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Your City, Your Business: Appreciation for city leaders comes from active interest in community

It is my good fortune to live in a place I love. Duluth, in beautiful St. Louis County, is the site of my home, my children's schools, my neighborhood -- the place with which I identify, the place I will always know as home. Duluth is also the lo...

It is my good fortune to live in a place I love. Duluth, in beautiful St. Louis County, is the site of my home, my children's schools, my neighborhood -- the place with which I identify, the place I will always know as home. Duluth is also the location of the polls where I vote and locale in which I have an opportunity to be an active participant in the political process. It is the place where my voice is heard.

For many of the citizens of Duluth and St. Louis County, it is also the place in which their businesses are located. Decisions made in city hall and the county courthouse relating to taxation, local fees, zoning, wages and utilities can have a dramatic, dual impact on individuals who are both home and business owners.

The importance of recent decisions made by the Duluth City Council and the St. Louis County Board is understandably intensified for these community members. The stakes are high.

For these latter Duluthians, there is good reason for optimism and appreciation: St. Louis County's leadership is functioning at an all-time high level of effectiveness and efficiency. Specifically, the St. Louis County commissioners are quietly going about the serious business of revitalizing the operations of St. Louis County. This endeavor has required a serious, extended and often courageous effort -- but the county commissioners have risen to the challenge.

The manner in which counties receive funding from local, state and federal agencies has dramatically changed in recent years. St. Louis County's leadership has adjusted accordingly. The needs of our county's citizens are also changing. And St. Louis County's leadership is revamping its delivery of services to meet these evolving needs.

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I have attended recent meetings of the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners.

Each time I do so, I am impressed with the civility, the teamwork and the resolve exhibited by the county commissioners and the county's administration. This is a smoothly functioning team of professionals who are doing outstanding work for those of us fortunate enough to live in St. Louis County.

A recent tangible accomplishment was the commissioners' holding the line on the county's portion of our local tax levy. Last year, the county held its tax increase to 1.5 percent. The plan is for no increase in the levy for 2005. Moreover, in addition to holding the levy at its current level, our county has incrementally adjusted staffing to correlate with reimbursement. In these and other instances, county commissioners and administration are providing proven leadership during these changing and frequently confusing times.

(It should be noted that the Government Finance Officers Association recently awarded St. Louis County its Distinguished Budget Award in recognition of the quality of the county's budgeting process.)

In conclusion, then, I call upon all residents of Duluth and/or St. Louis County to become actively interested and involved in local issues of their choice. I am convinced that the more deeply county residents delve into the county's operations, the more impressed they will be with the quality of leadership demonstrated by the county's elected officials.

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