In the four-way race to replace Joel Sipress — who didn’t seek re-election in City Council District 2, which includes parts of eastern and northern Duluth — two politically minded, issues-sharp, and devoted-to-the-community candidates emerged in the News Tribune Editorial Board’s candidate-screening interviews this summer.
Andy Jarocki and Dave Zbaracki can be advanced by eligible voters in the Aug. 10 primary to run against each other in the Nov. 2 election.
Jarocki is a 2016 graduate of Marshall High School who earned a degree in political science and public policy at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. He currently is working on public-housing policy in our region for the Peace Corps-like group Lead for America.
With COVID-19 demonstrating that many professionals can live and work from anywhere, Duluth is well-positioned, he said, for a strong economic rebound.
“Not only do I love Duluth, but I think Duluth, actually, more so than any other city in America right now, is poised to have an incredible recovery from the pandemic,” he said in an interview this summer with the News Tribune Editorial Board. “(Duluth) has all the ingredients to be a place where people want to live. It has an incredible community; incredible natural assets, of course; (and) beautiful, picturesque views. … I want to make it a great place to live, to send your kids to school, to pay taxes, to vote, and to be a citizen.”
The City Council can help with that by advocating for families, with more child-care options as one example, and by advocating for employees and employers to create a stronger job base and tax base.
“How can we find a way to address (Duluth’s challenges) in a way that inspires other businesses to see this is a community where solutions happen and business works well with the city, and, as a result, causes more good-paying jobs to come into our market and to help our families?” Jarocki asked.
Traditional manufacturing sectors like lumber can be re-engaged, he said. He cited the city’s efforts to reopen the Verso paper mill. Duluth also should take advantage of newly created state and county tax incentives for filmmaking: “We have this incredible asset of natural scenery,” Jarocki said. “How can we leverage this to attract more creatives?”
Zbaracki was raised in Duluth and has worked in the ski industry as a ski race coach, instructor, and salesperson. He’s a graduate of Duluth East High School and the University of Minnesota Duluth. Under Mayor Gary Doty, Zbaracki interned, working on comprehensive planning, with the city’s Department of Planning and Development.
Once a Republican and now a DFLer, his view more from the middle would help bring some political balance to a City Council now dominated by the left.
“My campaign slogan is, ‘Let’s build a better Duluth,’ and it’s about better neighborhoods, a better economy, and better government,” Zbaracki told the Editorial Board. “‘Better neighborhoods’ are more walkable, cohesive neighborhoods that have accessible streets for all users. A ‘better economy’ is trying to attract more family-sustaining jobs to our area and not just relying on tourism. … And then, ‘better government.’ I want our city to grow … and broaden our tax base.”
Spirit Mountain, Zbaracki said, is too often turned into a “political football.” With investment, “It’s going to be a lot more sustainable going forward.”
Zbaracki supports law enforcement. “If somebody puts on a bullet-proof vest and goes to work in the morning, those people deserve our respect until proven otherwise,” he said. “We can hold bad cops accountable; they are few and far between. But we can … still make sure that we fully fund public safety.”
On taxes, “I’m not opposed to revenue increases, but I also want to make sure people are getting their money’s worth.”
Also on the primary ballot in District 2 are Andy Hilfers and Michael Mayou.
Hilfers graduated last year from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a degree in education and worked last year as a substitute at Ordean-East Middle School. He’s teaching this summer at Denfeld. With a sincere focus on helping students and teachers rebound from the difficulties of distance learning, Hilfers probably should have run for School Board this fall.
Mayou, an admissions communications associate at UMD who also works in technology for the Duluth public schools, is making his second run for City Council. He ran unsuccessfully for an At Large seat in 2019. “I’ve learned a lot in the past couple of years,” he said. “Something I’m really committed to ... is making sure that … city government works for people.”