Our Moms & Mayors program connects Moms with Mayors around the country. As our federal government rolls back air, water, and climate protections, Mayors across the nation are finding innovative solutions: running their cities on clean energy, saving money, and protecting children’s health. Here’s an inspiring exclusive interview with Mayor Emily Larson of Duluth, Minnesota:
What is unique about protecting your city’s resources?
What’s unique is we have this incredible freshwater lake. Depending if you measure it by depth or surface, it’s the biggest one in the world. And we have this incredible resource, Lake Superior. It’s a huge anchor for us and we take great pride in it. Protecting the environment and prioritizing energy efficiency is important to protect this beautiful body of water. We also have 42 creeks in this city and the St. Louis River, so we have a very visual reason to think beyond getting through the day and getting through the year, and to think about protection overall.
What’s unique about Duluth is we have an interesting climate, and a population that allows us to experiment a little bit. We have a huge temperature range and only a few fuel sources to help us meet those needs.
Duluth has a population of 86,000. What I like to say about Duluth is that we are small enough to get things done, but big enough to matter. When I’m legislating for Duluth, I say, we’re a great place for you to experiment. We work with partners statewide. That really helps get things done. Everyone loves Duluth.
As a parent, are you concerned about the effects of climate change on your children and the children of your city?
Yes, tremendously so. There’s an emotional intensity that comes with parenting. We ask: How am I leaving this planet, this community better for them?
Why is a bipartisan effort so important? How can efforts to address clean air and climate change be achieved in our current political climate?
I think it’s non-partisan to care about clean air and clean water. These aren’t things that you choose based on your political beliefs. It’s something that’s required. And it’s something that takes all of us. We know from data that we have neighborhoods that have significant health disparities based on income. That income correlates with neighborhoods that have been targeted by industry. These neighborhoods tend to have high poverty and increased asthma. ALL of those things are a mayor’s reality. How we respond should be the litmus. We can talk about tax base, and we can talk about sales growth, and we can talk about home sales and jobs, but the reality is, the work of mayor is very broad. In my mind, we must include health disparities, access to park space and outdoor activities. And clean air and clean water.
Is there anything you’d like to share with Moms Clean Air Force’s million members?
I would say advocacy on a daily basis is some of the most important advocacy that we have. It’s important to show up for a march, and it’s important to show up on an issue. But we only get impact through the daily choices we make. When I was home raising my children, there were days I felt very small, and I didn’t know what my impact would be. I didn’t know that my work would have an impact. But it does! Everyone’s voice has a place.
Emily was elected Mayor of Duluth in November 2015. Currently, Mayor Larson serves as a member of the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, and is a seated board member to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative and the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund. As Mayor, her priorities include sustainable energy, increasing and improving our housing stock, addressing the opioid epidemic, developing a stable and reliable long terms streets funding plan, and continuing to grow Duluth’s robust and unique economy. She’s an active trail runner and full-time admirer of Lake Superior. Emily is married has two sons.