Thanks to Tommy Rukavina, the Fourth District was well served

We’ve had a very good county commissioner manning the post for our area for the past three and a half years. We were very disappointed to hear Tommy Rukavina will not be able to run in this fall’s election.
Health must come first for all of us, even elected officials. All kidding aside, our best wishes, thoughts and prayers are with Tommy, one of the toughest politicians we know. He’s never backed down to a fight before and he won’t now.
On the front page of this week’s paper, Rukavina is pictured with the first winners of the St. Louis County mineral royalties scholarships at Vermilion Community College. It’s only fitting he’s in the photo, if it weren’t for Tommy, this would have never happened.
We sat down with Rukavina a week ago, to talk about his health, his past accomplishments and what kind of legacy he will leave on the Iron Range.
WINNERS of the first St. Louis County Mineral Royalties Scholarships at the Vermilion Community College Foundation scholarship banquet at Grand Ely Lodge on April 19 were Chase Eilrich, Brandon Hanson, Ashley Lindgren, Brandon Martin, Tyler Moravitz, Andrew Rouse, Tyler Walter, Kimberely Kraushaar, and Melissa Nelmark. Presenting the awards was St Louis County Commissioner Tom Rukavina (left), pictured along with Northeast Higher Education District President Bill Maki. Photo by Pam Roberts.

Rukavina has been a strong supporter for the development of ATV trails in St. Louis County, even when the county administration has been less than cooperative. “I think it’s time county elected officials start exercising their election certificates,” Rukavina said.
He’s been disappointed in county commissioners who have forgotten who’s at the top of the food chain. Rukavina will take a department head to task when they don’t do their job. That’s the job of a county commissioner. Tommy has no fear to take action and it’s about time other board members do the same.
Actions like calling down to St. Paul to change a speed limit in Eagles Nest Township didn’t sit well with county bureaucrats and his at-times nemesis on the board, Keith Nelson. But it was the right thing to do.
“It saved the county money, the Mesabi Trail money; it’s just ridiculous. Why wouldn’t you use somebody who had a 26-year history at the Capitol?” asked an incredulous Rukavina.
Fairness has been a popular topic for Rukavina. What’s fair is fair, no matter whose nose gets bent out of shape. When it comes to the north-south split in St. Louis County, Rukavina hasn’t pulled any punches.
“Tell us why the $2.7 million of Thye-Blatnik money that comes to St. Louis County alone, because they did something in 2010 that lowered your school district’s reimbursement of PILT money and lowered the other townships around here. All of the sudden the county gets more. Tell us why the $2.7 million that’s for Ely’s economy and Tower’s economy because of the Boundary Waters goes into the general fund?” asked Rukavina.
Prior to Rukavina taking over in the Fourth District, the county shipped engineering and other jobs out of Ely, most to Duluth. Those jobs could’ve helped Ely for decades to come, bringing families to our area and putting kids in our schools.
The mineral royalties that have been diverted by Rukavina, both in St. Paul and in St. Louis County have made a difference as well. Rukavina was able to divert a portion of those funds to the Natural Resources Research Institute in Duluth to do research on copper-nickel mining and value added processes.
“Since 1993 they’ve gotten over $30 million and what the hell have they done?” said Rukavina.
The monies that go to the University of Minnesota have funded thousands of scholarships. In 2017, there were 888 scholarships from mining royalties given out at the main campus of the University of Minnesota, making it the largest scholarship program.
UM-Duluth had 589 scholarship recipients from taconite royalties. They’ll each get $1,000 a year for four years, thanks to mining. In total, land grant state universities gave out 1,519 scholarships from mining royalties. Since 1994, $35 million has been given out in scholarships.
Our thanks to Rukavina for all he has done for northeast Minnesota. He’s the little guy who stood tall and fought for the people. Now he’s got to fight for himself. When his term is done he will have the fight of his life.
“I’ve been recently informed I’ve got some health care problems that are going to require a lot of my time. I was planning on running, but I just can’t give 150 percent,” said Rukavina, 67. “And that’s not fair to my constituents.”
Tommy you’ve been fair and you’ve fought for your constituents. You’ve made us proud.