Former St. Paul school board member Tom Conlon, 50, dies outside his home

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 14, 2010 - 7:25 AM

Tom Conlon, a former St. Paul school board member who for years was the city's lone elected Republican, died Sunday after shoveling out his car in the Macalester-Groveland area and then suffering an apparent medical incident while trying to drive.

Police spokesman Andy Skoogman said that a neighbor found Conlon unresponsive in the car about 5:55 a.m. Sunday after Conlon, 50, drove into a snowbank in the 2100 block of Berkeley Avenue, where he owned a house.

Another neighbor told police that he had seen Conlon shoveling around the car about 5 a.m., and thought things seemed "normal" then, Skoogman said.

Conlon was pronounced dead at 6:53 a.m. Sunday. While authorities believe that his death was due to a medical issue, Skoogman said "it is unclear if it was because he was shoveling."

Last year, Conlon resigned his school board seat to run a historic inn that he had bought in Asheville, N.C. A 1978 graduate of Highland Park High School, he went to college at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. There, Conlon said, he forged ties to Asheville, a tourism center in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

But he also kept his St. Paul home, and by January of this year, Conlon was back in Minnesota planning a run for state auditor.

The party's eventual endorsed candidate would be former state auditor Pat Anderson.

At the time he resigned his school board seat, Conlon had been the board's longest-serving member. He was first elected in 1991. The departure had DFLers wondering then if Conlon's hold on the seat was due to his popularity or to the public's desire to have at least one Republican on the school board.

The eventual winner of the special election that followed was Vallay Moua Varro, top education aide to Mayor Chris Coleman, a DFLer.

Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109

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