Ward 3 candidate Uriah Wilkinson is not new to the political arena.
The 39-year-old was the Republican nominee for the Minnesota House of Representatives for District 8A in 2002 and 2004, but took a 15-year break before deciding to run for in the special election for Ward 3 seat on the Cloquet City Council.
The seat opened in June after then-Ward 3 Councilor Dakota Koski resigned after purchasing a home outside the Ward.
The City Council appointed Chris Swanson to the position in July, with he and Wilkinson emerging from a Nov. 5 primary for a special election scheduled for Feb. 11.
While Wilkinson has not run for office since 2004, he remained active in local government, serving on the Cloquet Planning Commission for the past eight years.
His main reasons for running were keeping the tax burden on residents as low as possible and seeking to enhance the economic development of the area, Wilkinson said.
With taxes, he thinks better coordination with other local entities like Carlton County and the Cloquet School District would help ease the burden.
“There really needs to be collaboration between the three with planning and understanding each other’s priorities,” Wilkinson said. “Every tax increase made by the county and school district is going to affect the city.”
Wilkinson also wants to encourage economic development in Cloquet, bringing high-paying jobs and new residents to the city.
“We just have a lot of minimum wage jobs,” he said. “We need to focus on more business service jobs.”
New businesses — like the Essentia Health clinic under construction on Highway 33 — will bring more people to the area, spreading the tax burden over a larger number of property owners and businesses.
“The revenue stream that needs to be developed is increasing the tax base,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson also thinks annexation should be a consideration going forward for Cloquet, particularly with Scanlon. Cloquet already provides police, fire and plowing services to its tiny neighbor. Merging the two would increase the tax base and streamline services for both communities.
“I do believe this merger is an inevitability,” Wilkinson said. “How much more will it cost if we wait to do it a decade down the road.”
Wilkinson said since his last run for office more than 15 years ago, he has built up a wealth of experience and knowledge of the issues facing Cloquet. His time on the Planning Commission, as well as his work as a real estate agent in Carlton County have helped him create a vision for Cloquet.
“It’s not just that I have vision, I can see it realized,” he said. “There are many moving parts. To have a good grasp of all those moving parts is essential.”
Wilkinson also stressed that whoever voters choose Feb. 11, Ward 3 is in good hands.
“I think we’re fortunate that we have two good candidates,” he said. “No matter who wins, we’ll be well-represented as Ward 3.”
Where to vote
Early voting is underway for the Ward 3 special election 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, Feb. 8, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 10, until 5 p.m.
Voters may apply for an absentee ballot to vote by mail by going to mnvotes.org.
The election is Feb. 11 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Cloquet City Hall, 101 14th Street.