DULUTH – Mayor Emily Larson will serve a second term at the city’s helm following a sound victory in Tuesday’s election, after which she promised to continue to work serving the state’s fifth-largest city.
“We brought vision for a community that does well if we stay connected. We brought a vision for reaching out deeply and listening clearly, with our hearts and our heads,” Larson said Tuesday night at the Duluth Folk School in the Lincoln Park craft district that has revitalized in the last few years, mostly during her time in office.
Larson, 46, won 64% of the roughly 21,000 votes cast, according to unofficial results from the city.
Her challenger David Nolle, a former executive director for the Boy Scouts of America, said he felt his ability to garner more than 7,000 votes when facing a strong incumbent is a testament to the fact that “anyone can step up and make a difference.”
Duluthians also elected a slate of other local officials, voting Tuesday to fill five seats on the City Council and three on the school board.
Four years ago, chatter surrounding Duluth’s mayoral election revolved around the question of who would fill the shoes of Don Ness, Larson’s popular predecessor who decided not to run for re-election after two terms leading the city. Many credit Ness for crafting Duluth’s image as a tourist destination, a mecca for the outdoorsy and craft-beer drinkers alike.
But Larson, Duluth’s first female mayor, hasn’t let another’s shadow loom over her own tenure.
On Tuesday, the former City Council member and social worker said she considers securing millions of dollars dedicated to street repairs, local job creation and efforts to mend Duluth’s relationship with the Fond du Lac band among her top accomplishments since she was elected in 2015.
“She’s kind of building on [Ness’] platform to further Duluth,” Alexandra Duncan, 30, said after casting her ballot for Larson on Tuesday morning at Peace United Church of Christ.
Larson said her top priorities moving forward would be increasing the city’s affordable housing stock and furthering job growth.
As she gave her victory speech, supporters clapped and cheered. The mayor’s husband, Doug Zaun, and son, Eli, looked on smiling; her other son, Gabe, Facetimed in to watch his mom’s win from Minneapolis, where he attends college.
“Voters were really clear, and we worked hard for this,” Larson said. “We’re ready to keep this great work going.”