Election 2020: Brenner, Peterson retain seats on Carlton County Board of Commissioners

The incumbents in Districts 1 and 5 retained their seats on the board.

Brothers Russell (left) and Darrell Erickson fill out their ballots at Cloquet City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 3. At 10:30 a.m., the precinct saw 225 people cast their vote. (Samantha Erkkila /

The incumbents in two contested Carlton County Board of Commissioners races retained their seats by significant margins, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State.

In District 1, incumbent Dick Brenner kept the seat he’s held for 28 years, while Gary Peterson was reelected to his District 5 seat.

District 1

Brenner received 62% of the vote to challenger Erik Blesener’s 38%.

A Cloquet resident, Brenner served as a financial controller for the Potlatch Corporation for 27 years. He retired 20 years ago.


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Dick Brenner

Brenner told the Pine Journal Wednesday, Nov. 4, he was happy to have been reelected and thanked voters for their support and confidence.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the Carlton County Jail replacement project and broadband were among the big issues Brenner said the county will have to tackle in the future.

The County Board would like to have voters decide whether to increase local option sales tax by 0.5% to help fund a new jail, but officials need approval from the state Legislature to get the measure on the ballot.

"Hopefully the Legislature will give us permission to run a referendum," he said.

Brenner also said he wants to keep working to improve roads in the county, while holding the line on property taxes and maintaining funding for the sheriff's department.

RELATED: Blesener, Brenner vie for Carlton County District 1 seat

Blesener ran for the seat for a third time because he said he wanted to continue serving the public. The Cloquet resident retired after 28 years in law enforcement and corrections and currently works as a Native American education tutor at Cloquet High School.


He previously told the Pine Journal the two biggest challenges facing the county were the COVID-19 pandemic and the jail project. A message left for Blesener Wednesday was not immediately returned.

Erik Blesener

District 5

Peterson received 67% of the votes to challenger Alex French’s 33%.

Peterson has served on the board for eight years and said he wanted to run again to see a few projects through. A Barnum resident, Peterson is a retired teacher and coach.

" I’m feeling very happy," Peterson said. "I want to thank everyone that helped me get reelected for their support. I just plan on working for everyone in District 5 and try to do the best job I can."

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Gary Peterson


RELATED: Jail project, broadband main issues for District 5 Carlton County Board candidates

Peterson said the biggest issues currently facing Carlton County are the jail project, broadband access and road replacement.

" Obviously we’re concerned about broadband, and I think the big thing is to work with our federal and state people and all of us working together to see if we can come up with some solutions," he said.

Like Brenner, Peterson said he would like to accomplish all of those things while keeping property taxes down.

French decided to run for office to give back to the community. The Cromwell resident works for Alaspa & Murray, a CPA firm in Cloquet.

Alex French

French said he wasn't surprised that Peterson took the race by such large margins.


"The incumbents are tough to beat," he said. "Gary got out and worked, and he earned it. He’s done the job for eight years and he’ll continue to put in his best effort for the next four."

In his first run for public office, French said he learned a lot and would have spent more time knocking on doors and meeting people in District 5 to get his name out there.

He thanked everyone who supported him.

" It was an honor to run. I appreciate all the support," he said.

This story was updated at 9:15 a.m. Nov. 4 with comments from three of the four candidates. It was originally posted at 6:29 a.m. Nov. 4.

Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten is the regional editor for Duluth Media Group, overseeing the Cloquet Pine Journal and the Superior Telegram.
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