Our town: Duluth Mayor finds fun way to tout city successes
By H.M. Cauley
Nancy Harris is wrapping up her fifth year as mayor of Duluth, so she’s had plenty of practice giving the annual “state of the city” address. In fact, she’s pretty bored by it.
“Every year, I do this 30-minute talk, and every year, I try to make it unique,” said the Duluth native, a graduate of Duluth High and a former educator. “Our budget situation is about the same as it was last year, so it would be pretty boring to go all through that again. I put all that information in nice graphics that people can take home with them.”
Instead, Harris has decided to spend her time in the spotlight this year highlighting Dululth’s wealth of small businesses and their importance to the community. In her “Duluth Local” address, she’ll stress the need to support the area’s merchants. Backing her up will be a series of photos taken at many of those businesses where Harris posed with - and was often upstaged by - Shiner, a rescue dog who last year beat out 35 other pets in a contest to be named “mayor” of the city’s 3-acre Chattapoochie Dog Park.
Since earning the title, Shiner has become a fixture in the community, riding in the fall festival parade with the mayor and making an appearance at the holiday tree lighting in December.
“Shiner shows up everywhere,” said Harris. “So last August, we decided to visit about 40 local businesses and have our pictures made. But Shiner took over. I’m like the ‘Where’s Waldo’ character in the background. We wound up with tons of photos, and some of them are really funny.”
The idea of snapping Shiner in various locations around town turned into a contest cooked up by his owner David Gentry. All businesses and organizations were invited to send in their shots with a superimposed Shiner in them to “show” where he’s been.
“I thought it would be a fun way to promote businesses that we didn’t get to visit,” said Gentry. “But Shiner really does get out and around. He’s a very friendly dog.”
The best contest shots, along with Harris’s tour of Duluth, will be on display Tuesday during the 8th Annual City of Duluth’s “State of the City” address at Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway. The event begins at 11 a.m. with a business expo, followed by lunch. Tickets are $25, and proceeds benefit four local charities. Last year’s event drew about 200 and raised $5,000.
But Harris promises a serious side to the occasion as well.
“I’ve done a tremendous amount of research about what the next generation is looking for in a community,” she said. “So I’m going to address what types of things we need to be doing so to attract and keep them and to make young professionals want to move to Duluth.”
Reservations for the event are available online: ourduluth.com; 678-957-7299.
Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at email@example.com or call 404-514-6162.