- "Own it - Solve it" - How taking ownership of community problems can transform an organization
- Humor in Leadership - How effectively using public-facing humor helps lead a team
Don Ness has served more than 20 years in public leadership, culminating with a 91 percent job approval rating in his role as Mayor of the City of Duluth. During this time, he was honored with the titles of both Twin Cities Business Person of the Year and the Labovitz School of Business and Economics Business Person of the Year.
As Mayor, Ness served as Chief Executive of city operations, overseeing a $250 million annual budget, and inspiring the collaboration of the city’s 850 staff members. His administration turned the city’s budget deficit into a surplus and greatly improved overall operations by staying true to the motto, “Own it. Solve it.”
One of his greatest accomplishments as a public servant was leading a broader effort to change the perception of Duluth across the region. After decades of pessimism and defeatism, today people see Duluth as a city willing to solve its own problems, as well a stunning destination for both visitors and new residents. Ness believes a leader can create significant value and collaboration through a willingness to challenge conventional thinking, and by demonstrating a modest, restrained, and thoughtful use of authority within a leadership position.
Ness’ experience in office has allowed him to sharpen his exceptional leadership skills, while making him an expert in public policy, strategic messaging and community outreach. He actively serves the Duluth community as a voice, volunteer and supporter of a variety of causes and organizations. As an example of his dedication to the future of Duluth, he founded the Bridge Syndicate, which seeks to engage young adults in civic affairs.
Ness is a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, majoring in business administration and economics, and he earned a Masters in Management from the College of St. Scholastica. Prior to his tenure as Mayor, he was the campaign manager for Congressman Jim Oberstar for nearly 10 years.
Ness’ core values include a deep dedication to his family, and an ongoing spirit of service to his community.