Don Ness Keeps His Cool
The most popular mayor in Minnesota on
why you should move to Duluth
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A year later, how’s the city looking?
We’re probably 30 percent through our recovery. Most of what we did last year was emergency repairs: assessment work, working through the red tape. The public infrastructure will be taken care of; that will be fixed. But I worry about those residents who are struggling with their own finances.
Private-property damage was estimated at $30 million—not good considering FEMA denied Duluthians individual homeowner assistance.
That was a devastating blow. I’m still angry about it. I’ve seen too many people struggling to rebuild their lives from the impact of a 24-hour storm. Fortunately, the state and private donations have picked up much of the slack.
And let’s not forget Feisty the Seal. How is the Lake Superior Zoo now?
No entity in Duluth was harder hit than the zoo. It will be a massive challenge to save it.
On a happier note, Duluth’s Homegrown Music Festival, which you used to run as festival director, is celebrating 15 years.
Homegrown is the embodiment of the cool ethic that’s happening in Duluth: 180 bands and they each get $50 to play. Trampled by Turtles and Charlie Parr get the same deal as the kid punk band.
Any undiscovered Duluth acts we should know about?
I could name 50, starting with Actual Wolf, Sarah Krueger, Coyote, Saint Anyway. And anyone who lived through the ’80s should check out Marc Gartman’s “Fever Dream” on YouTube. It’s brilliant.
What’s the story behind your own YouTube sensation?
I agreed to the video before I had any idea what “Gangnam Style” was. Fortunately, I had enough sense to refuse their idea that I should wear sequined hot pants. It could have been a lot worse.
We also saw the “official” Duluth “Harlem Shake” video. Any other memes you’re obsessed with?
There’s a funny one of me as Mr. Rogers—pretty appropriate.
Might be the funniest thing to come out of Duluth since comedian Maria Bamford. Did you know her?
When I was in my 20s, my grandma tried to set me up with Maria because Maria’s father was her dermatologist. We were talking about how she was starting to have some success out in California, and my grandma was convinced that Dr. Bamford’s daughter would be perfect for me. But I don’t take romantic advice from grandmas.
Gregory J. Scott is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Minnesota Monthly.