A couple surprises perhaps, and some mixed results, but Duluth voters sent a few interesting messages at their local ballot boxes Tuesday.
They want a more business-minded City Council, for one.
Entrepreneur Derek Medved, who grew his holdings from one gas station and convenience store in Gary-New Duluth to four such businesses in both Duluth and Superior, was the top vote-getter for two open At Large council seats. He unseated an incumbent to win. The other incumbent in the race, Arik Forsman, prevailed. His day job is in economic development for Minnesota Power. In other words, Forsman works every day to attract and retain for Duluth jobs-providing industries, corporations, and businesses.
Additionally, business-minded Roz Randorf, a corporate consultant who worked 27 years in the newspaper industry, including at the News Tribune, was easily elected to the City Council in central Duluth’s District 3. Even more easily, First District Councilor Gary Anderson, who opened a yoga studio business in 2015, won re-election.
Another message Tuesday came from school district voters: We’re ready to put behind us, where it belongs, all the angst and pain and controversy stemming from the long-range facilities plan that resulted in new and improved Duluth school buildings. Two of the faces of the past were defeated Tuesday: Former School Board member Harry Welty lost by about a two-to-one margin to incumbent David Kirby, and longtime district critic Loren Martell received just 46.09% of the vote to retired public-school teacher Paul Sandholm’s 53.91%.
Tuesday’s local elections were also very good for western Duluth. That half of the city flexed a bit of the political muscle for which it was once known.
Medved is a 2013 Denfeld grad, and the western half of the city held his strongest support.
Also, western Duluth’s District 5 elected the city’s first African American city councilor in Janet Kennedy. An impressive candidate, Kennedy was a physical therapy assistant for 25 years, a parish nurse, a Duluth Planning Commission member, a member of the city's Vision 2035 long-range planning committee and its Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee, a business advocate with the West Duluth Business Club, and a neighborhood activist.
At Large School Board incumbent Alanna Oswald held onto her seat, which was another positive result for western Duluth. A western-Duluth resident on a School Board dominated by eastern representation, Oswald’s voice has been perhaps the most persistent and consistent in demanding equity. She has led the fight to make sure that all Duluth school district students — whether they live east or west, come from money or don't — have the same educational opportunities and equal shot at succeeding.
Even the resounding re-election of Mayor Emily Larson could be seen as good for western Duluth, given her consistent advocacy and support for investing in and rejuvenating the St. Louis River Corridor as Duluth’s next big thing.
All candidates, whether they prevailed or came up short, can be thanked for their participation. They all contributed to critical community conversations this election season and those public exchanges of ideas and viewpoints that can help lead us to solutions and a better Duluth and Duluth school district.
Every voter who cast a ballot can be thanked, too. Those who sat out these important elections missed out, including on sending a message of their own.