Mayor Don Ness will not seek re-election in Duluth

Duluth Mayor Don Ness

Mayor Don Ness speaks from a podium sculpted from ice on the steps of Duluth City Hall during his last inauguration.

This morning Duluth mayor Don Ness announced on social media that he would not seek a third term. He had hinted months ago that he was leaning against running, but said a formal decision would be made in the fall, about one year before the Fall 2015 election (I had written then about why it wouldn’t be as crazy as people think for Ness to step back for a while).

Ness issued a thoughtful statement thanking friends, family and supporters, some of which I’ve excerpted below:

It’s important to me that we not put undue importance on the decision. I’ve tried to do this job well and I know the next person to hold the job will do the same. If I thought for a moment that my role was necessary for our continued success, I would run again. But it’s not. The progress we’ve made as a city continues because it’s based on the strengths of our city and efforts of thousands – the mayor is just one of many.  …

… Tomorrow comes and it’s just another day. I’ve got big plans for the rest of my term; I want to take full advantage of each and every day I have left. This decision has only increased my sense of urgency to accomplish as much as I possibly can in these remaining months.

Perhaps Ness has been reading about Cincinnatus, the Roman leader who left his farm to serve as supreme leader during a crisis, and immediately gave up his power once the crisis was over. It’s refreshing to see leaders who understand the value of elected power, not as something to be hoarded over a long career, but as something that can be used sparingly and strategically when the moment calls for them.

I doubt the city of Duluth has heard the last of Don Ness.

Meantime, Duluth city councilor Howie Hanson had already announced his decision to run for mayor. I expect others will join him sooner than later.

Duluth is a shipping and commerce center, the largest city in Northern Minnesota, situated at the eastern-most port of Lake Superior. Like much of the region it was knocked down by an economic crisis in the early 1980s, but has begun a rather impressive recovery and reinvention over the last decade. Ness, who was elected to the city council in his 20s and as mayor in his 30s, is seen by many as the symbolic embodiment of this turnaround.


  1. I was very sad and hurt when passing through your City a few months ago,stopping to use a restroom and was told that my kind (being a Black man) can’t not use it, Not knowing in this day and time that this would happen to me.I never heard of Ness City before, but I will never forget your City. Maybe to you it may be nothing, so I will not bad mouth the Ness City to friends and family whom I have all over the U.S.and Facebook. I JUST WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW HOW I FEEL……MR. ANDERSON SR.

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