While many Minnesotans take a political breather this fall, Duluthians head to the polls Nov. 5 for a slew of municipal elections.

One year after they turned out in droves for the midterms and one year before they cast their ballots for president, Duluth voters will elect a mayor, city councilors and school board members.

The Star Tribune asked each candidate to provide information about themselves and their views on top issues ahead of Election Day. Read what they said — and brush up on where and how to vote — in our digital election guide.

 

How do I register to vote?

The period for online registration is over, but Minnesota also allows voters to register at the polls. You can check your registration status here. If you’re not already on the state’s rolls, bring proof of residence with you when you go to cast your ballot. Click here for more information on how to register to vote.

 

How does early voting work?

Duluthians looking to avoid Election Day traffic can vote early one of two ways — in person or by mail.

Voters can cast their ballots between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the Duluth city clerk’s office (411 W. 1st St.) on weekdays before the election. A second early voting site will open with the same weekday hours at City Center West (5830 Grand Ave.) starting Oct. 29. Both sites are also open Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to give Duluthians the option to vote on a weekend.

Or anyone can request an absentee ballot. Voters can download the application from the city clerk’s website and submit it by mail or e-mail. Once that request is processed, absentee voters will be sent a ballot, which they can mail back or return in person. Just make sure it’s delivered by 8 p.m. on Nov. 5 — otherwise it won’t be counted.

 

What about voting on Election Day?

Duluth’s polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Find which of the city’s 34 sites you should go to by visiting pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us and typing in your address.

 

What races will be on my ballot?

All Duluthians can vote to elect a mayor, two at-large city councilors and an at-large school board member. Those living in some parts of the city may see additional names on their ballots.

Candidates are facing off for council seats in the city’s first, third and fifth districts, and the school board’s second and third district seats are up for election. You can see what your ballot will look like by searching for your address at myballotmn.sos.state.mn.us.

 

Who are the candidates?

The Star Tribune asked each person seeking office to tell us a little about themselves and provide answers to three questions. See their responses below. 

* (i) denotes incumbent

MAYOR

Emily Larson Mayor (i)

larsonforduluth.com

Bio

Emily Larson was elected mayor in November 2015 with 72% of the vote. Prior to that, she was president of Duluth City Council, a Duluth Economic Development Authority commissioner, a small business owner and a social worker. Emily lives in the Hillside, is married to Doug Zaun and together they have two sons.

Why should voters elect you?

We now have a 25-year dedicated streets funding plan, 1,400 new housing units, an updated comprehensive plan, planning and economic development alignment and leadership in place to advance workforce development, address opiate addiction, achieve energy goals and support our neighborhoods. I am the steady and resilient leader with statewide and national relationships to continue this work.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing the city of Duluth?

Increase our housing stock across multiple price points to allow seniors, college graduates, young families, people on fixed incomes and new residents to stay and build a good life here in Duluth; expand our economy and tax base by removing red tape, realigning our departments and targeting smart growth; maintain strong neighborhoods by ensuring our parks, public safety and community engagement efforts are fairly distributed city-wide.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

I have activated a housing task force, led land assembly efforts to provide new development opportunities, identified a loan fund for fix-up efforts in key neighborhoods, made changes to our unified development code to allow for new uses, added plan reviewers to keep projects moving and leveraged my service on statewide housing agency boards.

 

David Nolle Mayor

davenolle.com

Bio

David Nolle is the father of three and a retired director of a leadership, character and citizenship building organization. With a proven record of engaging all concerned, David is known for thrifty, back-to-basics and common-sense leadership that results in balanced budgets, quality programming, increased transparency and stakeholder engagement.

Why should voters elect you?

With solid experience and documented results, both locally and regionally, David will bring fresh leadership to Duluth that will grow Duluth’s population, provide safer streets and prudently use taxpayer resources. David is known for surrounding himself with the best and brightest to achieve a common goal.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing the city of Duluth?

Population growth, need for deliberate investment in infrastructure, improved perception of public safety.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

Under my leadership, with the guidance of the best community leaders and the support of great city staff, I will implement well-planned and collaborative programs while sunsetting those that no longer apply and invest in solid infrastructure, thus attracting and retaining the citizens, businesses and tourists necessary to grow Duluth.

 

CITY COUNCIL

Arik Forsman City Council At-Large (i)

arikforduluth.com

Bio

Professional economic developer who works to bring family-sustaining jobs to Duluth. Lifelong volunteer and advocate for affordable child care, public safety, healthy communities, less red tape, and transparent and approachable government. UMD graduate building his life in Duluth with his wife and two young children.

Why should voters elect you?

Committed to serving the people of Duluth with an open mind, collaborative spirit, positive attitude, respectful approach and passion for ideas that lift us all. In my year on the council I've led the way on efforts to increase access to child care and strengthen neighborhood businesses. Labor endorsed.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing the city of Duluth?

Tear down economic barriers such as a lack of affordable housing, child care, transportation options and family-sustaining jobs. Prioritize funding for fixing basics like infrastructure and public safety in a transparent, accessible way. Explore innovative approaches to improve city services and confront changes in our economy, technology and climate.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

Lead a wide-ranging effort to address all issues that hold back residents' economic prospects. Attack housing barriers through the creation of an affordable housing trust fund, incentives to improve existing housing, changes to code, and streamlined development processes. Increase child care access through microloans and other new funding options.

 

Noah Hobbs City Council At-Large (i)

hobbsforduluth.com

Bio

I’m a lending director making amortizing home rehab loans at a local housing agency, husband, West Duluth homeowner, neighbor and civically engaged community member. As president of the Duluth City Council I have a proven track record of successfully addressing the issues of today and positioning Duluth for a successful future. I am committed to ensuring that we continue to grow as a city and take care of our infrastructure and invest in our neighborhoods and neighbors.

Why should voters elect you?

I have a proven track record of successfully addressing a broad variety of issues facing Duluth. From reducing red tape for entrepreneurs, opening a warming center for folks experiencing homelessness, bringing Uber and Lyft to Duluth, and securing historic levels of funding for our streets and water lines. Duluthians know I am focused, effective and accessible.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing the the city of Duluth?

The top three issues facing Duluth are our housing shortage, continued and sustainable economic growth and continued investment into infrastructure and our neighborhoods.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

I work every day in housing. Part of the solution is rehabbing our housing stock to ensure it prolongs the life of our homes. Another part is simply adding more units, though, unfortunately, we don’t have a significant amount of land to build single family homes. We need to increase density through increasing our supply of duplexes, triplexes and apartment complexes. We also need to find a local funding stream to ensure we have affordable housing as well so that everyone can live here — something which the mayor's affordable housing task force (which I helped start) is currently looking at. We should also explore offsetting utility hookup fees.

 

Mike Mayou City Council At-Large

mayouduluth.org

Bio

I am a lifelong Duluthian, product of a union family and proud UMD Bulldog. I'm also deeply invested in the future of our community, which is why I have been organizing around issues of homelessness, public education, the environment, electoral politics and accessibility for many years.

 

Why should voters elect you?

I’m running to represent working people, families, young folks, seniors and those traditionally left behind by the political process. I'm fighting for an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few. I'm standing up for the future of our beautiful lake, surrounding ecosystem and our people.

 

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing the city of Duluth?

Affordable housing: I believe housing is a human right. Economic justice: I’m ready to stand up and fight for a Duluth that everyone can afford. Climate change: I will fight to protect our environment and move our economy to transform our city.

 

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

1. Creating a Duluth affordable housing trust fund. 2. Passing city-wide protections for renters. 3. Improving our housing stock and increasing density in a way that doesn’t displace community members or decrease access to green spaces. I will fight to ensure all people have access to safe and affordable housing.

 

Derek Medved City Council At-Large

medvedduluth.com

Bio

I am a lifelong Duluth resident, Denfeld High School graduate and proud business owner in the community. Growing from one to four stores and three to 42 employees, I understood that alone I never stood a chance, but together anything is possible.

Why should voters elect you?

I have a proven record of getting things done. Building a chain of convenience stores in today's market was not easy, but with a lot of patience, determination and hard work, it paid off. As a business owner, I understand the importance of being fiscally responsible. Operating a multi-million dollar budget requires attention to detail and always remembering that pennies matter. Just like in business and on council, we need to live within our means and count our pennies.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing the city of Duluth?

Infrastructure, housing, crime.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

Infrastructure is so much more than what meets the eye. It's underground water, gas and sewers that also needs our attention. Investing in streets, utilities and maintenance is paramount for the success of our city.

 

Gary Anderson City Council District 1 (i)

garyandersonforduluth.com

Bio

For the past four years I have worked hard as the Duluth first district city councilor, listening and responding to residents’ needs, strengthening public safety and public health, and advancing public green space and natural resources. I stand for people, planet and prosperity. My five grandchildren are my inspiration for seeking re-election.

Why should voters elect you?

During my time in office I have advocated for citizens’ critical needs, promoted transparency in government, and developed collaborative working relationships with elected officials, citizen groups and businesses to get things done. I have listened carefully to all sides of issues and am a trusted public servant.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing the city of Duluth?

Forward-thinking housing development — let’s renew our city housing stock with energy efficiency and sustainable practices. Renewal of streets and utility infrastructure — we’re off to a good start after a generation of neglect. Expansion of our tax base — through wise economic development, good paying jobs and an attractive, welcoming city.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

Housing is needed across the financial spectrum. All new housing should be required to meet energy efficiency goals and sustainability standards that will be looked at with pride by future generations. Additionally, we have the opportunity to become nationwide leaders in re-developing our existing housing stock.

 

Becky Hall City Council District 1

beckyhallforduluth.com

Bio

I’m a wife and mother of five who wants to make this great community better. I’ll use my experience as a former economic development representative for the state and my focus on returning to the basics to make Duluth the safest, most affordable and opportunity-filled place to raise a family.

 

Why should voters elect you?

I’ll consistently focus on what’s important. We shouldn’t put up roadblocks and increase taxes that undermine small businesses that employ so many Duluthians. We also should not pass resolutions about activities a world away or condemn businesses in other cities and states. My focus will be only on Duluth and its citizens.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing the city of Duluth?

Public safety, housing and providing a welcoming environment for businesses.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

There have been too many break-ins or worse in Duluth, and many say they’ve never felt so unsafe in their own homes. I’ll advocate for more police and for properly protecting them. Last year, some opposed providing such protection, which was a dangerous and naïve position to take.

 

Roz Randorf City Council District 3

rozforduluth.com

Bio

I am a mother with two sons and a 27-year retired newspaper staffer and trainer with Dale Carnegie. I live in the West Hillside with my son Simon and dog Charlie. A DECC board member and former small-business owner and St. Louis County Master Gardener.

Why should voters elect you?

I will listen and act so that we can create a community where all people can thrive. I will face our local challenges by cutting through the complexities, uncover underlying causes and will bring all of our diverse voices together to ensure Duluth is better, safer and healthier.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing the city of Duluth?

Housing: We will create a framework where we have decent housing that people can afford to live in. Jobs: We will attract new industry to Duluth, so workers have livable wage job opportunities. Clean Water: We will develop protection and restorative strategies for Lake Superior and our shorelines.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

Requires multi-faceted approach. Work with the Housing and Redevelopment Authority; our outreach leaders – Chum, Loaves and Fishes, including people who experienced homelessness, to chart the course while developing local financial options, seeking federal and state funding. Develop a sustainable plan, act on it, communicate it clearly to the entire community.

 

Theresa O'Halloran-Johnson City Council District 3

theresa4duluth.com

Bio

I am a social worker advocating for children with intellectual disabilities. I am a proud AFSCME member and have been active with progressive causes and the DFL most of my adult life. I have three adult daughters. My husband is a retired public school teacher. I have also been a licensed day care provider.

Why should voters elect you?

Voters should elect me because I love this city and believe in its potential. I am active in my community and witness the impact of public policy on individuals every day. I am committed to improving the lives of all Duluthians, especially those most vulnerable.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing the city of Duluth?

In my opinion, the top three issues facing Duluth are safe, affordable housing, affordable and accessible transportation, and investing in infrastructure that is built to last and environmentally responsible.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

Housing is definitely the top issue I hear from people when I knock on doors and participate in forums. As a city, we need to set realistic targets for all levels. We have to work with the newly created housing task force. And we need to advocate strongly for mixed-use development, which will help create more walkable neighborhoods and improve our property tax base.

 

Jeanne Koneczny City Council District 5

jeanneforduluth.com

Bio

I’m a lifelong community activist and have spent decades promoting western Duluth and working with others to achieve goals. I know the value of partnerships, collaboration and just plain hard work to get things done, and that is why I’m running for Fifth District City Council. I have the experience.

Why should voters elect you?

Western Duluth has a wealth of opportunities for business growth and economic expansion; large tracts of available land zoned for housing, industrial and manufacturing, access to water, transportation routes and a ready workforce.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing the city of Duluth?

The problems regarding our streets and infrastructure. The enormous challenges dealing with the epidemic of opioid use. Challenges in housing for all.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

Conduct an inventory of all our streets, and the utilities under them. We have to leverage city half tax for streets funding with Municipal State-Aid Street funds and the county transportation sales tax where applicable. We need to be diligent developing a maintenance and operations schedule for any new projects, we cannot afford to defer our maintenance until it’s a dire situation.

 

Janet Kennedy City Council District 5

kennedyforduluth.com

Bio

Lifelong Duluthian, my family moved to Duluth in 1965 for the Air Base. We serve our country, church and community. I am president of the Duluth Planning Commission, a member of Imagine Duluth 2035 Comprehensive Plan Vision Committee and president of Riverfront Community Development.

Why should voters elect you?

We can make a difference together. I understand how policies impact people differently and I am dedicated to making a difference for everyone. Community investments begin with community and my vision includes building on the unique assets that Western Duluth has to offer.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing the city of Duluth?

Community centered economic development: business growth, jobs, directing improvements through business and community cross-collaborations. Health disparities based on zip codes: creating policies, practices, procedures for optimal health. Vibrant neighborhoods: building sustainable places to live, work, and play. Infrastructure, roads, streets, transportation connectivity; improving quality of life and safety for everyone.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

Transformative policies based on social and economic health disparities. Implementation of strategies and solutions creating equitable investments in all zip codes across Duluth neighborhoods. Comprehensive organizational collaborations with multi-pronged outcomes focused on priorities.

 

SCHOOL BOARD

Alanna Oswald School Board At-Large (i)

facebook.com/oswaldforschoolboard

Bio

Mom of two. BA/Psychology from Gustavus Adolphus 1995. Teaching license (2008) and MS/Teaching (2012) College of St. Scholastica. Worked in ISD 709 over 15 years as a consistent volunteer, Americorps VISTA, paraprofessional, substitute teacher, on Minnesota Department of Education Title I Committee of Practitioners for many years, and in varying capacities within the Office of Education Equity. I have worked many years in many community equity groups such as NAACP and Education Equity Alliance. Doing what is right is important, even when it's hard.

Why should voters elect you?

I work diligently to give voice to often underrepresented community members, to help ensure broad discussion happens to comprehensively address important educational matters. I meet often with constituents. I advocate for families who need support. I ask competent questions on hard matters. Equity is in the community consciousness because of me, and I want to remain on the board to ensure equity stays as our central focus during tough fiscal times. Education is my passion, along with our families and community.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing Duluth Public Schools?

Equitable education for all, advocacy and mental health issues, and school finance with limited resources.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

Hiring our next superintendent is the highest priority in our district this year, as the new superintendent will set the direction of our schools and success for our community. I will remain diligent on hiring someone who will invest in our communities, who is transparent and a great communicator. Someone who is willing to become part of the different communities our district represents, along with someone who is a responsible fiscal manager. Our next superintendent must value all students and provide students with what they need to succeed.

 

John Schwetman School Board At-Large

facebook.com/schwetmanforschools

Bio

With two children currently in Duluth Public Schools, John Schwetman teaches at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He has lived in Duluth for 20 years. In 2013 and 2018, Schwetman chaired the "Duluth for Education" committee, which succeeded in increasing funding for public schools.

Why should voters elect you?

My commitment to our public schools and record of careful, pragmatic work toward compromise and consensus-building will enable me to serve our school board as we work through the challenges of providing appropriate oversight to the Duluth school district.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing Duluth Public Schools?

Our school board needs to communicate clear goals to a diverse community. We need to hire a new superintendent who will empower district employees to develop students effectively. We need to bolster the district’s valuable current programs including full-service community schools, career and technical education, and extracurricular activities.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

Experience on "Duluth for Education" and Duluth’s Civil Service Board demonstrates that I can listen, learn and collaborate in addressing challenges that our board will face. I will encourage collegiality on our school board as it considers differing approaches to the common goal of providing students with an excellent education.

 

Harry Welty School Board District 2

givemhellharry.org

Bio

Harry Welty, age 67, history teacher, snow sculptor, blogger, frequent candidate for public office has served three terms on the Duluth school board. Married to Claudia, he has a son and daughter who graduated from Duluth’s schools. He has more opinions than you can shake a stick at and he can juggle.

Why should voters elect you?

So that voters can have the confidence that someone who understands school finance, the Red Plan, education law, the value of public education, the management role of a school board and the importance of teachers is sitting on what today is a pretty inexperienced Duluth school board.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing Duluth Public Schools?

First: That equity is not enough. Every child should be tended to carefully for 12 years of schooling no matter the shortcomings they bring to school. Second: That teachers should be given all the support they need. Third: That the public is treated with openness and complete honesty.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

Starting with a new superintendent show respect to every employee of the district and expect the best from them and have them reciprocate this ethos to the students in their classrooms and to parents. Make every precious dollar in our budget work to maximum effect.

 

David Kirby School Board District 2 (i)

facebook.com/DavidKirbyforDuluthSchoolBoard

Bio

I am a retired family physician with a PhD in Education, and a father of two children currently attending Duluth East High School. I have been very involved in Duluth public schools since they were in kindergarten, and have been a member of the school board for four years.

Why should voters elect you?

My four years on the board include two as chair, and this experience has given me firsthand knowledge of the challenges our district faces, as well as the opportunity to develop relationships with other district leaders, local and state officials, and community stakeholders who are necessary partners in solutions.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing Duluth Public Schools?

Bring all residents of a diverse community together to equitably address the issues facing the district, given our limited resources. Class size discrepancies and unequal school facility utilization. Continued differences in achievement and graduation among student groups throughout the district.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

Many of the most important challenges and issues facing ISD 709 cannot be solved by the district alone. Poverty, homelessness and dysfunctional home situations significantly affect student learning. Wider community and governmental involvement and support are necessary to address these issues and make significant improvements in the performance of our students and schools.

 

Loren Martell School Board District 3

loren-martell.com

Bio

I’ve lived in Duluth nearly 28 years. I own a small business and my late wife was a teacher. We had no children ourselves, but believed the education of children is the entire community’s responsibility. I am near retirement, but still have good health and a lot of energy.

Why should voters elect you?

I’ve paid very close attention to the district’s financial affairs for over a decade. I spearheaded a state audit, wrote the report for the auditor’s office, and for five years reported on board meetings in a local alternative newspaper.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing Duluth Public Schools?

1. Budget. 2. Inequity between East/West ends of town, achievement gap. 3. School board’s relationship with public.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

I would re-open the Secondary Technical Center and get more competitive in the educational marketplace with career/technical education, take a closer look at the financing of a large consolidation project and put a professional grant writer on staff.

 

Paul Sandholm School Board District 3

No website

Bio

I’m a retired teacher and coach with 22 years of experience in ISD 709. The past two years, I’ve served as a substitute in every building across the district. I’ve been dedicated to community service for the young citizens of Duluth for many years.

Why should voters elect you?

With experience district wide, I have a good feel for the needs of our teachers, students and schools. I’ll be a strong advocate for community schools helping our district deal with equity issues, and a supporter of programs helping our students graduate, enabling their success and opportunities after graduation.

In order of priority, what are the top three issues facing Duluth Public Schools?

1) Finding and hiring a new superintendent of ISD 709 schools. 2) Evaluating school boundary concerns. 3) Improving graduation rates for our minority population and those struggling in poverty.

What is your proposed solution for your top issue?

ISD 709 needs to find a superintendent that gains the confidence of the community, promotes equity and supports transparency in district operations. As the leader of the teaching and administrative teams, we need a superintendent that also supports the QSC model, helping teachers and individual schools collaboratively find successful pathways for student and school building success.