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Candidate's View: County can focus on mental health, economic development

I am a lifelong Iron Ranger, originally from Chisholm, who has called Ely home for nearly 30 years. I have been a community and union activist my entire professional life and have been endorsed by the Teamsters, Steelworkers, and education groups to replace St. Louis County Commissioner Tom Rukavina.

My father, legendary coach Bob McDonald, taught me two things about life: Work hard and help people. As your next county commissioner, I will continue to do this for the people of the 4th District.

My primary responsibilities as your next county commissioner are to make sure the taxpayers of St. Louis County are treated fairly and with respect and that their tax dollars are spent wisely. If a road needs fixing, my job is to get it fixed. If Grandma or Grandpa need assistance to stay in their home, my job would be to fight to make that happen. If a child is in danger, I need to help make sure that child is safe. If you are a veteran and need services, I will advocate extremely hard for you.

My strength has always been my ability to bring people together using common sense. I have experience in strategizing solutions for problems that will arise for people in the 4th District.

I just retired from Vermilion Community College after 29 years. I will have the time to be available for people of the district and will be able to devote the effort needed to ensure fairness and equity for the fine people who live here. I have a passion for Northeastern Minnesota and have years of experience bringing diverse groups together and making sound decisions.

We need to put mental health on the front burner. Mental health is a major issue in St. Louis County and in our country. There are ways to invest upstream with this issue and thus save resources downstream. The county can partner with the health systems with telemedicine and community-care teams to lessen the burden on law enforcement and other county services.

One of my top priorities for the county is having the county more involved in economic development. Our biggest project in the works is PolyMet. The communities of Aurora, Babbitt, Ely, and Hoyt Lakes have the housing available, and people are waiting for these high-quality jobs. The infrastructure is in place, just waiting to be restarted. All the preliminary work is done, and the process is working. After 15 years, we need to get this mining project underway.

The huge size of the 4th District dictates that we should have more than 96 county jobs located here. With more than 2,000 jobs throughout the county, the 4th District needs more jobs spread throughout our communities. Putting 10 jobs in Aurora, Biwabik, Cook, Orr, or Tower would add to these areas — and these are high-quality, well-paying county positions. With today's technology, we don't need most of our accountants, engineers, and other employees working out of Duluth. The St. Louis County mission statement clearly states the county wants communities to prosper. By assigning more jobs to the 4th District, we would be following the mission of the county.

I believe I am the best-suited candidate for this job. My whole life has been invested in the Iron Range and northern Minnesota. I am very well connected to the area, to the state, and nationally. I always have given an honest effort, am very easy to talk to, am well-liked, and will fight for the people of the 4th District.

The only special interest I will serve is you!

Paul McDonald of Ely is a candidate to represent District 4 on the St. Louis County Board. He wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.

Replacing Rukavina

St. Louis County District 4 Commissioner Tom Rukavina announced in April he wasn't seeking reelection. Paul McDonald and Bernie Mettler are vying to replace him as representative of the massive district, which stretches from just north of Duluth Township to Kabetogama and includes the communities of Lake Vermilion and Ely. The election is Nov. 6. A "Candidate's View" column by Mettler was published online Wednesday.

Candidate forums on Iron Range Monday


A trio of legislative and St. Louis County Board candidate forums hosted by the News Tribune are scheduled for Monday on the Iron Range.


The location is the Liz Prebich Conference Room on the third floor of the Northland Building, 307 S. First St., in Virginia.


  • At 10 a.m., Minnesota House District 3A DFL Rep. Rob Ecklund, 3A Republican challenger Randy Goutermont, House District 5B Republican Rep. Sandy Layman, and 5A DFL challenger Pat Medure will take turns answering questions from the News Tribune Editorial Board.
  • At 11 a.m., Minnesota House District 6A DFL Rep. Julie Sandstede, 6A Republican challenger Guy Anderson, and House District 6B Republican candidate Skeeter Tomczak will take their turns. District 6B DFL candidate Dave Lislegard declined to participate.
  • And at noon, St. Louis County Board District 4 candidates Bernie Mettler and Paul McDonald will share the table with District 6 County Board candidate Matt Matasich. District 6 Commissioner Keith Nelson also declined to participate.