Citizen Herb: Former Duluth mayor enjoying life out of the public eye

When Herb Bergson left the Duluth mayor's office early this year, he told a News Tribune reporter he would no longer grant interviews. It wasn't personal, he explained. It was a way to give the new administration some space, and a way to transiti...

When Herb Bergson left the Duluth mayor's office early this year, he told a News Tribune reporter he would no longer grant interviews. It wasn't personal, he explained. It was a way to give the new administration some space, and a way to transition to a more private existence.

He has broken his vow of silence a few times, but Bergson largely has stayed out of the public eye in the past six months, spending the majority of his time in Arizona or in Floodwood.

Lately, Bergson has filled his hours with mowing lawns, stocking shelves and balancing account books at Floodwood's Retreat Golf Club, which he's been managing for two months. The former mayor of each of the Twin Ports has traded in his City Hall suits for a pair of jeans and a purple Vikings shirt.

"It's kind of nice to take life a moment at a time instead of crisis after crisis after crisis," he said. "I don't look at my life in a five-year perspective anymore. I look at it as this week, and next week I'll think about that week. It's a heckuva lot easier."

Bergson has been putting in up to 15-hour days six days a week at the course -- "I have exactly one more day off a week than I had as mayor -- it's almost like a part-time job," he quipped -- and he spends his nights in an apartment in the clubhouse's basement.


The job is not all that's been keeping Bergson busy. He's been working with Savage Press in Superior to write a memoir he expects will hit shelves sometime this fall. The book will detail "some of the heartbreaks, some of the good things" of his past, Bergson said.

Publisher Mike Savage said that, from the chapters he's seen thus far, it appears Bergson has exercised restraint from using the book to get revenge on others.

"He has the opportunity now to really point the finger, particularly at some journalists who've done him dirt," Savage said. "His story is not vindictive. It's not a revenge book -- sadly, from a marketing standpoint."

Savage said he wants to title the book "A Mayor of Two Cities" and will have a first printing of 5,000 copies. Bergson spent 11 weeks at his parents' home in Mesa, Ariz., this spring, where he pumped out 20 chapters about his experiences leading Duluth and Superior, the interesting people he's met and those who have inspired him. The last five chapters haven't come as easily, Savage said.

"He was very prolific when he was writing the easy stuff," Savage said. "When he got to the drunk driving incident and the note on the door, the harder stories, he slowed down a little."

Bergson's major gaffes while Duluth mayor -- the September 2005 dismissal of his chief administrative officer via a note taped to his door and a December 2005 arrest for drunken driving -- made many Duluthians question his thought process. The book, Savage said, will attempt to provide answers.

"I think it will appeal to a lot of interested folks," Savage said. "His enemies will want to see if their names are in it, and his friends will want to see what he was thinking."

Days after his arrest, Bergson made another vow: He would never drink again. When asked if he has upheld that promise, Bergson declined to comment. "My private life is my private life," he said.


Bergson also caused controversy when he reneged on a decision not to run for mayor last year. The backlash he got after he changed his mind has made him loath to rule out the possibility that he would run for the Minnesota House District 7B seat being vacated by Mike Jaros, who announced his retirement earlier this month. Speculation has been rampant that Bergson might throw his hat in the ring.

"I'm never going to say 'never' again. You eat those words," Bergson said.

But Bergson has much to occupy him between now and July 15, the election filing deadline. The golf course is about to get new owners, and he wants to make sure the transition is smooth before he embarks on his next adventure: selling fraud prevention software for Red Wing, Minn.-based Financial Crime Services.

Scott Adkisson, president and CEO of the eight-year-old company, said he first contacted Bergson about coming on board when it was clear he wouldn't have a second term in office. Bergson's experience as a retired police officer allows him to really understand the implications of fraud, Adkisson said.

"He's a hard worker, he knows how to think outside the box and he's self-motivated," Adkisson said. "In this day and age I was looking for someone who could do that."

For the immediate future, though, Bergson said he is enjoying the simple pleasures of mowing the grass, filling sand traps, stocking shelves and avoiding the newspaper ("Not because I don't want to know, but because I don't feel the need to know right now," he said).

Still, six months away from office haven't made him completely unrecognizable to the golf course patrons.

"They usually stare for a while and then ask if I'm really him. Him! Like I am somebody."

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