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Duluth City Council fills vacant seat

Noah Hobbs will return to to the council.

Noah Hobbs
Noah Hobbs
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DULUTH — After narrowly losing his at large City Council seat to challenger Derek Medved two years ago, Noah Hobbs will return to the same political post. But Hobbs assured fellow councilors that he intends simply to serve out the remaining two years of Medved's term and will not use the position as a political springboard to seek additional time on the council.

In all, 28 people applied to fill a council vacancy that was created Feb. 14 when Councilor Medved stepped down, citing the growing demands of his expanding chain of gas station/convenience stores operating under the KornerStores Inc. flag.

Derek Medved
Derek Medved

The council interviewed 24 of those applicants Thursday, and three finalists —including Hobbs, Jenna Yeakle and Justin Davis — advanced to another round of questioning Monday night.

PREVIOUSLY:

After nearly two hours of interviewing the final three, the council voted to pick Medved's successor. In the first round of voting, Hobbs garnered four votes, Yeakle three votes and Davis one vote. In the second round of voting, Hobbs received a majority five votes, Yeakle two votes and Davis one vote.

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Two councilors asked pointed questions about the appropriateness of appointing Hobbs to a seat that voters had denied him in November 2019.

"There are a lot of voters in the city who did not vote for you when you ran for reelection," 1st District Councilor Gary Anderson told Hobbs.

"Why should the council vote for you, when all these people chose not to vote for you?" he asked.

Hobbs responded: "I would highlight that I also have a significant amount of people that have voted for me multiple times. But that being said, I think in that frame of reference, if that's the lens in which to view this application process, I don't think you can transfer an automatic victory to any of the other applicants."

"What I would point to is that we are trying to replace former Councilor Medved," said Hobbs, noting that both he and the man he sought to replace come from a similar age demographic and both live in western Duluth.

Hobbs served on the council from 2016 through 2020, including a stint as council president and roles on many city boards, commissions and community organizations.

"I think the value I bring to this is having served in this role and understanding that whether you vote for somebody or don't that's still my constituent. Whether the person butts heads with me every single day, I still want to make sure that guy's got a water line that's working through the winter, and that the gas line is not leaking and that his pothole gets filled up the same as anyone else's does, whether they're a supporter or not," Hobbs said.

At large Councilor Terese Tomanek asked Hobbs about his commitment to civility.

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"You certainly can disagree with people. But I do think, you need to agree to be agreeable," he said. "I think it's very important for people to feel heard and that you genuinely listen to what they are saying, even you do not agree."

After the interview process and the majority vote to tap Hobbs as Medved's successor, the council unanimously passed a resolution 8-0 to appoint him to the vacant seat Monday night.

READ MORE ABOUT THE DULUTH CITY COUNCIL
From the column: "Everyone favors more broadband competition. ... But the idea that local governments should enter this marketplace with a taxpayer-subsidized network does not represent real competition, not even remotely."

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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