Cloquet’s new ‘top cop’ hails from Esko
Steve Stracek, Cloquet’s newly appointed chief of police, said applying for the high profile position “seemed like a logical step in my career.”
Stracek, who has spent his entire police career with the Duluth Police Department, was unanimously endorsed for the top Cloquet post last Friday at a special meeting of the Cloquet City Council.
“He came out on top with flying colors,” Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren said. “He’s got experience as a command person and is very personable. He was the unanimous pick.”
Stracek’s appointment was the result of a national search which included finalists from as far away as Florida and Arizona. Ironically, the search culminated in Cloquet’s own backyard where Stracek, of Esko, has lived throughout almost all of his 21 years working with the Duluth Police Department.
“This opportunity came at a time when I had been at Duluth quite a while and had had the chance to do a lot of different things there,” said Stracek. “This seemed like a natural step to take.”
And while the excitement and opportunity of a large city had a strong appeal for Stracek, he said he’s always remained a small-town boy at heart.
He grew up on a farm between Staples and Browerville and studied law enforcement at North Hennepin Community College. He went on to take his skills training at the Law Enforcement Training Center in the Edina/Bloomington area and was hired by the Duluth Police Department in October 1992. Even then, he had a yen to get back to the land, purchasing 130 acres of land near Cotton and making the commute to Duluth for about a year. When he and his wife, Lisa, decided they wanted to get into a bit less rural setting, they moved to Duluth in 1993 and then chose to make their home in Esko in 1996. They’ve been there ever since, and their children have grown up there.
Stracek began his law enforcement career patrolling Duluth’s Central Hillside District from 1993-1999, working straight nights.
“It was a great experience,” he testified. “Nights on patrol have a different level of activity and challenges than you generally see during the day.”
He then became an investigator with the former Minnesota Gang Strike Force, a sergeant assigned to the night shift and a patrol lieutenant assigned to 16-20 officers. Most recently, Stracek has served as a lieutenant in Duluth’s Organized Crime Bureau, acting as commander of the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force and also supervising the department’s property and financial crimes unit.
Stracek plans to use that background to help Cloquet address its issues with drug trafficking and abuse along the Interstate 35 and Highway 33 corridors. He acknowledged the city’s problems with heroin, property theft and even violent crimes are “big concerns.”
“I’ve got quite a background in strategies addressing the core problem,” he said.
In coming to Cloquet, Stracek replaces the recently retired Wade Lamirande, a hometown cop who in 10 years as chief made a host of progressive changes, such as bringing in a school resource officer and starting a Citizens Police Academy. Stracek, who is versed in the data analysis sweeping policing, figures to make changes, too. Only, not right away.
Stracek also is versed in the town’s dynamics. He and Lisa have three involved teenagers, and he said his social circles are primarily in the Cloquet and Esko areas. He already is a dedicated member of Cloquet’s Knights of Columbus and coaches trapshooting with the Carlton County 4-H.
“I’ve already worked with a lot of the guys from this area,” said Stracek of joining the local law enforcement community. “I’m looking forward to the smaller city setting. It just kind of clicked for me.”
“We are very excited to see him join the city,” commented City Administrator Brian Fritsinger. “Steve is an Esko resident and has a number of ties to the community, and the Council felt that his professional experience and personal relationships within the community are very much going to be assets to Cloquet.”
Stracek said though he loved his job in Duluth, he has a new excitement about what lies ahead.
“I will miss the people, vibes and memories there,” he admitted, “but I believe God is saying to me this is the thing to do.”
Brady Slater of Forum News Service contributed to this story.