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Duluth Mayor Ness named ‘Business Person of the Year’

The award, given by UMD’s business school, referred to him as the CEO of a $250 million organization: the City of Duluth.

Those bestowing the “Business Person of the Year” award in Duluth this year went in a non-traditional direction.

They gave it to Don Ness, the city’s mayor.

The award, given each year by the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics, typically goes to an actual businessperson.

But this year, the Duluth News Tribune reports, Business School Dean Dean Amy Hietapelto gave it to Ness, calling him “the CEO of a $250 million organization who has made difficult business decisions with personal integrity.”

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That big organization, of course, is the city.

Ness was first elected mayor in 2007 and ran unopposed four years later. Last year, he turned down a 25 percent pay raise — from $78,000 to $97,500 — granted by the city council.

He said at the time, that while he agreed the mayor’s salary was too low, he thought it should come after the next election. That will be in 2015.

Ness accepted the business award Wednesday with typical modesty: He attributed his success to “putting the city first, having built a good team and having a supportive family,” the paper said.

“I’m a convenient proxy for everything good happening in Duluth,” he said.