Denfeld News

Nov. 20, 2008
Duluth News Tribune

Bill Kron calls it quits on 32-year career on County Board
By John Myers

It wasn’t the first snowstorm Bill Kron braved to attend a St. Louis County Board meeting, but it was his last.

Kron, who has served as St. Louis County’s 3rd District commissioner since 1977, attended his final County Board meeting in Ely on Tuesday.

At least, it was his final meeting as county commissioner representing most of Duluth’s western neighborhoods.

Kron made 1,500 of those County Board meetings without a miss. Now, his peers say, he’ll be missed.

“I think of Bill as the iron man of county commissioners,” said Commissioner Steve O’Neil, who represents central Duluth. “In 32 years he missed only one board meeting, and he was excused from that one to testify in Congress on an issue that was important to the county.”

Kron lost a close race on Nov. 4 to former Duluth City Councilor Chris Dahlberg, who will take office in January.

Kron says he doesn’t have firm plans yet for his future.

“I’m going to spend more time with my grandchildren … and I’ve got some options out there to pursue,” Kron said after his last meeting. “And I’d like to try some creative writing, maybe plays or magazines.”

Kron, 62, was first elected to the county post in 1976 — the same day Jimmy Carter was elected president. He said he’s proud of the board’s accomplishments while he served, citing expanded economic development efforts, including those to help Duluth’s Cirrus Design Corp. He also served on the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, where he was president from 2000-08.

Kron also has worked to improve county services for the young and the elderly, and often cites a program he helped form that gives teenagers internships at some of Duluth’s best employers, learning valuable job skills. Instead of getting paid, however, some 2,400 participants in the Incredible Exchange have received free passes to local attractions such as Spirit Mountain.

“When I got on the board, it was roads, culverts, maybe some law enforcement … but our duties grew so much in the 1980s with human services, corrections and more,” he noted.

Kron served as chairman of the County Board in 1996, 2000 and 2007. It was last year when, as chairman, he tried to calm growing animosity among some board members and growing tensions between the board and county employees and the public.

While some criticized Kron for not doing enough when two other commissioners were accused of sexual harassment of county employees, others say he brought a calming influence that kept the board from unraveling further.

“I think he was unfairly brought into that picture,” O’Neil said. “He did the best he could to step up for fairness and justice in the system. But I think he got caught up being an incumbent.”

Ross Litman, St. Louis County sheriff, was a strong supporter of Kron. Litman said Kron was quick to understand that crime prevention programs often save money over emergency law enforcement, court and jail costs. Programs Kron supported, such as drug court and DWI court, also help rescue people’s lives.

“He was very supportive of our drug task forces and I served with him on the meth committee. He really understood what we were trying to do,” Litman said. “I’m going to miss working with him. He’s a man of great integrity and judgment. And he truly served his constituents well.”

About Bill Kron

Kron has lived in western Duluth all his life. He graduated from Denfeld High School and UMD. He and his wife, Pat, have been married 38 years and raised three children, now adults, and adopted four more. Kron has been a steelworker, small-business owner, zookeeper and teacher and is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Now, he says he’ll enjoy being a grandfather. A reception was held for Kron last week at the board’s final meeting in Duluth. He noted at the event that he served alongside 22 county commissioners over his tenure, five sheriffs, three county auditors and five county administrators.

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