By Harry Welty
Pulling Julio out of
I used to kid Julio Almanza that I was responsible for all his gray hair as he gracefully aged from a black to a silver mane in the six years he superintended the Duluth Schools. Julio just flashed his cat-who-swallowed-the-canary smile at me. It’s a look our city councilors will have three months to get used to.
After Mayor Bergson pulled his rabbit out of a hat I got an
email from a buddy who asked me: “Well,
you worked with him; what do you think of his new job? Is this a good
position for him?”
I’ll start at
the beginning. I didn’t vote to hire Julio seven years ago but I wasn’t
disappointed that he took over as our Superintendent. The single most intriguing
thing about him was his stint on a major suburban school board. “Here’s a
fellow,” I thought to myself, “who will appreciate the needs of his elected
school board members.”
first Julio did a good job keeping school board members happy. It wasn’t an
easy job as his board was split down the middle into two warring camps. Being
new to Duluth Julio had no way of knowing which of the two sides would win
control after the next election so he maintained a strict neutrality. That
should come as welcome news to our much more amiable City Councilors.
Julio walked the
tightrope between these factions for the next six years only to find them
replaced in the last election by a division over the firing of a hockey coach.
That’s good preparation to deal with the
background is in education he was essentially a manager of the Duluth Schools.
He took direct reports from his staff who were the real experts in their fields.
His moving to the City is a little like an oil company executive becoming a
consumer products company exec. A bigger difference is that while Julio was
subject to the whims of the nine School Board members who hired him, he now owes
his chief allegiance to a single Mayor. He will still take staff reports from
subordinates who are experts in their fields of expertise. It’s unlikely he
will be overwhelmed by the city’s budget which is comparable to that of the
Julio’s District experiences bode well for the City. When he took over the
And, like the
City today, when Julio took over the
settlement in the 1980’s gave
something else about Julio which the Council and Mayor should prepare themselves
for. Julio can be stubborn, especially over a point of honor. He was lionized
for many years throughout the state for surviving the bucking bronco that has
been the Duluth Schools. He had many opportunities to leave Duluth for much
higher paying jobs while his reputation was riding high but he turned them down
because he didn’t want to leave until he was satisfied that he had completed
his mission in Duluth. This led him to stick it out for a year with a new less
trusting School Board. The plethora of superintendent jobs that had been
available for him began to dry up and he ended in a premature retirement.
That’s a real waste of Julio’s talents.
So, in answer to
my friend’s email question I say; sure, for the short run Julio’s a good
replacement. Kick his tires a bit and take him for a test drive. There will be
some speed bumps ahead and if he doesn’t work out just tape a letter of
dismissal to his door.
Oh, and one word
to the Mayor’s supporters in western
Welty is a small time
politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com