At a young age, growing up on the Iron Range, Kimberly Maki watched “Matlock” with her grandparents.
In sixth grade, Maki swore she was going to be a corporate attorney for the shoe and apparel giant Nike.
As a teenager, she was already roaming the halls of the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth as a mock trial participant for Virginia High School.
“I was awestruck at the time,” Maki told St. Louis County commissioners last week.
On Tuesday in Virginia, the St. Louis County Board will vote to appoint Maki to replace retiring County Attorney Mark Rubin, who’s leaving at the end of September with 15 months left on his term.
In a nod to the level of esteem her legal colleagues hold for Maki inside and out of the county attorney’s office, there were no other applicants for the appointment.
“People trust my leadership and the role I’ve developed for myself,” Maki, 45, told the News Tribune last week. “That nobody else applied for it was an honor for me. It makes me think they’re happy and excited that I got it.”
Maki will seek a full term in the Nov. 8, 2022, election, a detail she confirmed during last week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting in Duluth, where the County Board unanimously voted to advance her appointment.
"We’re incredibly fortunate to have such a talented and dedicated employee willing to step up to the plate who has already done incredible work," said Commissioner Ashley Grimm, representing western Duluth.
Rubin, 67, announced his retirement last month, effective Sept. 30. He was first elected in 2010, and twice ran unopposed for reelection. A criminal prosecutor, Rubin told the News Tribune he needed someone like Maki to balance the office. One year after he first hired her, he made Maki the head of the civil division, leaning on her expertise in that area since 2013.
“I love when people remember the path they’ve walked, and Kim is somebody who does that,” Rubin said. “There’s nothing pretentious about her. She’s down to earth. She has humility about her skills, and she has some big challenges ahead as these are challenging times.”
Maki has strong connections with the commissioners, county administration, and the departments, having worked on the business of the county for so long already.
“My first year I dove right in; it was a big year, the year of the 2012 flood,” Maki said. “I was working with the public works department at the time, all diving in together to fix all of the roads as quickly as we could. That’s where my love of the county grew — from the people I worked with and the dedication to finish everything as timely as possible.”
Maki went to law school in Portland, Oregon, at Lewis and Clark Law School, getting an environmental law and natural resources certificate. She quickly found the region flooded with environmental lawyers, so she ended up working business law. When she first came back home, she worked for Fryberger Law Firm in Duluth, before a dalliance practicing law in the Twin Cities. She returned to Andresen and Butterworth in Duluth.
“From there, I came to the county,” she said.
Maki’s diverse array of interests is illustrated in her community and workplace involvement, serving on boards for First Witness Child Advocacy Center and the Duluth Airport Authority. She’s also on the Equal Justice Committee of the Sixth Judicial District in Duluth, and the county’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership Committee.
“That’s something really important to me,” she said. “Fairness leads to justice. Even if the end result is something a person is not happy about, feeling like you’re treated fairly is a goal I have.”
Come Oct. 1, Maki plans to seize the moment. She's not viewing herself as a 15-month caretaker. Instead, she has designs on reviewing the office top to bottom.
“I want to look at all of our processes and systems really critically and figure out down to a minute level how to make this office better,” Maki said. “That’s not to say it’s not doing good work right now, but there’s always improvement to be made. My role is to figure out where improvements can be made to continue the tradition of really good work the county has done through the years.”
This story was updated at 8:45 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, to correct the timeline of Maki's work in private practice. It was originally posted at 4:18 p.m. Sept. 13, 2021.