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Russ Stark resigns from City Council to work for Mayor Carter

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

Residents of St. Paul’s Ward Four will have three City Council members in succession in 2018. Ten-year incumbent Russ Stark leaves the City Council in mid-February to serve as Mayor Melvin Carter III’s point person on environmental policy and sustainability.

Stark (photo left provided) said that he’s eager to take the spot in the Carter administration. The issues he’ll be working on are ones he has championed while on the City Council. His council accomplishments include getting the city’s first bike plan passed and helping to guide Green Line light rail construction.

The remaining City Council members will select an interim Ward 4 member in the days ahead. As the Monitor went to press, two people had announced for the interim seat. One is Hamline-Midway resident Samantha Henningson, who has served as Stark’s legislative aide for the past decade. The second is John Van Hecke, a St. Anthony Park resident who was a founding member of the think tank Minnesota 2020. He is a former member of the Snelling-Hamline Community Council.

Ward Four includes all of Merriam Park, Hamline-Midway and St. Anthony Park neighborhoods, and parts of Como, and Macalester-Groveland.

In St. Paul, interim council members typically are appointed with the understanding that they won’t seek the seat on a permanent basis. Both Van Hecke and Henningson have said they would not run in an election if appointed. The special election is expected to be held in August along with the primary for state offices.

The process of choosing an interim replacement moved quickly as the vacancy was posted in late January, and had a Feb. 2 deadline. A new council member could be appointed Feb. 14 and seated by Feb. 21. Stark’s last day on the council is Feb. 16.

The person elected in August could take office immediately and would serve through 2019. 2019 is when all seven council seats are on the ballot. As of Monitor deadline, no one had announced a campaign for the permanent seat.

City Council members in St. Paul are considered to be part-time and are paid $63,000 per year. His new full-time salary in the mayor’s office is $105,000.
Stark admitted that he has mixed emotions about leaving the City Council, but that he is excited to take on a new role.

Stark is now one of Carter’s three top staff members, along with Deputy Mayor Jamie Tincher. Stark’s new title is “chief resilience officer,” and he’ll be working on issues including reducing the city’s carbon footprint and the implementation of organized trash collection.

Carter has also named Toni Newborn as his chief equity officer and Tarek Tomes as point person on innovations in government. All three positions are first of their kind in city history.

Stark said in his final council newsletter that while the chief resilience officer post is a new position in St. Paul, similar positions have been created in more than 100 cities around the world to better position themselves concerning climate change and emergency preparedness. He said the job’s tasks will be shaped by the mayor and the community. “The questions I am already asking include: What more can St. Paul do to lessen our carbon footprint? What will make our City more resilient to coming changes? What future climate-related changes could affect St. Paul, and what should we start doing now to get ahead of these issues?” said Stark.

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