Most of a judge’s work happens in the courthouse, but there are a couple of duties a judge performs outside of the courtroom that are quite notable. Performing weddings are an obvious example, but I have also been called upon to administer the oath of office for the city council and the county board.
A most memorable swearing in ceremony for me happened on January 7, 2008, at the Convention and Entertainment Center in Duluth (DECC), Minnesota, where I administered the oath of office as Mayor of that city to my sister’s eldest son, Don Ness, Jr.
Don was born and raised in Duluth, graduating from Duluth Central High School, where he played on the State Tournament Basketball team. He attended the University of Minnesota, Duluth, serving as its student body president in 1995-96 and served on the University-wide Senate in 1996-97. Upon graduation, Don worked as the campaign manager for Congressman Jim Oberstar. Don was elected to the Duluth City Council in 1999 and again in 2003.
In November, 2007, Ness was elected Mayor of Duluth. A couple of weeks later, he contacted me, asking if I would administer the oath of office. I was honored to perform this important duty, and happily traveled north that January to perform the duty.
About noon that day, I went to the mayor-elect’s home to perform a private ceremony so that he could officially act as mayor for some issues that needed to be addressed that afternoon. That evening, at the DECC, in front of hundreds of citizens, as well as many out of town family and friends, the oath of office was to be administered to the mayor and city councilors, which was televised live by one of the Duluth stations. It was a memorable moment for me, standing with my back to the cameras, to raise my right hand and ask my nephew to repeat after me:
I, Donald Ness, do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Minnesota, and that I will discharge faithfully the duties of the office of Mayor in the City of Duluth, the State of Minnesota, to the best of my judgment and ability.
It was a proud moment for me, for Don’s mother, and for the City. And, I am happy and proud to report that, in 2011, Don ran for reelection unopposed – the first time that has happened since Duluth was incorporated in 1887!
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