DULUTH – City leaders are making a push to remove the word "chief" from job titles, calling the term offensive to Indigenous people.
At a news conference this week, Mayor Emily Larson urged City Council members to vote to approve the change "so that we have more inclusive leadership and less language that is rooted in hurt and offensive, intentional marginalization."
The measure, slated to go before the council Monday night, would change Chief Administrative Officer Noah Schuchman's title to city administrator and Chief Financial Officer Wayne Parson's title to finance director.
"I think that there are other titles that we have the opportunity to use to steer away from language that may put people down based off their race or culture," said Alicia Kozlowski, Duluth's community relations officer and member of the Grand Portage and Fond du Lac Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa.
Kozlowski said "chief" is used as "a racial epithet, and it turns into a microaggression." She added that the city is trying to be proactive by addressing the issue before residents ask.
Larson said the city is also considering changing the titles of Duluth's police and fire chiefs. The term is used by professional law enforcement associations and to refer to those in comparable public safety roles elsewhere, which makes finding a suitable replacement more challenging.
Since Wednesday, Larson has received pushback from some residents pointing out the Latin etymology of the word and questioning the city's decision to take on this issue as it faces a potential $38 million budget shortfall.