The City of Duluth had sad news to report Friday as Fourth District City Councilor Renee Van Nett passed away today, surrounded by family and friends in Duluth after a brief battle with a terminal illness.

According to The City, Councilor Van Nett was elected in 2017 and re-elected in 2021. She served as the Council Vice President in 2020 and Council President in 2021.

The tragic announcement was accompanied by tributes from Duluth leaders, including Duluth Mayor Emily Larson who had this to say:

Renee Van Nett was an incredibly powerful woman who lived life with clarity and purpose. An absolute straight talker who knew her values, she also knew her voice. And the importance of using it. Time and again she was fearless. I will truly and deeply miss her as a friend to call on and laugh with through the brutal work of local politics.

Our entire community benefitted from her groundbreaking leadership as the first Indigenous woman elected to the Duluth City Council in the city’s history, going on to serve as Council President, DEDA Commissioner and Public Safety Chair. Renee was
also a founding member of the Duluth Citizen Review Board and was an all-around truth teller.

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City Council President Arik Forsman also paid tribute to Van Nett, adding in part "“My heart breaks at the loss of my close friend and colleague, Renee. Councilor Van Nett was the bravest person I’ve ever met. She overcame immense obstacles in her life to become the first city councilor of Native American heritage to be elected Council President in Duluth."

He also noted that her passion while on the council was public safety. She served for many years as the Council Public Safety Chair, always fighting to get firefighters and police officers the resources they needed to keep Duluthians safe.

A GoFundMe page has been set up in Renee's honor, with all proceeds going toward her final expenses and to care for Renee’s two daughters, Tia and Nevada.

The City says details about memorial services will be released publicly by the city in the coming days.

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