Emily Larson said she feels "focused and motivated" as she begins her second term as Duluth's first woman to serve as mayor.
Prior to delivering her inaugural address Monday night at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, Larson reflected on how she feels even better prepared for the job this time around.
"We've gotten a lot of fundamental work done. We have a great team," she said. "We have an opportunity for acceleration now that I didn't have four years ago."
In her speech, Larson highlighted some of the "big issues" she has faced "head on," namely: "Sex assault kits going untested. Our crisis of affordable housing. Climate change impacts that are literally eroding our city. Chronically and structurally underfunded streets and infrastructure. An opioid crisis that was tearing families apart. A dismantling of youth programming. Racism and racial inequities that have too long been ignored. We did not sit back and wait. We took notice. We acted and we were relentless."
Larson talked about needing to tend to the day-to-day needs of the community, such as snow removal and public safety, while not losing focus on other long-term goals, such as addressing social inequities.
"There is a need to balance the interruptions that take precedence and a vision that you' re seeking to achieve. You have to pay attention to both. You can't be so rigid as to not go off script and pay attention to the things that are immediate. But you can't lead from crisis to crisis. That doesn't work," she said.
Larson praised Duluth's residents for holding the city to account and letting her know when it has fallen short.
"One of the things that makes Duluth Duluth — what makes me so proud of our community — is our commitment to give full volume to what is not working, what you want to see changed and where we can be better," she said.
Larson said she will to take ownership of problems when they arise, as with recent snow removal delays, particularly in Duluth's Central Hillside neighborhoods.
"We are a winter city that experiences blizzards. But we don't leave our poorest neighborhoods behind to be the last plowed out. When that happens, we fix it, because we're not leaving anyone behind," she said.
But Larson said she also has learned how to tune out some of the distractions of her job, including "Social media trolling and bullying and soundbite positioning — that is just noise. Complaining without explaining ... noise. Partisan bickering and political posturing ... Noise. Noise. Noise. Noise."
Larson pledged to maintain her focus, saying: "Over my next term, we will continue to have Duluth out front as a state and national leader, showing what it means and what it looks like to build an equitable and sustainable city for all neighbors across all neighborhoods."
In addition to Larson officially taking office for another four years as mayor, three new city councilors were sworn in Monday night: Roz Randorf, Janet Kennedy and Derek Medved, respectively representing Duluth's 2nd, 5th and At Large districts. Also elected to continue serving were 1st District Councilor Gary Anderson and At Large Councilor Arik Forsman. They, too, took oaths of office Monday.
Kennedy marked the moment, saying she was "very proud to be the first African-heritage woman to serve on the Duluth City Council." A native of Duluth, Kennedy said: "As an African American growing up in a predominantly Euro-American community, I faced a lot of challenges. From a young age, I was told, 'Life is not fair.' And I was treated differently. I credit my resiliency to watching my mom work hard to get her education and to make ends meet despite all odds. I value my elders and mentors who support and challenge me to grow and become the change we want to see in our communities."
Mayor Larson said she looks forward to working with city councilors, new and old, in the coming years. She also thanked outgoing councilors Jay Fosle, Noah Hobbs and Em Westerlund for their service.