At a head-to-head candidate forum this week, Ashley Grimm emerged as more knowledgeable of and as having a better grasp of county issues and operations. With her clear readiness to take over as commissioner of District 3, eligible voters in western Duluth can ensure their continued effective representation by casting their ballots for Grimm for St. Louis County Board in the Nov. 3 election.

“I want to focus on what the county actually has purview over, because I’m not running for the City Council or the state,” Grimm said at the News Tribune-sponsored forum, which was held virtually because of COVID-19 precautions. “I want someone in there who doesn’t just talk about their values but who lives (them) and who has really pushed for the west side of Duluth. And I bring that, and people can see it in the way I’ve led.”

Grimm has led during nearly seven years on Duluth’s Human Rights Commission, including as its chair and vice chair; her service included Duluth’s Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights. She runs family and employment programming at the Damiano Center, where she also helped build a summer program to give teens their first work experiences. A resident of Duluth’s Denfeld neighborhood, she is trained in restorative justice. And she majored in history and political science at the University of Minnesota.

As an advocate for the most vulnerable and with a background of helping children, families, and others in need, Grimm wouldn’t be a huge departure from incumbent Commissioner Beth Olson, who chose not to seek re-election. Olson was executive director of First Witness Child Advocacy Center before being elected. She made her mark as the board’s lone female voice and as the only commissioner with a strong background in social services needs and how the county can meet them.

Grimm has clearly worked hard to bone up on the issues facing the county so that she can make similar marks and offer similar and valuable perspective.

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“There’s arguably no other level of government charged with supporting families as much as the county. The county runs public health and human services as 30% of its budget. The next 20% greatly impacts juvenile offenders and how well we’re able to get kids back into the community,” Grimm said. “I want somebody in there who has been fighting on these issues and who knows the role of the county and who can help run that well because that’s going to affect our property taxes. That’s going to affect the way we recover from (the economic downturn caused by COVID-19).”

Concerned about the Duluth-versus-Iron Range rift that too often has divided the County Board? Grimm can help bridge it as a commissioner from Duluth who grew up in rural Minnesota as a native of Barnum.

Grimm vows to be fiscally prudent, like Olson has been — and like the County Board in general has been over the years. Just last month, despite the pandemic and its economic challenges, commissioners set a maximum levy for 2021 with an actual decrease in the county’s portion of property tax collections.

“Something I bring to the table is not just headlines and talking points but really knowing what the county does and the ways it can support us. So when we talk about economic development, it’s not just generally about jobs. It’s about our blight-reduction program; it’s about seed money and working with the West Duluth Business Club; (and) it’s about working with our city and state and having good relationships, which I have coming in, to make sure that there are good investments and that our roads and bridges are repaired and that people keep working. I think we need to fundamentally understand what the county does and does not do and to build those strong relationships.”

Also on the ballot: Joe Macor of Duluth’s Fond du Lac neighborhood is running against Grimm for the County Board seat. He and his wife own and operate a foster care home for disabled adults, and he’s a long-time volunteer coach for the Denfeld Junior Football League.

“As a fourth-generation western Duluthian, I understand what’s important to the residents of our district, our way of life, and what makes western Duluth unique. We’re a blue-collar, hard-working people who want to see good-paying jobs in our community,” he said at the forum. “So many families and businesses are struggling from the economic devastation from COVID-19. We need elected officials who’ll put job creation and economic job growth on the top of priority lists. Our county has many great programs and resources. In order to pay for them, we must have a strong tax base.”

ABOUT THIS ENDORSEMENT: This endorsement was determined solely by and was written by the News Tribune Editorial Board.