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Candidate Q&A: Les Riess, At Large Cloquet City Council candidate

Pine Journal: Why are you running for office?

Les Riess: I oversaw the well being of Cloquet residents for 42 years; I still want to be able to do that. Plus I want to give the electorate an option. I’ve never been elected to anything, not even student council. But I would like to be a source of commonsense and saying why, instead of knee-jerk reactions which I see happening to some degree.

And I’m not running with any agenda. So many have an agenda or animosity. I don’t think you should run for political office because you’re angry at the people there or have only a primary interest, to change this or change that.

… I will always put the people first.

What do you think are the two biggest issues facing the city of Cloquet? If elected, how would you work to resolve those?

Riess: The biggest issue is the way the people see the council, on both sides. They’re angry and I don’t think that should be. I’ve had two county commissioners and three school board members say they like to see this issue going on in the city, because it keeps the county and school board out of the paper. As you know, it take up your time. Of course there will be a few articles about finding a new hockey coach.

How would you resolve that?

Riess: I would be sitting there, not on either side, essentially saying “tell me why do it this way and have we double checked?”

I was president of the clinic and medical staff at hospital several times -- I hate agenda items that are presented at a meeting and have to be acted on at the same meeting, unless it’s something routine, like closing for holidays. Anything that requires knowledge or forethought … every decision should be contemplated and thought out and maybe open to the public to respond.

Second? I’m concerned that some people have been disenfranchised. Mostly the elderly. You look at all the projects and they are for the young or the active. It bothers me when issues are taken up that have tax consequence and that’s not considered. I saw many elderly people who had maybe $30 of discretionary income a month. If something raises the property tax by $20-30, that’s 10 percent of their income. That needs to be thought out.

There are a lot of people in Cloquet who are just hanging on. I’d like to be their advocate. Or their sounding board. I would take second looks at things, what does the town say. If get appraiser, did we get another independent appraiser? What happened with the school -- [the property tax miscalculation] was because the school board took advice from one specialist.

I don’t blame them but maybe someone should have taken a second look.

Also, I would never run against an incumbent because I respect their effort and time even though I might disagree with them. But Barb Wyman was appointed; she is not the incumbent (so it doesn’t count).

What’s the best thing the city has done over the past year or two?

Riess: Probably improving the parks and the main thoroughfares like Avenue C and D, Broadway, etc. But you don’t see much improvement in infrastructure in the less busy sides of the town. I don’t know how you prioritize that, but there are lots of streets that need to be done. Can’t always prioritize Main street and 33. Need to consider Sahlman, or Prospect or Monroe, places like that.

Name three character traits of yours that you think will make you a good public official.

Riess: No. 1, I really care about the people of Cloquet. What happens to the city of Cloquet is secondary to what happens to the people of Cloquet

I’m a good listener

I’m apolitical. I have no agenda. I have no cross to bear or irons in the fire or promises made.

Do you think the city council acted appropriately when it hired a new police chief without following the city’s usual hiring process for department heads? Why or why not?

Riess: Well I’m not going to criticize either side. But I’m a great believer in precedence and engrained procedures. Other than the legality that says what you’re supposed to do, I think there’s a reason precedents are established and I think it should be followed.

What do you see as the role of the mayor/city council?

Riess: I see it to be a conduit for improvement of the people of Cloquet. To make their lives better. Even if it’s fractional. Our goal should always be to make the lives of the Cloquet residents better, however that may be.