McDonald elected vice-chair

Ely commissioner part of rare Iron Range board leadership duo

by Tom Coombe
A divided St. Louis County Board put two Iron Range commissioners - including one from Ely - in leadership positions.
Breaking from tradition, the board opted against rotating the chair position and re-elected Chisholm commissioner Mike Jugovich on Tuesday.
Commissioner Paul McDonald of Ely, meanwhile, was selected vice-chair.
The votes came with some acrimony, and with outspoken Virginia area commissioner Keith Nelson creating controversy when he called Duluth - the county’s largest city - a “cesspool.”
For years, the board’s chair position went back and forth between the Range and the Duluth area.
But Hermantown commissioner Keith Musolf, who was in line to take the gavel, cited personal reasons for declining and suggested Jugovich get another year at the helm, pointing to disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jugovich was the only person nominated for the post and was approved on a 6-1 vote, with Duluth commissioner Ashley Grimm opposed.
McDonald was then selected vice-chair on a 4-2 vote, with Grimm and Duluth’s Patrick Boyle in opposition and a third Duluth commissioner - Frank Jewell - abstaining.
Both Boyle and Jewell addressed a perceived north-south divide on the board during the debate, with Nelson’s remark stirring further passion.
In a news release, Jugovich said he was honored to serve as chairman again.
“While it’s out of the ordinary, nothing has been ordinary during this pandemic, so I am pleased to have this opportunity to again serve as we move forward to hopefully brighter and healthier days in the year to come,” he said
The chair position is largely symbolic but includes some appointment authority as well as the charge of leading each board meeting.
Jugovich is the first commissioner in nearly 100 years to serve as board chair for two consecutive years.
Jugovich maintained committee assignments for 2021, with McDonald continuing to lead the board’s public works and transportation committee
Commissioners also approved their meeting schedule for 2021.
For the first third of the year, the schedule will rotate between conference rooms in two locations - the Government Services Center - Duluth and the Public Works facility in Virginia. Both locations can better accommodate in-person attendance, while also are equipped to allow live streaming of meetings for people to participate virtually.
Beginning with the last meeting in April, and presuming executive orders have been lifted and the COVID-19 situation is more under control, the board will resume its tradition of holding some meetings in locations around the county, outside of Duluth, as a way to ensure all citizens have access to attend a board meeting.
Included on that docket is an April 27 meeting at the Morse Town Hall.