Duluth City Council appoints Joel Sipress to fill vacant seat

By KBJR News 1

February 10, 2014 Updated Feb 10, 2014 at 9:35 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - After a deadlocked Duluth City Council failed numerous times to reach a simple majority, UW Superior History Professor Joel Sipress was appointed to fill the council's vacant seat Monday night.

After four attempts to reach a simple majority vote, it still took two ranked choice voting efforts, and a review of the voting rules, to appoint Sipress as the newest district two city councilor.

The Duluth City charter requires the council to fill the vacancy seat by appointment. After Monday's unexpected turns, Councilor Sharla Gardener proposed the council re–visit the charter.

That seat was left open by former councilor Patrick Boyle, after he was elected to the Saint Louis County Board in January.

Sipress was one of three finalists who were interviewed prior to tonight's meeting. Angie Miller and Kathy Heltzer were the other two.

During the final interview process, all three candidates spoke about what their priorities would be as councilors if they were to fill the vacant seat.

For Sipress that talk turned to action Monday night, just after being sworn in, when he voted with eight other councilors to support raising the state's minimum wage to $9.50 an hour.

"I wish I didn't have to vote in favor of this resolution, because it should be the case that, if you work full–time, you shouldn't live in poverty," said Sipress, sitting in his newly appointed seat, "but we know that, in Duluth, there are thousands of our neighbors who work at low–wage jobs, and struggle to survive, and struggle to support their families."

The resolution is a symbolic move endorsing legislative action in Saint Paul during the 2014 session.

Duluth is the first city in Minnesota to do so.

Written by Kevin Jacobsen and Billy Wagness
Bio - Facebook - Twitter - E-Mail