rotates, and we move forward,” Jugovich said, before later acknowledging past differences. “We might not agree on everything … but we believe in what we’re doing.”

McDonald wasted little time asserting some of the authority of board chair, naming committee chairs for the board’s regular, standing committees:

  • Health and Human Services — 2nd District’s Boyle.

  • Public Works and Transportation — 5th District’s Keith Musolf.

  • Environment and Natural Resources — 7th District’s Jugovich.

  • Finance and Budget — 6th District’s Keith Nelson.

  • Public Safety and Corrections — 3rd District’s Ashley Grimm.

  • Central Management and Intergovernmental Relations — 1st District’s Frank Jewell.

McDonald also weighed in by tabbing a series of four subcommittees, highlighted by the return of a Depot operations subcommittee, something the board hasn't had in the past two years.

The board is in the process of reorganizing the county-owned Depot, home to the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center. It started in 2019 with the hiring of a director, Mary Tennis, who is currently attempting, along with the board, to gain support for $3.83 million in state bonding funds for ongoing improvements to Depot.
"I thought it was good idea to reenergize that committee and work with the Depot management and the tenants to make the Depot what it needs to be and that's a centerpiece in the city of Duluth and a centerpiece for St. Louis County," McDonald said.

McDonald also installed an opioid remediation subcommittee to help allocate settlement dollars due the county over the next several years.

Two other subcommittees include the joint powers subcommittee — an ongoing assessment of the county’s involvement in programs featuring multiple jurisdictions, such as the five-county Arrowhead Regional Corrections — and a mineral royalties scholarship subcommittee.

That subcommittee is aimed at raising a long-term endowment to support a program that began granting scholarships in 2018 to high school graduates who are going to become students at the county’s two-year colleges. The program started with $150,000 funded by mineral royalties paid when mining companies dig ore on county land.


" What we’re looking at long term is endowing that scholarship in perpetuity, so St. Louis County residents will know that will always be there for them," McDonald said.

McDonald will chair the board during the final year of his first term on the board. McDonald, Jewell and Nelson's seats are up for election during the Nov. 8 midterm election.

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