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Our View: New views for a new year

The new year brings new viewpoints to the News Tribune editorial board. Two new citizen representatives join today.

Gary EckenbergThe well-known Gary Eckenberg, retired from St. Louis County and a former Duluth city councilor, and feminist and progressive Abigail Mlinar, a marketing professional emerging as a community leader in her own right, take their turns in helping to ensure that the News Tribune's "Our View" editorials are thoroughly and richly considered and from a diversity of viewpoints. Through about mid-summer, they'll serve with Publisher Neal Ronquist, Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick, and employee representative Kris Vereecken on the board.

The News Tribune introduces new editorial board members as part of a commitment to transparency and full disclosure. The newspaper feels readers have a right to know from where editorial opinions come. The newspaper's "Our View" editorials, published most days on the Opinion page, are the stands of the newspaper as determined by its editorial board. And editorials, of course, are meant to spark and help lead conversations about issues and matters that most affect and are most important to our community. From many viewpoints come the best solutions. The News Tribune further provides a civil forum for responses and differing points of view.

Mlinar is a founder of the Feminist Action Collective, an activist group in Duluth. She ran the downtown festival FEmn FEST in September. She has a background in marketing and event production, including for tall ships festivals around the country and in digital marketing for Duluth Pack. She also is a member of the city's Community Development Commission and a board member for Fuse Duluth, a group for young professionals under the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. Recently, Mlinar became sales and marketing manager for Vikre Distillery in Canal Park.

Abigail Mlinar"I do label myself a Democrat. I supported Hillary Clinton in the election," she said last year when first expressing an interest in joining the editorial board. "I'm a music buff, outdoors person, traveler, and general consumer of Duluth culture (and culture in general). I'm young, I'm female, and I'm smart."

More recently she said, "The phenomenal importance of journalism and the work of local media has never been more clear to me. I see this editorial board position as being ... my way to show appreciation by voluntarily assisting this effort and ... my opportunity to emphasize feminist perspective."

Eckenberg retired in 2016 as deputy county administrator. He twice served on the Duluth City Council, the first time in 2000 when he was appointed to replace Dale Swapinski, who was elected to the Legislature, and the second time in 2009 when he was elected to replace Roger Reinert, who had been elected to the state House. Eckenberg withdrew himself from consideration in 2013 when the City Council considered appointing him as an interim replacement for 4th District Councilor Garry Krause, who had resigned.

Eckenberg's longtime advocacy and passion for Lincoln Park, housing, neighborhood revitalization, the St. Louis River corridor, community visioning and comprehensive planning, and more are clear in the lengthy list of city and community commissions and committees on which he has served.

"I consider myself politically to be left of center; however, I am also a born-again Christian, since 1973, who believes today's Republican Party has usurped the American church with its divisive positions on guns, gays and gynecology. ... I am afraid I continually confuse both my conservative and liberal friends," Eckenberg said. "I believe the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party is tearing itself apart internally, having first ousted farmers several years ago; and now labor is finding itself on the outside looking in, as environmentalists, some extreme, carry the DFL banner. On the national level, I believe that number 45 (President Donald Trump) is an embarrassment for our country and that he will be tolerated by a Republican Congress only as long as he is a guaranteed rubber-stamp for its incredibly retrospective policies."

Asked about his interest in serving on the editorial board, Eckenberg said, "For the past 25 years, I have worked in the administration of St. Louis County government. During that time I saw the county's managers and elected officials continually strive for accountability and transparency in the delivery of county services. ... But occasionally the temptation for government to choose winners and losers was overwhelming for individuals who had the power to do what they believed was 'in the best interest.' At these times, I saw our local free press, represented by the Duluth News Tribune and others, step in and slow down action and reveal the issues to everyone's benefit. I believe the editorial board serves as the watchdog and interpreter for much of the complexities involved in local government actions. And it is local government that has the greatest impact upon us as taxpayers."

Citizen-representative and employee-representative positions rotate regularly on the editorial board. With the additions of Eckenberg and Mlinar, the terms of citizen representatives Nathan Johnson and Terese Tomanek come to a close. The News Tribune can't thank them enough for their devoted, thoughtful and involved service.

The News Tribune is already seeking applicants to fill out its editorial board during the second half of 2018. It’s a big election year. A flexible schedule, political interest sans direct current political involvement, and savviness with electronic communication would well-serve a successful applicant. A diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds always is sought for the board.

If you're interested in an unpaid position as a citizen representative, please put together a short note about yourself, your work and life experiences, your political leanings, and whatever else you'd like to include and email it to Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick at cfrederick@duluthnews. com.