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St. Louis County Board sets process to fill rare vacancy for county attorney

A successor is expected to be appointed on Sept. 14, affording approximately two weeks of transition from retiring incumbent Mark Rubin.

St. Louis County Courthouse
The St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth is seen on Oct. 27, 2009. File / News Tribune

Candidates will have three weeks to apply for the position of St. Louis County attorney, with commissioners expected to make their final pick Sept. 14.

The County Board on Tuesday established procedures to appoint a replacement for incumbent Mark Rubin, who announced a day earlier that he will retire effective Sept. 30. The appointee will complete the final 15 months of Rubin's term, which is set to expire Jan. 2, 2023.

The board, at its meeting in Virginia, set an application deadline of Aug. 31. A trio of commissioners is expected to meet in the following days to screen applicants and recommend at least three finalists to be reviewed by the entire board Sept. 7, with the final hire coming a week later.

PREVIOUSLY: St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin to retire next month The County Board will be tasked with selecting a replacement for the man who has served in the office since the 1970s and led it since 2011.
"I expect you're going to see people from Mr. Rubin's department, and I expect that you're going to see a number of private attorneys applying as well," Commissioner Keith Nelson, of Fayal Township, said. "There's been a lot of people slighted on judgeships; I expect you're going to see those folks apply. And we have to have a way of paring that down."

Under state law, it is the board's responsibility to appoint a successor until the position is next on the ballot in November 2022. The board occasionally has to hire a new county administrator, appoint a replacement commissioner or, as seen a few years ago, replace a retiring county auditor.

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MarkRubin.jpg
Mark Rubin

But it's rare to replace the county attorney. Every occupant of that office for at least the past half-century has assumed the position through election, leaving no modern precedent for the current task.

"We may receive three (applications); we may receive 33," County Administrator Kevin Gray said.

The committee will consist of Chair Mike Jugovich, of Chisholm; Vice Chair Paul McDonald, of Ely; and Commissioner Frank Jewell, of Duluth. A meeting date was not set, but commissioners vowed to make the winnowing process accessible to the general public.

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Duluth Commissioner Ashley Grimm requested that at least three candidates be recommended to the full board "so it doesn't feel like they're handpicked by just a few of us." Jewell suggested that Grimm, the only woman on the board, serve on the subcommittee, but she was unavailable during the brief window that the committee must meet.
Commissioners and administrators said they'd like to have the appointment finalized at the Sept. 14 board meeting in Virginia in order to give the new hire a roughly two-week transition period to work with Rubin.

The attorney is the top prosecutor and chief legal advisor for the county, responsible for supervising some 68 people who work in criminal, civil and public health and human services divisions at the courthouses in Duluth, Virginia and Hibbing, as well as the Government Services Center in Duluth.

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"This is one of the most important decisions you're going to make as a commissioner," Nelson said.

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