Two years ago, Mike Mayou fell short in his bid for Duluth City Council. Fell hard. He finished last on election night in a four-way tilt for two at-large seats.
Undeterred, Mayou has continued attending council meetings, studying the issues, touching base with community groups and others, knocking on doors to visit with who he hopes will be his constituents, and more. “I’ve been following, to keep tabs on what’s happening in our city, so that I can be, hopefully, a really responsive official,” he said.
The hard work has paid off. This fall, in eastern and northern Duluth’s City Council District 2, where he lives, Mayou is, simply put, the best prepared and the most ready to replace Councilor Joel Sipress, who announced this year he wouldn’t be running again.
“I really hope to be a collaborative councilor,” Mayou said at a candidate forum last month held virtually and co-sponsored by the News Tribune and Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. “I’m going to continue to dig into the issues and ask good questions. I think there are a lot of things that sometimes we just need to prod a little bit more and get more information, so that there’s transparency and so there’s communication that’s happening. … I’m going to be a responsive leader.”
Ever the prodder, in order to learn more about public safety challenges that have been thrust into the spotlight following the murder of George Floyd, Mayou arranged a ride-along with Duluth Police. He supports more-competitive pay for officers and more spending for training for police and fire. And he sees promise in a program recently launched by the city to provide an alternative to conventional police response to calls involving nonviolent issues, including those requiring mental health care.
“It’s really a pro-police proposal by helping take our police officers and put them in places where they’re going to be able to best address situations and helping put our social workers and EMTs where they can help with mental health crises and homelessness crises. I really believe, moving forward, we can properly fund our police and fire departments and have training budgets for both departments that adequately suit their needs and ultimately the needs of this community, because we really all do better when our police officers and our fire staff are treated fairly.”
With a degree in marketing and information-systems management from the University of Minnesota Duluth, Mayou works in admissions marketing at UMD and is also employed in the technology department for the Duluth public schools.
He grew up in a union family in Duluth and attended the Labovitz School of Business and Economics at UMD. To improve Duluth’s business climate, he said — and to encourage new industry and businesses to locate here while also retaining what we have — the city needs to better communicate its guidelines and its rules for entrepreneurial launches and for business operations.
“Obviously, in this past year, our small businesses — locally, especially — have gone through a lot of struggles,” he said. “Talking with my friends who are business owners, (there were city requirements in getting started) that they never knew about. There are a lot of challenges, and we really need to make sure we’re supporting our small businesses.”
With service on the Duluth Community Development Committee, Mayou identifies housing shortages for families of all income levels as a priority in Duluth. As a councilor, he vows to work with neighborhoods on appropriate housing density, and he said he’ll push against proposals that result in urban sprawl or that worsen Duluth’s infamous east-west divide.
“We have housing needs across the spectrum,” Mayou said. “Putting forward city funds for projects can, in turn, attract state and federal dollars to … really help with (those) bottom-line costs that a lot of developers face that’s really, really challenging (them, especially) to build affordable housing in Duluth.”
Mayou’s opponent for City Council District 2 also listed housing as among Duluth’s most pressing matters. Dave Zbaracki, like Mayou, is a lifelong Duluthian and Duluth East and UMD graduate. He’s a stay-at-home dad and part-time ski instructor and bicycle salesman.
“My campaign slogan is, ‘Let’s build a better Duluth,’ and that involves better neighborhoods, more cohesive and walkable neighborhoods, with accessible streets for all users,” Zbaracki said at the forum. “(It also includes) a better economy, (with) family-sustaining jobs so we can retain more of our college graduates, and a better government, as in growing our tax base so we can fully fund public safety as well as street and sidewalk repair.”
ABOUT THIS ENDORSEMENT: This News Tribune endorsement was determined entirely by the newspaper's editorial board. Board members are identified daily atop the Opinion page and online at duluthnewstribune.com/opinion.
WATCH THE FORUM: The Duluth City Council candidate forums sponsored by the News Tribune and Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce are posted for viewing, on demand, at duluthnewstribune.com. The link is here.