OUR VIEW: Enough with St. Louis County's north-south rift
St. Louis County finally picked a new administrator this week. But in doing so, did commissioners so clearly have to remind everyone why new leadership was needed? And did anyone really need the reminder after charges of sexual harassment, commen...
St. Louis County finally picked a new administrator this week. But in doing so, did commissioners so clearly have to remind everyone why new leadership was needed? And did anyone really need the reminder after charges of sexual harassment, comments about supporting slavery and other bad behavior by some elected county officials?
To make their decision, commissioners twice rated five final candidates. In the first round, Duluth commissioners rated a candidate from the Iron Range unreasonably low, Iron Range commissioners charged. In the second round, the Iron Range commissioners worked to ensure the Iron Range candidate moved into second place, should the county not be able to reach contract terms with its top choice, as the News Tribune's John Myers reported.
"This is a north-versus-south battle ... and I guess the Confederates are going to win this time," Iron Range Commissioner Mike Forsman said.
Confederates? Name- calling and the decades-old rift between the northern and southern halves of St. Louis County -- the never-ending us-versus-them, Duluth-versus-the Iron Range battle -- serve no one. The attitudes are outdated, anti-productive and must be abandoned.
With the national economy in the tank, cuts in state funding on the way and the challenge to bring to fruition proposed projects on the Iron Range that could spell a boom for the entire region, St. Louis County would be better served by an elected body that works together for the benefit of all county residents.
That sort of unity may seem a lot to ask, but it
doesn't appear to be out of the reach of Kevin Gray, the County Board's top choice for administrator. Characterized as a "stand-out candidate," the chief financial officer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation scored highest of the five finalists in testing done by the county's job-search consultant.
He's poised to take over for Alan Mitchell, a former county attorney tapped more than a year ago as interim administrator, despite outcries that cronyism led to the job offer.
A permanent, professional administrator who can handle day-to-day operations while the County Board focuses on policy can help usher in a new era for St. Louis County -- one free of fighting, charges of good-ol'-boy clubs and other negatives of the past.
"He's sort of a person who can mold us together," Commissioner Chris Dahlberg of Duluth said of Gray.
That's just what the county needs.