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Meadowlands mayor remembered as someone 'who got done what needed to be done'

Mark Gaul in the Trailside Lounge and Grill in Meadowlands last November. Gaul - who, in addition to owning and operating the business with his wife, served as mayor for the small community -- died Monday at age 56. (News Tribune file photo)

Mark "Nuz" Gaul never filed to be the Meadowlands mayor, but he became a four-time incumbent as a write-in nonetheless.

The 56-year-old never wanted to tend bar at the Trailside Lounge and Grill he owned in the small town northwest of Duluth, either, preferring to be its handyman instead.

"But I always told him he'd be a great bartender, because he could talk to anybody," said his son, Owen Gaul, 27. "He had that quality where people would come in we've never seen before and he'd sit down and have a conversation with them and make them feel comfortable."

Mark Gaul died Monday at Solvay Hospice House in Duluth. He'd been diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year. He leaves behind a wife, four children and seven grandchildren.

A transplant to Meadowlands, a city of slightly more than 100 people, Gaul won them over with his ambition, dedication to city business and nearly local bride, Jodi, of nearby Alborn, with whom he bought and remodeled an old farmhouse outside of town.

"We didn't know anything about the community," Owen said. "They kind of adopted us."

As mayor, Mark Gaul oversaw park improvements and street upgrades, including new lights. But in an interview with the News Tribune last fall, he lamented the small tax base, saying it made it hard to get too much done.

A union painter in his professional life, he also recalled walking into his first city council meeting almost 20 years ago.

"The council was a little surprised," Gaul said last fall. "They asked if I had anything to say, and I told them I was just there to observe. They said, 'Nobody ever comes to meetings unless they have a complaint.' But I took an interest and kept going to meetings. Pretty soon, I ended up on council."

Mark and Jodi bought their bar and grill in 2007, remodeling the dark-and-old Donansky's bar and turning into the city's vibrant hub, the Trailside. It's currently the only remaining business storefront in Meadowlands.

The town will remember Mark Gaul on Sunday, when the bar closes its kitchen for what it's calling "a celebration of life for Nuz" from 4-8 p.m.

"He was a great man," Owen said of his dad. "He was an intense guy, but everybody respected him as a hard-worker who got done what needed to be done."

Prior to his most recent election as mayor last November, Mark told the News Tribune, "Everybody wants me to stay, but I'm just waiting for somebody else to step up."