Rukavina jumps back into politics with county board win

Tom Rukavina successfully re-entered politics Tuesday with a victory over Christina Hujanen of rural Tower for the 4th District seat on the St. Louis County Board.

Tom Rukavina
Tom Rukavina

Tom Rukavina successfully re-entered politics Tuesday with a victory over Christina Hujanen of rural Tower for the 4th District seat on the St. Louis County Board.
With all precincnts reporting, Rukavina, of Pike Township near Virginia, totaled 57 percent of the votes cast to Hujanen’s 43 percent.
The district sprawls across northern St. Louis County, including everything north and east of the core Iron Range.
There was no incumbent in this year’s race, with longtime commissioner Mike Forsman of Ely retiring.
Rukavina, 64, announced he had retired from politics in 2012, after nearly three decades in the state Legislature. But he said he quickly missed public service and that his experience at the state level gives him ample political chops to handle the county job. He also notes that his relationships with people in other layers of government - federal, state, regional and local - will help him serve his district well. County government, Rukavina added, is “in the trenches,” dealing with day to day issues in people’s lives, such as veterans’ services, health and human services for seniors, and other vulnerable county residents.
Hujanen, 47, who resigned from a real estate sales job to run for County Board, also says the county needs to help the region’s wood products industry get through tough times as the global paper and wood economy squeezes out Minnesota mills. She said she this knows because her husband is an independent logging contract trucker.
With a $320 million annual budget, including nearly $117 million from county property taxpayers, and 1,700 employees who serve 200,000 residents across 6,859 square miles, the County Board probably deserves more attention from residents. In addition to providing rural highway maintenance and law enforcement services, the county government administers courts, probation, local jails, human services, elections, property assessments, public health and a host of other functions that affect county residents daily.

Jewell easily wins central Duluth county baord post

First-term incumbent Frank Jewell defeated challenger Jim Booth on Tuesday for the 1st District seat on the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners.

Final poll results showed Jewell with 59 percent of the votes cast to Booth’s 40 percent, with a 1,635-vote margin.
“I’m looking forward to continue doing good government in St. Louis County and, as I’ve said before, doing whatever we can at the county level to make this the kind of place people want to live in, start a business, buy a home and start a family,” Jewell told the News Tribune.
It will be Jewell’s second four-year term.
Jewell, 64, has been a longtime community activist in Duluth. Before his 2010 election to the board, Jewell was executive director of Men as Peacemakers, a group he helped form in 2000 to counter domestic violence in the community. He had worked as a violence prevention specialist for St. Louis County and has worked with adolescents, the mentally ill and the elderly. Jewell served on the Duluth City Council from 1987-91 and graduated from the College of St. Scholastica.
After losing to incumbent Dennis Fink by 207 votes in 2006, Jewell came back and toppled Fink by more than 3,500 votes in 2010.
While the county positions are considered nonpartisan, Jewell had the endorsement of the DFL party and progressive groups. Booth ran as a conservative and staunch opponent of any tax increases while a supporter of proposed copper mining projects. Jewell has advocated a more cautious, wait-and-see approach to any support of new types of mining in the county.
Booth, 56, grew up in Silver Bay but has lived in Duluth for several years. He moved here to be a youth minister, but also has owned a cellphone and pager company. Booth also owned a senior citizen exercise company, and has been a financial planner since 1989, first for Met Life and now on his own with Booth Financial Planning.
Booth also served in the U.S. Air Force and the Minnesota Air National Guard, retiring as a senior master sergeant involved in training development. While the County Board race is his first time running for office, Booth has been active in local issues, serving on the Duluth Housing Commission, the Duluth Housing Trust Fund, Duluth Charter Commission and Duluth Edison School Board.

Other St. Louis County incumbents unopposed


St. Louis County Commissioners Keith Nelson of Fayal Township and Steve Raukar of Hibbing were unopposed in their re-election bids, as were County Attorney Mark Rubin, County Auditor Don Dicklich and Sheriff Ross Litman.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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