Fanning-Lasseter welcomes replacement

DULUTH - Outgoing Duluth Mayor Shirley Fanning-Lasseter on Monday passed the gavel she wielded for 14 years to "a hometown girl and your new Mayor Nancy Harris."

Family and friends filled the council chambers of Duluth's new City Hall to bid farewell to Fanning-Lasseter and welcome the new mayor. The first council meeting in the new building was preceded by a ribbon-cutting ceremony. City officials and staff plan to move from the old City Hall into the new building as soon as the telephone system is installed in the next week or two.

Fanning-Lasseter, who did not seek re-election because she plans to run for a seat on the Gwinnett County Commission, expressed appreciation to the city staff and her family for their support.

"I thank all of you all for the memories you allowed me to have," she said, before tearfully leaving the council chambers.

It was also the last official council meeting for Post 5 Councilwoman Doris Kirouac, who did not run for re-election. Kirouac was initially elected to serve on the council in 1995.

Duluth Municipal Court Judge Charles Barrett administered oaths of office to Harris, new Post 5 Councilman Greg Whitlock, and returning Post 4 Councilman Doug Mundrick. Post 2 Councilman Jim Dugan was elected mayor pro tem for 2008 by the council.

Harris, a lifelong Duluth resident and retired educator, said in her first speech as mayor that she is "inspired by Duluth's potential" and envisions her role as building consensus with council members to face the city's challenges and create change together.

"We want to hold onto that small-town feeling while making sure we carefully plan for the future and hold steadfast to our principles of a quality lifestyle," she assured citizens.

She sees Duluth as a city "that preserves and celebrates our unique neighborhoods, the places where our families find stability and establish roots, where friendships are born and where the next generation of Duluthians can grow and thrive."

Harris expressed support for issues raised by residents during her campaign such as improving the appearance of the Buford Highway corridor, reducing traffic congestion, and bringing more restaurants, retail, entertainment, and parking to the Town Green and Main Street.

"Economic planning and development need to step to the forefront," Harris also said, and the city ought to consider hiring economic planners for its Planning Department.

Led by Harris, the council dealt with routine housekeeping items and appointments for 2008 during the 45-minute meeting.

Jason Brock, deputy Public Works director, was recognized as 2007 Employee of the Year.

The council also authorized the use of $27,538 in contingency funds for Mimsware to develop a request for a proposal and cost estimate to upgrade the city's computer software.