After a year of loss, financial and social struggle, Mayor Jim Paine highlighted the way Superior is emerging from a global pandemic and social struggle for equal justice: Stronger.
Paine delivered his third state of the city speech Thursday, May 27 at the festival grounds at Cedar Lounge and Earth Rider Brewery. Last year, the annual speech was canceled because of the pandemic.
“Obviously, this is a different idea,” Paine said. “We usually have these speeches at UW-Superior, but as we planned it in the middle of the pandemic, we felt that we wanted to have it in person. That meant outdoors. And there’s truly only one place to have a great event outdoors in Superior, especially during the pandemic and that was Earth Rider Brewery.”
Paine thanked Earth Rider Brewery’s founder, Tim Nelson, for hosting the event that drew about 100 people to the festival ground’s big tent and encouraged people to grab a beer while they were there.
“It may make the speech sound just a bit better,” Paine said.
A year of uncertainty
During the 30-minute speech, the mayor acknowledged 2020 as the worst in the city’s history – a year of isolation, uncertainty and loss that touched everyone – because of the pandemic.
“The first promise I’m make tonight is the most important: We won’t forget those that we lost, and we won’t fail those who survived,” Paine said.
Despite the challenges that tested Superior over the last 15 months, Paine said the story he offered was one of hope.
“In my first two State of the City addresses I told you about how the city was rising,” Paine said. “That we were transforming challenge into opportunity, and opportunity into progress and prosperity. I told you that we would build a city that works for everyone and each year we got a little closer. But throughout 2020 all of that was tested. We passed those tests … we are leaving the pandemic better than we entered. I’m going to tell you a story of resilience, of strength, of innovation, adaptability and courage.”
And Paine acknowledged the other tragedy of 2020: the murder of George Floyd by a police officer on the streets of Minneapolis.
“And I’m grateful to say that the national movement for police reform rose at a time when our police department had been leading and setting an example for police across the country,” Paine said. He highlighted training initiatives and the creation of a coordinated response specialist to change the way the department responds to mental health crises, substance abuse and domestic violence. He acknowledged officers who are revolutionizing policing in Superior and promised to hold officers to the highest standard of respect, integrity, professionalism and skill.
“We don’t just want the best cops; we want the best people wearing our badge,” Paine said.
The mayor highlighted entrepreneurship that flourished in Superior despite the pandemic, providing opportunity to women, people of color and immigrants. And he highlighted city initiatives that he plans to pursue:
- Improving neighborhoods by creating a grant program for homeowners.
- Expanding Superior’s small business grant program.
- Redesigning Tower and Hammond avenues to slow traffic and restore neighborhood streets.
- Planning for an exposition and commercial district on Superior’s northern waterfront.
- Beginning the conversion of the city’s fleet to electric vehicles in partnership with Superior Water, Light and Power.
- Overhauling Duluth Transit Authority bus routes in Superior and offering students the opportunity to use them for free.
- Initiating an open-access broadband utility to provide cheaper, faster internet for those who want it.
- Bringing art back to public spaces.
“I believe that the state of this city is more beautiful and vibrant and successful than it has ever been,” Paine said. “And I want to celebrate it. Only art can do that.”
Citizen of the Year
And Paine kept with his tradition of recognizing one outstanding resident of the community.
“Our community is filled with good citizens so choosing one that truly stands out is difficult,” Paine said before delivering his first posthumous acknowledgement of outstanding service to the community, to Larry Quam.
“Larry lived a life of hardship,” Paine said. “He survived polio as a child but refused to let it limit his life. He chose a career in law enforcement and dedicated his best years to his community … After he retired, he continued his service on the Douglas County Board.”
While age and health should have prompted Quam to put his own health first, especially in a pandemic, Paine said Quam never put himself first.
Quam died June 7, 2020, at age 86. He worked for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for more than 36 years and served on the county board for more than 20 years.
“I’m not trying to remember a man who is gone,” Paine said. “I’m trying to celebrate a legacy that survives.”
Paine presented the key to the city to Quam’s sons, Ron and Dennis, and his wife of 65 years, Yvonne.
“This is a little bit hard,” Ron Quam said. “He wasn’t just my father. He was my best friend … and he would do anything for anybody.”
Yvonne Quam said her husband was dedicated to serving the community for as long as she’s known him. Even in the days leading up to his death, she said Larry never showed that he didn’t feel well.
“He had things he wanted to do,” Quam said of her husband.