By Dana Kazel
St. Louis County commissioners today selected their longest serving and newest serving members for key leadership roles for 2024. The Board chose Commissioner Keith Nelson to serve as County Board Chair and Commissioner Annie Harala as Vice Chair.
Nelson represents the Sixth District, which covers the central portion of the county, including the Quad cities region on the Iron Range. He has been a commissioner since 2003 and previously served as Board Chair three times, most recently in 2018. Harala represents the First District, which covers the central portion of Duluth. She joined the Board in 2023.
"I want to thank my fellow commissioners for their confidence in selecting me as chair for 2024," said Nelson. "I think of the journey we've been on and the challenges of these last several years and thank Commissioners Jugovich, McDonald and Boyle for their hard work when they sat in this chair. We have a lot of work to do going forward, and I hope my experience serving in this role in the past makes it easier for this Board as we go through the year."
As the new Board Chair, Nelson assigned commissioners to chair the following standing committees of the Board:
Health and Human Services - Patrick Boyle
Public Works and Transportation - Keith Musolf
Finance and Budget - Annie Harala
Central Management and Intergovernmental Relations - Paul McDonald
Public Safety and Corrections - Ashley Grimm
Environment and Natural Resources - Mike Jugovich
He also announced the continuation of several special Board Committees: the Opioid Remediation Advisory Committee and the Depot Operations Committee, as well as the recently created the Northern Lights Express (NLX)/St. Louis County Depot Committee.
Among other actions at the organizational meeting, Nelson announced he plans to bring back a long-standing tradition that fell away in the midst of the pandemic - the "Chair's Initiative," which is a theme to highlight at meetings throughout the year. Through this initiative, Nelson wants to recognize the unsung heroes in the county, and has invited his fellow commissioners and elected county leaders to bring forward at each meeting an individual who, through their vision or hard work, has improved lives and communities within St. Louis County.
Commissioners also approved their meeting schedule for 2024. Consistent with the Board's ongoing efforts to provide easier access to meetings for all citizens of St. Louis County, at least one meeting each month will be held in locations around the county, outside of the county seat in Duluth. Board meetings will be livestreamed when at locations that are equipped with the necessary technology to do so. All other meetings will be recorded and posted later on the county's YouTube channel, as well as aired on Public Access Cable Television. The 2024 schedule can be found online at stlouiscountymn.gov/boardschedule.
Also during the meeting, staff who are part of the county's BIPOC Leadership Team Employee Resource Group (ERG) presented commissioners with a wood engraving of their logo as a thank you for the Board's support for the creation of ERGs.
"We are the first ERG; we are not the last," said Tonia Villegas, who co-chairs the BIPOC Leadership Team. "We wanted to present this to the Board for supporting us as we all support each other at St. Louis County."