Back when I had more time, I used to run marathons. I liked the thrill, effort and accomplishment of race day. But I also really liked the training: slogging through miles, pushing through mental noise and just getting it done. To me, training is where grit meets goal; there is no success without putting in the time on the front end.

Transitioning from city councilor to mayor, I’ve been reminded of this repeatedly.

Since Election Day, as mayor-elect, I’ve met with Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, led work sessions with city staff, participated in economic-

development roundtable discussions, met with our legislative team to prep for the session and have been developing a transition strategy to implement when I take office.   

I’ve also spent this time of training and transition preparing my inner life, soaking up my favorite people and rediscovering balance.

Campaigning for elected office and serving in elected office are two very different things: A campaign is the job interview; elected office is the work. Excelling at both requires knowing your community well, knowing yourself even more and pairing those strengths together.

Throughout the campaign, you opened your doors, ideas and concerns to me. Thank you for letting me in. Because while I spent that time working hard so you could more fully understand who I am and how I work, I learned even more about you - and about us.

As Duluthians, we name our challenges. We know the need for significant investments in streets, and we know that we have neighborhoods where some people thrive and others do not. Thanks to recent history, we have experience addressing challenges head-on, even when doing so is hard. Moving forward, we’ll need that resiliency as we continue to tackle issues that have the potential to hold us back.

We know our neighbors. The pride and identity of each individual neighborhood is part of what makes us special. Looking ahead, we’ll invest in new strategies to ensure each neighborhood is one of choice and that our success and opportunity is shared across the entire city and with all neighbors.

We advance our own future. From the St. Louis River Corridor to investing in projects like Maurices or Cirrus, Duluth relies upon itself to create our own path for prosperity. Our future depends on applying this collective determination to meet the needs and opportunities of being a changing city.    

We work together. I am convinced there is no public input like Duluth public input: passionate, smart and completely engaged. Sometimes these factors lead to conflict, and conflict can be a good starting point to identifying an unexpected solution.

You could say I’ve got my work cut out for me. I think it’s more accurate, however, to say we’ve got our work cut out for us. Because Duluthians don’t wait around for answers and solutions to appear. We reach out, dig deep, work hard and get things done. Together. I know you are counting on me. I need you to know I’m counting on you, too.

Here’s what you can expect from me as mayor. I will be clear and transparent in my values and communication. I will welcome opposing viewpoints and lead with integrity. I will work with county, tribal and state colleagues to partner whenever possible. And I will absolutely champion our city.

During this first year, decisions need to be made in areas ranging from hiring key public-safety leadership to determining next steps for several major development projects. As these and other decisions are being made, I will be working to integrate with staff my vision for momentum and equity. The State of the City this spring will be a time to report back to the community on my first 100 days of office and share progress in these and other areas.

Throughout this time of transition, Mayor Don Ness has been consistently available, creating space for me in City Hall to openly work and meet with staff. This should come as no surprise since it’s in keeping with who he is; but it’s fairly unheard of and demonstrates his own integrity and commitment to put Duluth first.

As I begin this work, I am deeply grateful to my husband, Doug, and our sons Gabe and Eli because public service is a family commitment. Already they have quietly made choices and sacrifices to benefit the greater good. More importantly, they have provided me with daily perspective, good humor and a reminder of everything that’s important.   

The sprint of the campaign is over, the training of transition is wrapping up, and I’m ready for this distance. We’ve got a lot of miles to cover in 2016. Together. I can’t wait to get started.

Emily Larson became the first woman to be elected mayor of Duluth this past November. She wrote this at the request of the News Tribune Opinion page.

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Optimism, challenges abound

Today: For Duluth’s new mayor

Tuesday: In St. Louis County

Wednesday: In the Duluth schools

Thursday: For our local economy

Friday: On the tourism front

Sunday: In Washington, D.C.



Inauguration Day

Mayor-Elect Emily Larson and new and returning city councilors will be sworn into office at a free public ceremony on Jan. 4 in the Harborside Ballroom at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Outgoing Mayor Don Ness will make brief remarks, and outgoing city councilors also will be recognized. Doors open at 6 p.m. The program begins at 6:30 p.m. Parking is free courtesy of the DECC. The event will be broadcast live on My9 and also will feature the Duluth Color Guard, World Beat (a student drumming group from Myers-Wilkins Elementary School), and Duluth Poet Laureate Deborah Cooper.