The temporary replacement for St. Paul City Council Member Russ Stark will be named Feb. 14 and take office the following week, days after Stark moves to a job in Mayor Melvin Carter’s office.
The race to replace Stark once the six-month interim period is up is already underway. On Wednesday, Mitra Jalali Nelson, policy aide and outreach director for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., became the second candidate to throw her hat in the ring.
Stark’s six fellow council members interviewed interim candidates on Tuesday, giving each contender 15 minutes to make a case for why they should fill the Fourth Ward seat until a special election this summer.
Council President Amy Brendmoen, who led the interviews, said the plan is to appoint an interim council member at the Feb. 14 council meeting and have that person in office by Feb. 21.
The six candidates bring a diverse range of professional experience. John Van Hecke founded a local think tank. Laura LaCroix-Dalluhn is a consultant who advises local governments and nonprofits. There’s also attorney Scott Banas, neighborhood organizer Jonathan Oppenheimer, human resources director Autumn Amadou-Blegen and Samantha Henningson, Stark’s legislative aide.
Though a few have worked for elected officials, none has held office. As part of the interview process, each candidate had to agree that they won’t run in the Aug. 14 special election if chosen to be the interim council member.
The temporary council member will be tasked with carrying out Stark’s agenda and representing residents in Hamline-Midway, Merriam Park, St. Anthony Park and parts of the Mac-Groveland and Como neighborhoods.
After 10 years on the council, Stark announced that he will resign Feb. 16 and take a job as chief resilience officer in Carter’s administration.
On Monday, attorney and Hamline-Midway resident Amy Ireland was the first to announce her candidacy for the Fourth Ward seat. Whoever is elected in August will serve the rest of Stark’s term, through 2019.
In a release announcing her candidacy, Nelson said she’s running “to make Saint Paul a city that works for everyone.”