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Our View / Endorsement: Mettler earns nod to rep Range

Two devoted, deep-rooted, public service-minded candidates are on the ballot Nov. 6 in the race to replace stepping-away District 4 St. Louis County Board Commissioner Tom Rukavina.

Bernie MettlerBernie Mettler, retired after nearly three decades with the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department, and Paul McDonald, a retired coach, athletic director, and teacher at Vermilion Community College in Ely, are the you-pick-'em choices on Election Day on Nov. 6.

Voters can give the nod to Mettler and his bit-more-specific plans and ideas, as well as his community involvement as a township board member of 10 years, Embarrass Vermillion Federal Credit Union board member for 14 years (including his current position as treasurer), and Babbitt Lions Club member.

"The county commissioner's job is going to be basically an extension of what I've been doing for the last 26 years for the county," Mettler said at a News Tribune-sponsored candidate forum this week in Virginia. "I've been on every road in the 4th District, I can honestly say. I know the people from the south end to the north end to the east to the west. I've dealt with them. I know their issues. I know their problems. And I know their concerns."

District 4 is massive, stretching from just north of Duluth Township to Kabetogama. It includes the communities of Lake Vermilion and Ely.

Mettler's priority as commissioner, he said, is perfectly placed: on economic development in a district still reeling from the LTV closure more than 10 years ago.

"The county needs to get involved in aggressively seeking out private entrepreneurs and enterprises. PolyMet is going to come. That's a given," Mettler said. "But I think the county needs to get out there to start promoting our areas and promoting small business and doing what we can to recruit small businesses. Anyone that's willing to put up a business of any type up here ... we should promote it."

Mettler just as sensibly rejects the recent talk of splitting the county in two, north and south. He points out that federal funding based on St. Louis County's enormity would be sacrificed with such a foolhardy move.

And he sees the value in the county's once-controversial, now-applauded transportation sales tax.

"It's a good thing," he said. "We play host to 3 million (tourists) a year. They drive these roads. That sales tax captures money from them, too. It's not just the residents of the county that pay that money."

During his days as a sheriff's deputy, Mettler saw firsthand the destruction of St. Louis County's opioids crisis. In 2015, the county was determined to have the most opioids overdose deaths per capita in Minnesota.

"It's gonna take a many-legged stool to fix this thing, to battle it," Mettler said. "It's not just a countywide problem. It's a statewide and national problem. We can't throw money at it to make it go away. We can't arrest our way out of the problem. It's a cultural problem."

To his credit, McDonald's priority if elected also would be economic development. PolyMet and copper-nickel mining are prime opportunities right now for the district, he said.

"My dad, the famous basketball coach from Chisholm, taught me two things: Work hard and help others. I believe that county commissioner would be an extension of that. ... I have a passion for Northeastern Minnesota."

With Rukavina, passion for the Iron Range hasn't been lacking in the District 4 commissioner's seat. Eligible voters on Nov. 6 can continue that commitment with Mettler.

"You're going to get a county commissioner who's one of you and who's going to work for you. And you're going to get somebody who's going to show up at your door when you have a question or complaint and listen to your concerns," Mettler said at the forum held inside the Northland Building. "I'm going to tell you what I think, not what I think you want to hear, and I'm going to go to work for you."

ABOUT THIS ENDORSEMENT

This News Tribune endorsement editorial was determined entirely by the newspaper's editorial Board. The board's members are listed every day atop the Opinion page.

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