Cloquet’s Ward 3 voters will be heading to the polls again Nov. 5 for a special primary election to fill the City Council seat vacated over the summer by Dakota Koski.

The council appointed Chris Swanson to the seat at its July 16 meeting. Swanson and two other candidates, Uriah Wilkinson and Ray Schow, have filed to run for the seat, necessitating next month’s primary.

Schow and Wilkinson applied for the appointment in July and indicated during their interviews with the council they planned to run in the special election regardless of who was appointed. All three candidates grew up in Cloquet.

Koski was forced to resign his seat just a few months after election when he purchased a home outside Ward 3.

Uriah Wilkinson

Cloquet City Council Ward 3 Candidate Uriah Wilkinson
Cloquet City Council Ward 3 Candidate Uriah Wilkinson

Wilkinson is a real estate agent and serves as a member of the Cloquet Planning Commission.

How would you assess the performance of the current City Council?

With less than one year under the belt of the current council, there is not a lot to establish a performance grade. The last campaign cycle had a focus on trust and transparency and the current council has shown true with this campaign promise.

A few things have concerned me, though. First, the lack of a defined direction for Cloquet needs to take addressing infrastructure, housing, economic growth and stability. Second, comments made about sex-trafficking and sexual assault that were both generalized and directed toward a specific company (Enbridge) and all they employ. Finally, tax dollars spent on additional investigations and studies.

If elected, what would your priorities be on the council?

Infrastructure and roads: Ward 3 has aging infrastructure beneath our feet that is quite literally crumbling. One hundred-year-old clay sewer and water lines need to be a focus out of the capital improvement plan.

Housing and economic development opportunities: Ward 3 has an aging housing stock with residents having a median income lower than the other four wards. With three, new unit developments addressing a strained rental market, there needs to be a focus on senior housing and affordable single-family dwellings.

Taxes: Communities with similar size and population as Cloquet have shown to be paying a much lower amount in property taxes. I would like to work collectively with our governing partners to help ease an already burdened tax base.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities in Cloquet?

Healing a community that has lost confidence in their governing bodies might be this city’s biggest challenge right now. The current council is tasked with finding a new city administrator and police chief. This should be seen as an opportunity to help build a foundation of trust and retrained focus on getting back to work and addressing a direction that is positive for each resident.

Ray Schow

Cloquet City Council Ward 3 candidate Ray Schow
Cloquet City Council Ward 3 candidate Ray Schow

Schow is a travel agent and substitute teacher in Esko.

How would you assess the performance of the current City Council?

I believe that the council has struggled to find its voice over the last several years or let its voice be pushed in the wrong direction. It has become obvious to most that the decisions made regarding our police force have been a mistake and that needs to be turned around for the hiring of not only a new police chief, but for a new city administrator as well.

If elected, what would your priorities be on the council?

If I am elected, I would stress that the council has the final responsibility for the direction of our city and not the people hired to run our city. Leadership requires decisiveness and commitment and those are two areas in which I consider myself to be strong. I expect us to hire the best people to advise us, but the final decision must be ours.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities in Cloquet?

The biggest challenge facing our city government is restoring confidence and community pride in our police force. The rank and file have been let down by decisions made at the council level and that needs to change. In my opinion, our biggest opportunity is attracting people and business to our community. We have excellent schools, recreational opportunities, committed citizens and great property and utility potential that any business and/or family would be happy to have.

Chris Swanson

Chris Swanson
Chris Swanson

Swanson is a government teacher at Cloquet High School.

How would you assess the performance of the current City Council?

Since my appointment in July, the council has approved a budget and slight levy increase that I think responsibly meets city needs. We are working on hiring a new city administrator. Awareness has been raised about human trafficking, the challenges of policing shorthanded and aging infrastructure, among other issues.

Work has been approved and begun on the library expansion, continued communication with other government entities, reconstituting the Cable Commission and making sure there’s ice in "The Barn" (Pine Valley Arena) as hockey season begins.

We’re hearing from the public, city staff and the various commissions and boards to make decisions after deliberation. In short, the council is taking care of business, as it should be.

If elected, what would your priorities be on the council?

Much has been made over recent years about what divides us. I think it’s time to move past that and recognize that the work of the City Council should be steady, regular, informed and strategic. To that end, I intend to continue to be a voice of reason, watch the bottom line and to continue working for consistency and clarity in policy and strategic planning. There is much to be proud of here, so let’s carry on.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities in Cloquet?Opportunities and challenges are related. We need to balance the wants and needs of the public with their willingness and ability to pay; select leaders that will build on our strengths and have the will and insight to make corrections where necessary; continue economic and housing development; and maintain lines of communication with other local governing bodies and constituents. I think we have some room to grow, so let’s do that — let’s keep moving this city forward.

Where to vote

Early voting is underway for the primary from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday in the Carlton County Auditor’s Office on the second floor the Carlton County Courthouse, 301 Walnut Ave., Carlton. Additional early voting hours will be held Saturday, Nov. 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 4, until 5 p.m.

Voters may apply for an absentee ballot to vote by mail by going to mnvotes.org.

The election is Nov. 5 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the former Cloquet City Hall, 1307 Cloquet Ave.