With the rising opioid crisis and out-of-home placements in St. Louis County, the region needs commissioners ready to dig down to the root of the issue and find sensible solutions. In St. Louis County District 6, Keith Nelson of Fayal Township is already well-informed and heavily involved in the issue and others around the county.
Combating rising placements should continue to be a priority around the county. Two years ago the county board faced the issue head on, requiring it to bite the bullet on property tax increases for residents to go toward more social workers and intervention employees.
As chair of the budgeting committee, Nelson led that effort and there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. In December 2017, more than 700 children were in foster care or other out-of-home placements. That wasn’t the peak, either. But in September 2018, the county reported 568 in family foster care.
In his tenure, Nelson has bettered the county’s credit rating and has been instrumental in many of the road and bridge projects desperately needed in the Northland. He’s also worked to better secure county buildings and courthouses, while also consolidating the government’s physical footprint, most recently with the Government Service Center in Virginia that will replace the outdated Northland Building.
Nelson’s opponent for District 6 is Matt Matasich, who is running on a platform to divide St. Louis County and place the Iron Range under a central Mesaba County. First and foremost, Matasich wants the county board to support a ballot measure to leave the decision up to the people, echoing the calls of Tom Rukavina. While two counties doesn’t sound like the best solution, Matasich’s intention to bring more money to the Range is one the region can get behind.
In the other Iron Range district on the ballot on Nov. 6, voters will have a tough decision to make between two very good candidates in Bernie Mettler and Paul McDonald.
Both bring considerable experience to the table with Mettler serving as a county sheriff for 28 years before retiring. McDonald has been active in Vermilion Community College and numerous other youth organizations.
Those roles put them in a unique position to tackle the issues of opioids, placements and law enforcement issues, as well as the region’s continued broadband and infrastructure goals.
They are seeking to replace the retiring Rukavina. With a vote for either candidate, District 4 constituents will be well-represented at the county board level.