David's Blog

Monday, April 05, 2010

Applauding Superintendent Dixon and Mayor Ness

Our Shining City on the Hill is shining more brightly these days. It does so by design and not by chance. This illumination is made possible, in part, because of two exceptionally strong and courageous leaders. These leaders, Superintendent Keith Dixon and Mayor Don Ness, bring a quiet confidence and resolve to their leadership roles. It is an honor to stand beside these men of character and stand with them as they accept the leadership challenge of addressing problems that plagued our beloved community for decades.

The problems were bequeathed to them by their predecessors and by our citizenry, who were unable to properly address the concerns.

One of these chronic, formidable problems was the financial and structural condition of our public school system. The number of students enrolled in our Duluth Public School District has steadily declining since 1960. While the District made limited changes in response to the decline, its leadership was unable to implement the comprehensive and decisive actions necessary to bring our school system into alignment with the decreased enrollment. That is, until Keith Dixon took on this challenge.

Keith Dixon is exactly what our school district needed. He is a resilient, intelligent and tough minded optimist who believes in providing our children the best possible centers of learning. He has faced adversity and he has overcome the odds all his life. Those who continue to fuel opposition to the Long Range Facilities Plan are hoping to wear down Keith Dixon. They obviously don't know Keith Dixon. If they did, they would realize they will not discourage this person of conviction and courage. When the dust settles at the school building and remodeling sites, our community will increasingly come to realize the benefits derived from Keith Dixon's leadership.

Another protracted and largely unaddressed community problem was the City of Duluth's financial struggles caused by the compounding city employee retiree healthcare liability. It was decades in the making. Yet, it was Mayor Don Ness who took on the formidable task of addressing this concern in a comprehensive and decisive manner. He was publicly and aggressively lambasted by some who were benefiting from the unsustainable arrangement. Mayor Ness, like Superintendent Dixon, took on the problem despite the controversy generated by his decisiveness.

In his first State of the City Address, Mayor Ness quoted President John Kennedy, who said, "We do not take on our challenges because they are easy - we do so because they are hard." Mayor Ness has courageously taken on the hard challenges he has faced during the three years he has led our city.

Keith Dixon and Don Ness share some admirable traits: they lead with a quiet strength, they are humble and, they remain calm under inordinate pressure. I have a quote that I often reflect on when I am in need of encouragement. It reads, "Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow'." The quote reminds me of how well Superintendent Dixon and Mayor Ness possess the energy and the resolve to press on with the work before them.

In support,

David Ross

posted by David Ross at


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