St. Louis County Delays Action On Vacant Board Seat

By KBJR News 1

St. Louis County Delays Action On Vacant Board Seat

August 13, 2013 Updated Aug 13, 2013 at 10:34 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The St. Louis County Board voted Tuesday to delay action on filling the 2nd district seat, left vacant by the death of Commissioner Steve O'Neil in July.

It could be as late as Sept. 10, before the board makes a decision.

The board listened to comments from the public on whether it should appoint an interim commissioner until a special election is held on January 14, 2014.

The two-week filing period for the special election is August 20 through Sept. 3.

Of the 10 people who spoke at the meeting, two expressed a willingness to be appointed.

Those include Jim Laumeyer, the former Director of Administration for the Minnesota Department of Transportation's northeast district and Angie Miller, Steve O'Neil's widow.

"I thought it would be a way to make it not divisive for the board,” Miller said. “I thought maybe they would think it would be a cohesive decision."

Both Miller and Laumeyer said they would not run in the special election.

Since the public had a chance to weigh in on these two individuals, the board says it reserves the right to appoint either Miller or Laumeyer prior to the next county board meeting on September 10, which is after the filing period closes for any potential candidates.

Former Duluth City Councilor Greg Gilbert withdrew his bid for the interim position when he learned Miller had submitted her name.

Concerned citizens of Duluth's second district rallied before the board meeting to oppose an interim appointment.

The protestors said they're concerned the board may appoint a handpicked conservative to the interim position, to pad their right-wing majority.

"To see his seat go to someone that we don't choose, that's chosen purely for political gain, I feel is a real slap, a real desecration to his memory," Debra Taylor, a protestor said.

On Tuesday, Former Congressman Oberstar staffer, Dave Boe says he is considering letting his name stand for the interim vacant seat and would not seek election to the board.

If he's not appointed, he says he may run in the election.

He says he wants to make sure the office is filled by someone who would focus on job creation and basic constitutional advocacy.

O’Neil lost his battle with a rare form of thyroid cancer on July 16.
The Commissioner and his wife began their community activism in Duluth 25 years ago when they opened their home to the poor.

They went on to found Loaves and Fishes which now operates three homes.

Inspired by his late friend and mentor Senator Paul Wellstone, O'Neil ran successfully for the county board taking his first oath in office in 2005.

During his medical treatment in Duluth and at the Mayor Clinic Commissioner O'Neil continued his work on behalf of his constituents, attending county board meetings and keeping office hours.