Mayor Ness looks forward to second termDuluth Mayor Don Ness was sworn in at noon Monday on the steps of City Hall after running for re-election unopposed.
By: Peter Passi and Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
Duluth Mayor Don Ness was sworn in at noon Monday on the steps of City Hall after running for re-election unopposed.
Following his oath of office, Ness, who also marked his 38th birthday Monday, took his place behind a lectern made of sculpted ice for a few remarks.
With the unseasonable temperature of the day climbing above 40 degrees, Ness joked, “My primary weather concern is that this podium will melt on my speech.”
The weather, and a new twist to the swearing in of City Council members later in the day at Clyde Iron Works, had the mayor issuing an impromptu proclamation by the end of the day. “Isn’t today just the perfect Duluth day?” Ness said after the 6:30 ceremony at the event center at Clyde in front of an overflowing audience.
In the past, the mayor would offer a State of the City address in conjunction with the swearing in of the council. The mayor felt it didn’t give enough of the spotlight to the newly elected council members.
“Isn’t this so much better than a State of the City address that goes on and on?” the mayor said after speeches from new council members Jennifer Julsrud, Garry Krause, Linda Krug and Emily Larson along with the re-elected Sharla Gardner and Jay Fosle.
The mayor still plans to deliver a State of the City address on March 5 in the Lake Superior Ballroom of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
Outgoing council members Tony Cuneo, Jeff Anderson, Todd Fedora and Jackie Halberg were honored with plaques and platitudes from Gardner, who is ending a term as the council president.
With terms up in 2014, Jim Stauber, Dan Hartman and Patrick Boyle fill out the rest of the council.
Larson said campaigns are “really just long job interviews,” after stating her amazement at the passion she found in voters while knocking on doors last fall. “It’s time to get to work,” she said.
Krause, who is returning to the council, said he will keep an eye on the city budget, especially after hearing so many people in the city express their fears about jobs, foreclosures, and fees. “I’m going to work hard on keeping costs down,” he said.
Julsrud said it should be obvious to most people paying attention in the last few months what one of her top goals on the council will be: “I’m going to fix the water system,” she said, saying it’s the financially responsible thing to do for the city’s future.
Krug said she’s proud to serve on the council of a city known for its moxie and ability to recover after being called a dying city 30 years ago. “Look how far we’ve come,” she said, adding that there’s more work to do. “Let’s do it.”
Ness said at Clyde that he’s looking forward to the next year. “I feel great about this new council,” he said.
The second-term Ness kept his speech short after the noon swearing-in.
“It’s hard for me to put into words what it means to serve the city I love,” he told the crowd. “All I can say is: Thank you.”
Ness observed that the notion of him running for mayor uncontested was highly improbable following a first term in which “we faced more than our share of big problems.”
Pair some of Ness’ tough budget decisions with his self-described
“social skills of a Russian prison guard,” and, he said, “It could have been a recipe for political disaster.”
Ness gave credit to city staff, supporters and family members, especially his wife.
“Laura is my rock, my everything. She’s the reason I’m up here,” he said.
Despite recent hard times, Ness said: “Duluth has the potential to be one of the great mid-sized cities of North America. I sense a growing confidence that our best days are yet to come.”
The mayor was pleased Monday evening with how the day went. “I think it’s been a great success.”