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Changes are afoot in Scanlon

Jim Putnam campaigns for the Minnesota House seat during the 2012 Cloquet Labor Day parade. Putnam is stepping down as mayor of Scanlon and moving to Florida with his wife, Kathi, next week. File Photo

As of Sept. 25, Scanlon is losing its mayor.

Two-term mayor and longtime Carlton County resident Jim Putnam is stepping down and moving to Florida. Putnam and his wife, Kathi, were set to close on the sale of their Scanlon home Sept. 20 and Putnam said his final council meeting as mayor will be Sept. 24.

"I've enjoyed a lot of things as mayor, some not," said Putnam, with typical candor. "Being in office is not always fun. It's work and it's thankless sometimes. I hope people will remember when they come to a council meeting to work with the councilors and the people who represent them because they're basically giving their time -- it's not exactly a high-paying job."

Putnam leaves the position having accomplished some of his goals, and still working on a few more.

"The [Cloquet Area] Fire District merger -- long range I think it will be a good thing," he said, adding that the council passed a moratorium on the sale of synthetic drugs at its most recent meeting. "And there are a couple things I want to make sure get done."

He refers to a "road" -- giving no further description -- and mentions a proposed Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district in the area of the former Kolar Chevrolet and Sugar Daddys gentleman's club.

While Putnam said he would like to see city councilor and acting mayor Annette Bryant take the reins of the city, the job is open to any Scanlon resident who would like to apply. Residents need to submit an application to the city offices (located in the Scanlon Community Center at 2801 Dewey Ave.), and plan to attend the Scanlon City Council meeting at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 9, when the council will vote on a replacement to serve through 2014.

Putnam's departure will be felt beyond the Scanlon city limits. Active politically and as a volunteer for years, Putnam is a familiar face to many in the area, from his Cloquet High School classmates to the people who voted for or against him last year when he ran for the state legislature.

Putnam ran as the Republican Party candidate for House District 11A in 2012, the first year the seat existed, ultimately losing to DFL candidate Mike Sundin

"I wish things had been different -- I think I could have done a good job," Putnam said. "But the DFL party and the unions are pretty strong here."

Putnam campaigned as an "independent Republican" and stressed that it was more important to him to represent the people from the area than to toe the party line. He has no regrets about that, except that he lost.

"I just want to thank the people who helped me," Putnam said. "Those who helped know who you are."

He proudly shared a letter from attorney Pete Radosevich, who also hosts CAT-7's "Harry's Gang," a local talk show which frequently focuses on politics.

"When a guy is willing to put himself out there, simply because he wants to serve his community, I find that pretty respectable," wrote Radosevich, who had thrown his hat in the ring on DFL side during the primary election season. "You campaigned with honor and I respect that."

Putnam said one of the last political events he plans to attend is a meet-n-greet on Sept. 20 for the Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, Stewart Mills.

"It's smart to start almost a year early," he said. "I've learned that politics is about awareness and money. You need to get out there and let the people know what you want to do."

Putnam's departure will also have an impact on the local Eagle's Club, where he served as president for the past eight years. (Don Sparring will be the new Cloquet Eagles Club president.)

Putnam served his first and last day as district Eagles president two weeks ago at the district convention in Grand Rapids. It was bittersweet, he said.

Still, there is much to look forward to. Living closer to his son, Shawn, and a new grandbaby will be a bonus. (An associate professor at the University of Central Florida, Shawn lives in Orlando. Putnam's other two sons, Chris and Chad, both live and work in Pittsburgh, Penn.) Warmer weather might be kinder to his hands and feet. Living near the Gulf won't be bad either.

Still, the Putnams aren't saying goodbye to Carlton County forever, he hastened to add.

They definitely will come back from their new home in Port Charlotte to visit.

"My mother still lives here, and we've had people offer us a place to stay next summer," Putnam said. "We'd like to move my mom down to Florida, but people don't leave their roots that often. I can't believe I did."