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Our view: Councilors can do right by voters, not themselves

Duluth city councilors can go one of two ways to fill the 4th District City Council seat vacated this week when Kerry Gauthier began his term in the Minnesota Legislature.

Duluth city councilors can go one of two ways to fill the 4th District City Council seat vacated this week when Kerry Gauthier began his term in the Minnesota Legislature.

They can pick a new colleague for purely political reasons, selecting a councilmate they feel will share their worldview and vote with them on critical and even not-so-critical matters.

Or they can pick someone 4th District residents already have picked -- twice -- someone with City Council experience and an intimate knowledge of the 4th District's diverse needs and issues, and someone who's offering simply to help out and to be a bridge during a time of transition.

Councilors can pick former City Councilor Garry Krause to fill in for the year.

"I'm really up to speed with the district and can hit the ground running. My perspective is just to help the city," Krause said in an interview with the News Tribune editorial board, which conducted screening interviews with all three final candidates.

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The council is expected to make its appointment at its meeting tonight.

Picking Krause would help assure that voters are the ones choosing their representative in City Hall. That's because Krause is the only one of the finalists who said he wouldn't run for the seat in the fall. If the council appoints someone who runs, councilors unfairly give that person the advantage of incumbency and name recognition. Also, what sort of representation could the 4th District hope to receive from a councilor learning the ropes on the fly while also campaigning to stick around?

None of which is to suggest the other two finalists aren't fine candidates with compelling qualifications. Residents of the 4th District -- from West Duluth to Lincoln Park to Duluth Heights and Piedmont Heights -- can look forward to hearing from them as they state their positions and make their pitches, just like any other candidate for a publicly elected position. No candidate should be handed an inside track to office.

Especially with a capable candidate willing to step in. It isn't as if Krause was voted out of office last year when he left the council. He was pursuing a doctorate, didn't feel he could devote himself fully to a campaign for re-election, and made the hard decision to step aside.

Krause, a devoted family man, has a background in construction management and works as a college administrator. He's dean of trade and technology for Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Superior.

He's a regular not only at City Council meetings but at neighborhood meetings. He knows all about the water tower concerns in Duluth Heights; the cut-through traffic problems near the mall and elsewhere; the garbage dumping and drag racing along Skyline Parkway; the car break-ins, burglaries and prowls in Lincoln Park; the western hillside neighborhoods' need for a grocery store; and the safety concerns and negative stereotypes that long have plagued the Lincoln Park Business District.

"There's a very great diversity of issues," Krause said. "It's a big area. The people there need someone who can get right to work."

Krause's focus while a councilor included the removal of urban blight, a problem that has seen much progress both on his watch and as a result of his efforts. He served on the Duluth Economic Development Authority and the Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council, giving him expertise in creating jobs and in transportation issues.

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"I'm really connected," Krause said.

And ready to help. Whether he's allowed to will depend on which way councilors go when making their appointment. Will they do what's in the best interest of constituents and district residents? Or will they be watching out for their own political self-interests?

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