After a second round of interviews Monday night, the Duluth City Council voted to appoint Terese Tomanek to a seat left vacant when at large Councilor Barb Russ resigned in May, citing health concerns as she continued her battle against cancer.
Tomanek, a retired chiropractor now serving as an on-call chaplain at Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center, emerged as the council's top pick out of a field of 19 applicants for the job, receiving a unanimous vote. She is expected to serve out the rest of Russ' second term in office, which ends come 2022.
Three finalists were invited back for interviews Monday, including Zak Radzak and Jennifer Vossen Julsrud. But Julsrud, a rental property operator and former Duluth city councilor, withdrew her name from consideration earlier in the day, leaving just Tomanek and Radzak, a business representative and president of Teamsters Local 346, in the running.
Tomanek, who is expected to be sworn in Tuesday, said she applied for the job with eyes wide open.
In response to a question from personnel commission chair and 5th District Councilor Janet Kennedy about how she would deal with the budget shortfalls that have arisen from the COVID-19 outbreak, Tomanek said: "I think that's going to be the biggest issue facing us during the pandemic, and those cuts are going to be difficult and divisive I'm afraid. So, I think we need to remember those aspects of discussion where we talk about civility, we talk about listening to all parties involved, and we come to the realization, as the mayor has said, that we're going to have to do less with less. "
While Tomanek acknowledged that she doesn't know exactly what the answer will look like yet, she said, "I know that it's going to take a lot of study, a lot of consensus building and a lot of input from the community."
As for his decision to offer his services, Radzak said, "I applied for the position because I truly do love Duluth."
That's not to say Radzak doesn't see room for improvement, however.
"Duluth is moving forward. I do believe that the current council and the prior administrations have moved Duluth forward. But in the process, I feel Duluth has forgot some of the basics that is needed for a city: roads. You know the infrastructure in this town is terrible ... from the roads to the water systems. I mean Piedmont Avenue has a water break on it almost every other week," he said.