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The University of Minnesota Duluth
BRIDGE - Fall 2008, Volume 26, #1
Duluth Mayor Don Ness
Creating a New Future for Duluth
Longtime resident with a passion for the city, Duluth Mayor Don Ness ’99 (BBA) took office in January 2008, ready to move forward and take on tough city issues.
He credits UMD with giving him his start in politics. “Student government opened up that door . . . . I had some talent to offer. I had passion and skills in presenting the student perspective in governance,” he said. Ness also became Student Association President and later Chair of the University of Minnesota Student Senate, representing over 60,000 students to the University of Minnesota administration and State Legislature.
After graduating from the Labovitz School of Business and Economics, he was advised to move to the Twin Cities to start a career. However, he was also offered an opportunity to work for U.S. Congressman Jim Oberstar as a campaign manager and stay in Duluth. Over the next 10 years, with Oberstar as his mentor, Ness became more involved in Minnesota politics and was elected to the Duluth City Council in 1999.
As the youngest City Councilor, Ness was sensitive to the lack of participation by young adults in the community discussion. In 2001, Ness and seven others formed the Bridge Syndicate, a non-profit organization that enables young people in the Duluth area to connect with one another. By the end of the same year, the organization boasted more than 500 members.
Ness has faced tough issues in his first months of office, including a looming city deficit. He has addressed the budget with city employees and the City Council repeatedly. He has a lot to offer the Duluth population and UMD. He wants to bring more students into political life and facilitate communication among all Duluth’s residents, especially when there is tension. “If we can improve. . . understanding and respect between groups of people, that would be more effective than trying to have city government impose a legislative solution,” he said.
In spite of the tough economic climate, he’s ambitious about his plans for the city of Duluth. Ness considers the Retiree Health Care liability and improving the city’s roads and sewers as his top issues. These initiatives could change the way business is done in Duluth. That would be fine with Ness. He said working toward a broad vision is an important approach.
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