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Duluth mayor to seek third term, citing unfinished business, including new library

Emily Larson said there is much work still to do as she aims to revitalize downtown Duluth.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson smiles as she announces her bid for a third term
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson smiles as she announces her bid for a third term Tuesday in front of supporters at the Lakewalk Plaza in Canal Park.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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DULUTH — From a perch at Lakewalk Plaza on Tuesday morning, Mayor Emily Larson formally announced her intention to seek a third term leading the city. And she laid out a laundry list of projects still in progress or yet to begin, including plans for “a new library with community, health and workforce services within it.”

Larson also called for the redevelopment of Pastoret Terrace, formerly home to the Kozy Bar and Apartments; the Lot D waterfront site; the Atlas Industrial Park, the former Kmart in Spirit Valley; and the former site of Central High School on Duluth’s hillside.

“We are ready to make this happen. Together,” she said.

The library has added a safety specialist and social workers to its resource mix.

Larson became Duluth’s first female mayor when she was elected in November 2015, with nearly 72% of the vote over Chuck Horton. She won a second term with close to 64% of the vote over David Nolle.

If Larson’s bid for another term proves successful, she would join the ranks of Duluth’s longest-serving mayors, including John Fedo and Gary Doty, who both held the office for 12 years, and Samuel Snively, who remained at the city’s helm for an unmatched duration of 16 years.

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Larson laid out another ambitious initiative as part of her effort to “build a better Duluth,” namely: “Achieving our community’s commitment to broadband equity to get every single resident of our community fast, reliable and affordable internet access.” Toward this end, the city has been moving to launch a pilot project data network in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson speaks at a press conference to announce her bid for a third term
Emily Larson announces her bid for a third term.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The mayor pointed to economic progress the city has made, including the record number of building permits Duluth issued in 2021, representing $500 million of new investment.

“From making the Cirrus Innovation Center possible to saving the paper plant, from investing in start-ups to actively recruiting hundreds of millions of dollars in new development investment across the city, we have never been in a stronger economic position,” Larson said.

The remodeled facility will become the company's "Innovation Center of Excellence."

Larson pointed to the establishment of a street plan, supported by a dedicated sales tax, under her leadership, which has resulted in repairs to 14-17 miles of local street annually, as compared with 2 miles of repairs per year before she took office.

She discussed ongoing efforts to address the city’s need for more affordable housing, as well, pointing to the creation of a $16 million Housing Trust Fund in collaboration with LISC.

“Since 2016, we’ve added a total 1,500 new housing units across Duluth. In the past year alone, we have invested in more than 350 new units of housing, and 500 units are currently being planned in downtown alone,” Larson said.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson speaks about some of her accomplishments over the last eight years during a press conference to announce her bid for a third term
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson speaks about some of her accomplishments over the last eight years.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“I don’t take for granted your trust and confidence in me, and I’m not standing here because this is an easy time to lead,” she said. “I’m standing here precisely because it’s not. This is an incredibly hard and important time in our community’s pandemic recovery. Who leads the city and how they lead it matter.”

When asked if she had grander political ambitions serving at the state or congressional level, Larson responded: “This is the job I ran for. This is the job I’m committed to doing. And I’m actually not convinced a bigger job is a better job.

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Duluth Mayor Emily Larson thanks her supporters from the podium during a press conference
Emily Larson thanks her supporters from the podium.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“I don’t know if you get a better job than waking up and living in the community," she said. "You get to have an impact, and this work for me is incredibly challenging. It’s deeply personal. And you have a very intimate relationship with the community. There’s no buffer. There’s no hiding. You have to be out front and very clear who you are and who you are with your community, and that’s deeply rewarding."

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, left, announces her bid for re-election Tuesday morning
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, left, announces her bid at the Lakewalk Plaza in Duluth’s Canal Park.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

This story originally had unofficial results for Larson's 2015 and 2019 election victories. It was updated at 4:54 p.m. Dec. 13 with her correct margins of victory. The News Tribune regrets the error.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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