Duluth Selects Janet Kennedy As First African American Council President
It was a historic first meeting of the year for the Duluth City Council.
As is customary at the initial session for the term, the Councilors made electing their leadership the first item in their agenda. As part of the process, the council will elect a Council President and a Council Vice President.
WIth a unanimous vote, City Councilors selected and then approved the appointment of FIfth District Councilor Janet Kennedy to be the new Council President. The vote was historic in that it "marks the first time in Duluth's history that a woman of African American heritage holds the position".
Outgoing Council President Arik Forsman - who nominated Kennedy for the position - reflected on the experience she brings to the table along with the historic nature of the selection:
"It was my privilege to turn over the Duluth City Council President gavel to Janet Kennedy at our first meeting of 2023. The opportunity to serve on the Council leadership team the past two years with our first female Council President of Native American heritage and now our first female Council President of African American heritage was quite an honor. I'm proud our Council was productive, low-drama, and people-focused during those two tears, and I look forward to working with all of my colleagues in the year ahead."
The incoming City Council President has a long history of community and public service, with commision details as far back as 2015 - first elected to the Duluth City Council in 2020.
Council President Kennedy provided the historical context that her appointment represents and the goals she has for the city. She explained:
"This is an historic time for all Duluthians and this election lifts up the voices of our African American community that has supported me throughout the years. I am honored my council colleagues have chosen me to serve and lead as the Duluth City Council President and the first African American to serve in this role. I offer this legacy to my mother and father - children of sharecroppers who in the 1960's came to Duluth for work at the Air Force Base from Columbus, Mississippi. They are U.S. citizen refugees from the South as part of the Northern migration in search of a better life.
Thank you to all my supporters and mentors, with a special thanks to outgoing Council President Forsman for your authentic leadership, and newly-elected Council Vice President Randorf. Let's do this! Lastly, as a servant leader, I truly believe that a community will prosper when everyone is walking on even ground."
That "servant leadership" role is something that Kennedy sees as important - not only for her political career but for the greater community as a whole - in a way of bringing people together for a common cause. She want on to share:
"Understanding city complexities as a whole, along with my strong roots in the District Five Western Duluth community, we will make a difference together for everyone. I look forward to supporting council colleagues, working with City staff and workers who do their jobs every day to ensure we have safe and healthy communities to live, work, and play. I will lead with action, curiosity, openness, and a willingness to learn."
At the same meeting, the Duluth City Council also elected their Vice President. Councilor Roz Randorf was selected to fulfil that role by her colleagues. Randorf was first elected to the Duluth City Council in 2019 and she is in the middle of her first term.
Duluth City Council leadership terms are for one year.