For the second time in a little more than a month, a candidate to become the Cloquet Area Fire District’s new chief has withdrawn his name from consideration for the job.

George Esbensen was offered a contract to take over the top job with the department June 3 and made a counteroffer. Instead of accepting or rejecting the counteroffer, the CAFD board voted June 17 to form a subcommittee to negotiate with Esbensen.

George Esbensen
George Esbensen

Before negotiations could begin, Esbensen withdrew his name from consideration for the job, according to interim Chief Roger Waters.

In a split vote at the June 3 meeting, the council offered Esbensen a contract with a salary of $119,524 — slightly less than Esbensen’s requested salary of $125,000.

CAFD board chair Jim Langenbrunner, Marshall Johnson and Jason Paulson voted against the contract offer. Langenbrunner thought the salary was too high and Paulson argued against Esbensen’s hire altogether.

Paulson said the CAFD needs an administrator more than a fire chief at this point.

Esbensen’s counter was undisclosed during the June 17 meeting.

Former Cloquet City Administrator Brian Fritsinger interviewed for the job, but withdrew his name from consideration shortly before the June 3 meeting.

Waters said the board will discuss its next steps at its next meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 15.

Kevin Schroeder retired from the chief position June 26 after more than 32 years with the department, including nine as the CAFD chief.

Waters is serving in an interim capacity until Schroeder’s replacement is found.