Incumbent Gary Anderson retained his seat while newcomers Roz Randorf and Janet Kennedy won election to the Duluth City Council on Tuesday.
Anderson earned 61% of the vote to challenger Becky Hall’s 39% in complete but unofficial results in the 1st District.
Randorf topped Theresa O'Halloran-Johnson by a margin of 55% to 45% in an open 3rd District race.
Kennedy narrowly edged Jeanne Koneczny, 52% to 48%, in the 5th District to win election as the first African American member of the City Council.
It’ll be a second term for Anderson, who was first elected to Duluth’s easternmost seat in 2015.
Anderson, 60, is a local yoga instructor who got his start in politics when he served as the lead Duluth organizer for Minnesotans United for All Families, which successfully fended off a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2012.
Anderson campaigned on the fact that he hasn’t been afraid to take on tough issues in his first term, including the earned sick and safe time ordinance.
“I have really tried to work from my values,” he told the News Tribune from his election party at the Vanilla Bean Restaurant in Woodland. “I worked really hard to let the people of the district know that I’m available, that I’m willing to listen, that I do listen. It’s an incredible job — a really demanding job — but the real benefit is working with people who are passionate about their community.”
He was challenged by Hall, 55, a well-known conservative voice in Duluth. She has frequently mounted bids for local and state offices but never been elected.
In his second term, Anderson said he’ll be focused on redevelopment proposals for Lester Park Golf Course and efforts to attract more sustainable housing to his district and the city as a whole.
“The thing that I heard over and over again is that a lot of young families want to live in Duluth,” he said. “Ten or 15 years ago, young people couldn’t wait to get out of Duluth. That’s totally not the story today, and it tells me that we are doing the right thing and going in a good direction.”
Randorf edged out O’Halloran-Johnson in the central district race. They were vying to replace Em Westerlund, who opted to step down after one term on the council.
Randorf, 54, is a corporate trainer for Dale Carnegie Training in Duluth and touted 25 years of leadership experience, including several previous supervisory positions at the News Tribune and Forum Communications, its parent company.
It was Randorf’s first run for public office. She acknowledged it was much tougher than she anticipated, but said it was a rewarding experience.
“It was amazing; it was numbing,” Randorf said of watching the results Tuesday night. “So much work from the team and all of us, having our strategy coming together and culminating in this moment — it’s stressful and exciting and exasperating.”
She was up against O’Halloran-Johnson, a 55-year-old St. Louis County social worker who works with young people with intellectual disabilities.
Randorf was asked what she viewed as the defining issue in the open race.
“I really think it’s about our Lake Superior watershed and having Duluth be a good, livable safe place, where we can bring livable-wage jobs but not at the expense of the Lake Superior watershed,” she said. "That was loud and clear. It was probably three out of every four doors.”
Randorf expects to hit the ground running. She’s already planning to attend a Thursday meeting on Park Point sewer system improvements.
In the tightest district race, Kennedy pulled out a victory over Koneczny in the contest to represent Duluth’s westernmost district. Three-term incumbent Jay Fosle decided to step aside after 12 years of service.
Kennedy, 49, is a lifelong West Duluth resident who has served as president of Duluth Planning Commission and the Riverfront Community Development. Her victory was a breakthrough moment after dropping close council races in 2015 and 2017.
“The voters really voted on the vision that I had,” Kennedy said from her election party at the Willard Munger Inn. “I came forward with a fresh vision but I also came forward with a lot of work I’d done on the Planning Commission and also working in the Riverside Community Development to build business and community organizations to help the resiliency investments that need to come to western Duluth.”
She was up against Koneczny, 80, another lifelong West Duluthian who has served on the Planning Commission. Koneczny, who has served on a number of other boards and business groups, ran a business-focused campaign.
Kennedy served on the committee that developed the Imagine Duluth 2035 Comprehensive Plan and said she wants to help implement that as a councilor, pointing to jobs, housing, life expectancy disparities and transportation issues that need to be addressed.
Several past and current city officials confirmed that Kennedy would be the first African American member of the council.
“It is a historic moment,” Kennedy said, “but I look at it more as how are we beginning to integrate and intersect the issues that we have in our community for everyone (and) looking forward to how our younger people actually see themselves in the process.”