DULUTH – A fresh set of faces formally took office Monday night, raising their hands and smiling as a judge swore in the trio of new city leaders, including the first African-American council member.
Standing on a ballroom stage with the city's lift bridge in the background, City Council newcomers Janet Kennedy, Derek Medved and Roz Randorf assumed the offices they were elected to in November.
"From a young age, I was told life is not fair and was treated differently," said Kennedy, a black woman who now represents the predominantly white city in which she grew up.
"Dreaming big beyond life's circumstances and working hard is what brought me here today," she said. "After the election, I took time to reflect and discern on the importance of this historic legacy."
Incumbent council members Gary Anderson and Arik Forsman also were sworn in, as was Mayor Emily Larson, who launched her second term at the city's helm.
Larson was elected in 2015 after her popular predecessor, Don Ness, decided not to seek a third term. Her landslide victory this fall proved she was able to set herself apart as a city leader, accomplishing key goals such as eliminating a backlog of untested sexual assault kits and securing millions of dollars for street repairs — both accomplishments she cited in her inauguration speech.
"Over my next term we will continue to have Duluth out front as a state and national leader showing what it means and what it looks like to build an equitable and sustainable city for all neighbors across all neighborhoods," Larson said. She highlighted affordable housing and child care, economic growth and sustainable development as issues she plans to focus on.
At her inauguration four years ago, Larson became the city's first female mayor. On Monday, she looked over at Kennedy and made note of the new milestone the city reached in terms of diversity.
"The progress we are seeing in this community is tremendous," Larson said. "It's a responsibility. It is a gift. And I am so, so excited for you and this community."