Emily Larson has easily won reelection as mayor of Duluth, defeating political newcomer and former Boy Scouts executive David Nolle with 64 percent of the vote.
“We brought a vision for reaching out deeply and listening clearly,” she told supporters gathered at the Duluth Folk School Tuesday night. “We brought a vision to be very honest about the challenges that we have, about where we are falling short and a commitment to do better.”
Duluth voters made Larson the city’s first female mayor four years ago when she earned 72 percent of the vote to succeed popular mayor Don Ness, who did not run for another term.
Larson, 46, grew up in St. Paul and first came to Duluth as a student at the College of St. Scholastica. She worked as a social worker and a consultant for nonprofits before winning election to the city council in 2012.
She said she was grateful for the trust voters showed in her. “We are moving in a direction that people resonate with, that they believe in, that they feel a part of.”
Larson cited a half percent sales tax she championed to fix city streets as her proudest accomplishment during her first term.
City voters approved it by a three to one margin. Larson then lobbied the Minnesota Legislature for two years to win approval to implement the tax.
“That was a huge and kind of a risky undertaking,” she said. “I didn’t know what the public would think of it. I couldn’t guarantee we could get it passed at the Legislature. But [I] worked my tail off to do it.”
The sales tax is expected to generate $7.5 million annually for 25 years. “I don’t know another city that has a quarter century of fully dedicated streets funding,” she said.
Larson has received some pushback from Duluth’s business community, which has raised concerns about taxes in the city. Even before the streets plan passed, Duluth had one of the highest sales tax rates in the state.
Many businesses also opposed a city ordinance that provides workers access to paid time off work. That law goes into effect next year.
Looking ahead to the next four years, Larson said affordable housing remains a top priority, along with additional infrastructure needs, local job creation and energy efficiency.