Jewell topples Fink for St. Louis County BoardThe St. Louis County Board of Commissioners will have a new look in 2011 after incumbent Dennis Fink was defeated by challenger Frank Jewell.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
The St. Louis County Board of Commissioners will have a new look in 2011, with incumbent Dennis Fink toppled by challenger Frank Jewell.
Jewell, a former Duluth city councilor, topped Fink more than 2-1 in the county’s 1st District, which covers central Duluth neighborhoods.
It was a rematch of their race in 2006 that was decided by 207 votes in Fink’s favor.
In other county races, commissioners Keith Nelson of Eveleth, Mike Forsman of Ely and unopposed Steve Raukar of Hibbing all appeared headed to re-election, according to early results.
Fink, 65, was first elected in 1996 and was considered one of the board’s more conservative commissioners, focusing on budget, tax and land use. He was active in National Association of Counties committees that stress private land ownership and county tax base and generally oppose state and federal land management restrictions. He was especially active in cutting the county’s budget and trimming staff, calling it “right-sizing” government.
Jewell, 60, is considered more liberal, criticizing county cuts to services for vulnerable residents and saying the county should better value its clean waters, unspoiled public land and natural resources. He credited his win to hard work by his campaign team and voters who were growing tired of “shenanigans” on the County Board.
Jewell specifically cited Fink’s extensive travel reimbursements and allegations of sexual harassment against Fink made by a county employee in 2007.
“The travel issue came up again and again and again as I knocked on doors,” Jewell said. “It’s more than policy that commissioners need to be concerned about. It’s behavior as well.”
Fink has been part of a solid four-vote conservative majority on the board and his absence could change the board’s tilt on some issues. But Jewell stopped short of pledging any agenda while serving on the board, saying he would bide his time getting to know other commissioners and deciding which issues he would tackle.
Jewell is executive director of Men as Peacemakers, a group he helped form in 2000 to counter domestic violence in the community. He had worked as a violence prevention specialist for St. Louis County and has worked with adolescents, the mentally ill and the elderly. Jewell served on the Duluth City Council from 1987 to 1991 and graduated from the College of St. Scholastica.
Fink did not return a reporter’s phone call by press time Tuesday.
Forsman and Hujanen battle in 4th District
Forsman, 62, was leading Tower real estate agent and civic activist Christina Hujanen by 57 percent to 43 percent, with about 99 percent of precincts reporting.
Hujanen, 43, said local residents need better communication from the County Board before commissioners take action. Too often, she said, residents don’t find out about issues or actions until after a final vote is taken.
Forsman also has become the County Board’s transportation expert, serving on regional, state and national county highway panels, and lobbying to bring state and federal highway money into the county. He will be president of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance in 2011 — if he’s re-elected.
Nelson and Janatopoulos battle in 6th District
Incumbent Keith Nelson was topping challenger Lorrie Janatopoulos by a 56 to 44 percent margin with about 99 percent of the precincts reporting. The County Board seat covers the Quad Cities on the Iron Range and townships south nearly to Duluth’s suburbs.
Nelson, 52, of rural Eveleth, has served on the board since 2002 and has been the board’s chief budget cruncher in recent years. He’s a third-generation farmer, a former taconite plant worker and a small-business owner, including of a convenience store.
Janatopoulos, 53, also of rural Eveleth, made her first run for office but has been a longtime DFL party and community activist. She’s the planning director for the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency and previously served as aide to former County Commissioner Liz Prebich. She says her current job and past experience give her invaluable experience to be a county commissioner.