3 candidates vie to replace Van Nett on Duluth City Council

An all-woman slate will be considered by the council for appointment.

Duluth City Hall.jpg
Duluth City Hall
Clint Austin / 2017 file / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Monday was the final day that candidates could apply to serve in place of the late 4th District City Councilor Renee Van Nett, and three residents responded to the call: Hannah Alstead, Ashlie Castaldo and Hannah Smith.

The trio of candidates face a first round of questioning on July 7, with finalists advancing to final interviews July 11, at which time the Duluth City Council will choose whom to appoint.

Alstead, a graduate of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, with bachelor's degrees in political science and sociology, serves as northeast regional outreach director and constituent services representative for U.S. Sen. Tina Smith. In her congressional support role, Alstead has made connections throughout the Northland and said: "I've gotten to know leaders in every industry across this city and this region and have come to understand many of the issues that affect our community every day."

Castaldo earned a bachelor's degree in religion and sociology from Greenville University in southern Illinois and a master's degree in behavioral health from the University of Illinois Springfield. She now works as a digital marketing director and freelance political consultant. Castaldo referred to Van Nett as a trailblazer and said: "As a twice-disabled individual ( both hard of hearing and on the autism spectrum), I would be able to shine a light on those often most ignored when it comes to city work."

Smith has a bachelor's degree in environment and sustainability from the University of Minnesota Duluth and is a fellow for the Region Five Development Commission who also serves on the city's Indigenous Commission. She said, "As an Indigenous woman, I hope to continue to amplify the Indigenous perspective as a city councilor. With the support and brilliance of this community, I see my time on the Council as an opportunity to uplift voices in Duluth and bring the community closer together."


Van Nett, who was the first and only Indigenous person ever elected president of the City Council, died June 3.

Whomever the council appoints as her successor will be expected to serve Duluth's 4th District through 2023, when the next municipal election is slated to occur.

Renee Van Nett will be remembered for her caring presence and "fierce voice" in support of constituents.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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