The St. Paul City Council will interview seven finalists Wednesday before picking someone to temporarily join their ranks.

The city charter gives the council the power to fill the First Ward seat left vacant by Dai Thao, who resigned to take a new job in Florida.

Whoever the council chooses must be eligible to vote in the First Ward, and council members have said they want a candidate who will agree not to run for the seat next year.

After 20 qualified candidates applied for the role, the council selected seven top contenders, according to resumes provided by the city:

  • Russel Balenger, founder and director of the Circle of Peace Movement, which provides mentorship to at-risk youth.
  • Deborah Montgomery, a former St. Paul police senior commander who was Ward 1's City Council member from 2004 to 2007.
  • Nadira Mohamed, a pharmacist who serves on the Minnesota Department of Health's COVID-19 task force and has worked for St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health.
  • Vic Rosenthal, a community organizing and policy consultant who previously served as the longtime executive director of Jewish Community Action.
  • Erica Valliant, whole family systems manager at People Serving People, a Minneapolis-based shelter for families experiencing homelessness.
  • Touachongka Xiong, president and founder of Kathy's Live Bait, a tackle shop on St. Paul's Rice Street.
  • Khou Yang, a recent graduate of Mitchell Hamline School of Law who worked as a law clerk in the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.

The council will interview each finalist for 15 minutes Wednesday morning starting at 9 a.m. at City Hall. Members of the public can attend or listen to an audio recording that will later be posted on the city's website.

The council is aiming to vote on an appointment Aug. 10.