Duluth Mayor Don Ness set off a spark at the start of the July 4th holiday weekend with a Facebook post that has him thinking out loud: Should he run for re-election?
The 40-year-old, two-term mayor — the first mayor to run unopposed since the city was incorporated in 1887 — is debating whether it’s time to step aside.
Although he’s “never enjoyed the work more than right now,” he said in the post that he’s “struggling to generate any enthusiasm for the political side of the job.”
“I used to be able to just roll with the misinformation, negativity, cynicism, and council drama in order to keep an eye on the bigger picture,” Ness wrote. “But it takes its toll and I’m afraid I may be losing patience for a really important part of the job. That’s not a complaint; it’s recognition of what’s changing for me.”
He said in an interview that he still can push aside the political negativity and focus his energy where it needs to be for now. “But then the question is: How is it going to feel four years from now?”
Ness had planned to decide whether to run for re-election by the end of the year.
“Unfortunately, speculation and misinformation is now filling the void,” he said. Ness said in the interview that he’ll likely decide by fall, giving time for “other candidates to emerge.”
“Turnover in the mayor’s office is a healthy thing,” he said in his post. “There’s no question that Duluth would benefit from a mayor who brought a different set of strengths and fresh energy to the job. If you do it right, it’s not a job designed for longevity — you get stuff done and then you get out of the way. I have to admit, that’s the way I’m leaning these days, but it’s really hard to let go.”
Ness said it’s currently a 50-50 tossup whether he’ll run again. He’s not looking for people to sway him, but merely wanted to give friends and constituents insight into his decisionmaking process, he said, but added that the post seemed to take a life of its own as it made the rounds on social media.
“There are times that I’m convinced it’s time to move on,” he said. “And there are times when it would be extremely difficult to walk away.”
Ness said that when he first became mayor he promised himself that he would rather leave the office too soon than too late.
When he was 25, Ness was the second-youngest person ever elected to the Duluth City Council. Other than being mayor, he has no aspiration for higher office.
“I love being mayor,” he said. “It’s the political job I’m best suited for because I’m not overly partisan and I don’t like the political dynamics at the legislative or congressional level.
“I’m pretty confident that when I’m done as mayor that it’s very likely going to be the last political office I’m going to hold, at least until my kids are out of school. I have a 3-year-old, so that’s a ways out.”