Mayor Emily Larson said she wants the Duluth City Council to approve an ordinance that would remove the word “chief” from a city government job title.
“We are dropping the name chief with intention and with purpose so that we have more inclusive leadership and less language that is rooted in hurt,” said Larson, who called the title “offensive” and intentionally marginalizing.
The Duluth City Council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance Monday night that would change Chief Administrative Officer Noah Schuchman’s title to “city administrator.”
During a Wednesday press conference, Larson said the language change will “more accurately reflect the city that we are and the city that we are becoming.”
She also revealed that the city’s chief financial officer will be given a new title of “finance director.”
“I often get questions about police chief, fire chief. We are working on what those positions could be called because they have professional affiliations wherein the name chief has a greater connection. We are working with our chiefs on what that could and should be for the city of Duluth,” Larson added.
Alicia Kozlowski, Duluth’s community relations officer, told The Star Tribune that the word “chief” is used as a “racial epithet, and it turns into a microaggression.”
“I think that there are other titles that we have the opportunity to use to steer away from language that may put people down based off their race or culture,” she said, noting that the city wasn’t asked by residents to make the change.
“I disagree that our job is to only respond when requested,” Larson said on Twitter in response to critics of the change. “I believe our role actually compels us to lead, anticipate and be proactive. I do appreciate you don’t see this language as problematic. Sincerely, others do. Including me.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Emily Larson” by Emily Larson. Background Photo “Duluth City Hall” by Elkman. CC BY-SA 3.0.