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Maki sets sights on next election, and mayor's race

Ward 3 Councilor Roger Maki declared his intention to run for mayor of Cloquet this week. Jana Peterson/Pine Journal

Although Election Day was Tuesday, Cloquet's Roger Maki is already looking ahead to November 2018.

Maki announced this week that he is running for mayor of Cloquet. Candidates can't actually file until May, but Maki didn't want to wait to declare. Incumbent Mayor Dave Hallback will be up for re-election next year and Maki is aiming to replace him.

"I just want to let people know that I'm running, and that — if they don't like the way things have gone — they will have a choice," Maki said.

Currently in his second term as Ward 3 Cloquet City Councilor, Maki set himself apart from the rest of the council when he was the sole vote against putting former Cloquet Police Chief Steve Stracek on paid administrative leave earlier this year.

Maki has been openly critical of the process and the mayor since the city's "gag order" was lifted after an outside investigator, Michelle Soldo, found that Stracek's actions were all within the scope of his duties as police chief. She also found evidence that the mayor and unnamed city councilors had knowledge of the potential "vote of no confidence" a month before the March 15 union vote that led to Stracek's suspension.

Maki pointed out that Soldo also wrote that "action and inaction of involved council members" appear to violate the "City Council Values" statement.

"There have been no repercussions, of course, because we don't have the votes," he said, referring to the fact that many of the votes regarding the police department have passed 4-3, with Hallback and councilors Jeff Rock, Steve Langley and Adam Bailey in the majority, and Maki and fellow councilors David Bjerkness and Kerry Kolodge in the minority.

Still, Maki said the March 16 meeting and council actions since then led to his decision to run for mayor, along with lots of encouragement from citizens.

"A lot of people are stopping me when I'm out and about and bringing it up, people I know and don't know," he said.

Maki grew up in Esko but has lived in Cloquet for more than 46 years. He is a real estate broker with ReMax in Cloquet, and has a bachelor's degree in social and political science from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he trained to be a teacher. Instead, he went into real estate, but his teaching skills come in handy for training and explaining, he said.

Maki and his wife, Peggy, have three grown children — Aaron, April and Alexander — and three grandchildren.

His job will allow him to have the flexibility to be more involved in the community, he said.

"We need to restore the trust that has been lost," Maki said. "Our citizens deserve to have a city government that is honest and ethical, that they feel they can trust. I know people are afraid to speak out because it's a small town, and I believe they are the silent majority and they're not happy. I guess we'll find out in the election."