VIRGINIA — The St. Louis County Board made it official Tuesday — Kim Maki will be stepping into the role of County Attorney for at least the next 15 months.
Maki, who has been the head of the county’s civil division since 2012, will replace Mark Rubin, who announced his retirement in August (effective Sept. 30) after more than four decades of public service.
Because Rubin is calling it a career prior to the end of his elected term in 2022, state statute calls for the County Board to appoint someone to fill the vacancy for the remainder of it. The next election will be on Nov. 8, 2022, with a term of four years commencing on the first Monday of 2023.
Rubin addressed the board during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday in Virginia — for perhaps the last time — and reflected briefly on his career and the decision by commissioners to unananimoulsy vote to hire Maki.
“This has been an incredible team effort,” Rubin said about his time in office, adding that in the 11 years he has been county attorney he hired or appointed 26 of the 34 lawyers on the staff.
“As I’ve reflected and I look around I’m kind of the last man standing. Everybody of my era is gone. They’ve gone on to other things and they’re no longer with the office. So I feel it’s time to move on,” Rubin said. “And I feel so good about the people that will be taking over the office. Kim’s going to do a marvelous job for you… she fits naturally to this role.”
Maki, a native of the Iron Range, has worked in the County Attorney's Office since 2011, following a decade of work in private practice. She told those in attendance about her goals over the next year and a half and, according to her, “hopefully beyond.”
She said she sees the role of County Attorney as supportive of all the individuals serving the public in positions ranging from law enforcement to social services.
“Our lawyers work every day to help the people that are out there doing work on the ground, doing the work that improves our communities, that provides safety for our citizens and helping out in any way that they can,” Maki said. “I hope that as County Attorney I can support their work so our community can be a better place to live and can be a safe place to live and that the people of St. Louis County can thrive.”
Rubin, who was elected County Attorney in 2010 and re-elected twice since, started his career as an Assistant County Attorney in 1978 in Virginia, and with the exception of two years spent in private practice during the late 1980s, he has worked in that office ever since.
In his remarks Tuesday, Rubin talked about a recent lunch he had with an individual he had helped earlier in his career and that that experience had got him thinking about what his time as a prosecutor and eventually the County Attorney has meant to him.
“Being able to meet so many people, from so many different walks of life, and hopefully to have had some impact, some influence on their lives, because I’ll tell you what, they have sure had an impact on mine and my wife Nancy,” Rubin said. “Our life has been positively impacted by these interactions. I’ll never forget the people who have done that and the people that I’ve been able to work with and do things (with).”
He added that he is grateful for the entire experience.
“This is getting so real. Sept. 30 is getting really close,” he said. “Thank you for the opportunity and thank you for the kind words and Kim’s going to do fantastic.”
Commissioner Keith Nelson said being a County Attorney in a large and diverse area like St. Louis is a daunting task but he has no doubt Maki is up to the challenge.
“I have no doubt that we will be well served under attorney Maki,” Nelson said, adding that a constant during Rubin’s time has been teamwork. “The people of St. Louis County have been well served by the St. Louis County Attorney’s office and it’s as if we are handing off the baton to the next talented person that comes along.”
Board Chair Mike Jugovich said that during his five years on the board he has seen “how critical our employees are, and how wonderful (they are) and that starts at the top. It shows the leadership on the way down. I feel very confident and comfortable having you (Maki) here… you’ve worked hard and you’ve earned this.”
In other business, the board unanimously approved the certification of the maximum property tax levy for 2022 in the amount of $156,496,531.73.
That total factors in a 4.25% growth in the property tax base, meaning, according to county officials, that St. Louis County property owners could see an average increase of 1.69% on the county portion of their property tax bill.
County Administrator Kevin Gray said almost 30% of the overall budget is supported by the property tax levy.
“I would say we are still working to get all the numbers aligned with this budget but it is doable, we will get there,” Gray said. “I want to highlight the fact that the property tax base growth is part of that consideration and that remains in the four and a quarter percent range and so the impact to our residents is under 2%. We will continue to work on that but I think it’s a good number.”
The board is required by law to indicate a maximum levy by the end of September and certify it in December. Once the preliminary levy is set it cannot go up, but it could go down.
However, Nelson cautioned those in attendance and the public that they shouldn’t look for the levy to go down.
“The reality is St. Louis County very rarely makes a change after the September timeframe. I stated a week ago that the number the people are seeing in St. Louis county is a straight up number. This is what it is,” Nelson said. “This is what is required to keep this community moving forward and as we’ve continued to refine it the truth is from here on out our team is going to be working on next year’s budget. That’s kind of how it works in St. Louis County. You get done with one and you start on the next one.”
Jugovich said he talked to some in the community about the levy and came away with the opinion that most felt good about the numbers.
“We had growth and we are very, very fortunate to have a good percentage of growth, which keeps our number down under 2% so at the end of the day we are having less of an impact on the taxpayer,” he said. “Our growth does offset some of that number.”