Duluth mayor's rationale: Taking raise could have burdened ability to leadDuluth Mayor Don Ness writes: After a long and prayerful night, Laura and I decided not to accept the raise passed by the City Council. I am absolutely convinced this was the right thing to do.
By: Don Ness, Duluth News Tribune
After a long and prayerful night, Laura and I decided not to accept the raise passed by the City Council. I am absolutely convinced this was the right thing to do.
Please know, the decision was not at all driven in reaction to the hateful voices out there; rather it was motivated by an overwhelming sense of being blessed by this community and not needing anything more from a community that has given us so much.
I do believe the mayor’s salary should be adjusted, but that would be most appropriately done after the next election. I think it is very important that this important policy decision be made with the position in mind and not the person. Hopefully taking this action will help separate the issue.
I’ve found it difficult to find the right words to provide the rationale for declining the salary increase. I also really want to stress that in the broader scope of things, this is completely unimportant. It’s one very small decision with little impact on anyone. But I’ll quickly share the story because I know there are friends who’d like to know.
From the moment the issue was raised, I felt conflicted and full of anxiety. The issue seemed to put at odds the two most important things in my life: the well-being of my family and my responsibility to represent the people of Duluth. On one hand, every family would benefit from a salary increase, and I began thinking of those things I could do better for my kids. At the same time, I questioned whether accepting a raise would complicate the ability to do my job well. Over the years, I’ve made a lot of tough and unpopular decisions that have asked for sacrifice from others to help solve our problems; and many in Duluth struggle with poverty or rising costs on a fixed income. I questioned if accepting a raise in this way would burden my ability to lead. And I struggled and struggled with this.
Before Monday, it was just a proposal. After the vote, it became my reality, and I felt the weight of it. I was up until nearly 3 a.m., trying to come to terms and exploring different scenarios. And then, just like that, it became clear: There was a very simple solution.
On Tuesday morning, Laura and I talked about it. I was amazed she was already at the same conclusion: Our life would be better if we declined the increase. More importantly, we came to the conclusion that despite any short-term drawbacks, in the long term, this decision was the best one for our kids and for our family. I can’t adequately describe why we felt that, other than it felt grounded in our faith and a feeling that we were planting a seed that would bear fruit for the kids as they grew up.
That’s really all there is. It was a decision made in the best interests of our family. I can tell you I feel completely at peace and a tremendous sense of relief that we will continue to live exactly as we have — which is a pretty amazing feeling.
Thanks to all of our friends for your kind thoughts and support, but as far as I am concerned, this is now a done deal and we’re not going to dwell on it. Now let’s shift our focus to more important matters.
Don Ness is mayor of the city of Duluth.