Only one Cloquet City Council seat will require a primary Aug. 11, the Ward 5 seat being vacated by Councilor Steve Langley.

Three people filed to run for the seat: former Mayor Dave Hallback, Elizabeth “Lyz” Jaakola and Dennis Painter.

Early voting is already underway from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Carlton County Courthouse. In addition, early voting at the courthouse will be available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10.

On Election Day, the Ward 5 voting precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and the Fond du Lac Head Start building.

Candidate Dave Hallback

Dave Hallback
Dave Hallback

Dave Hallback, 56, served as the mayor of Cloquet from 2015-2019, when he lost reelection to current Mayor Roger Maki. Hallback served with the Cloquet Police Department for 27 years until his retirement in 2014 and currently works as a court security officer at the Duluth Federal Courthouse.

What do you think of the current council’s performance?

I don't think there's been quite as many issues like there were. There was controversy over the skateboard park, controversy over the (Former Cloquet Police Chief Steve) Stracek incident, controversy over the park by the river. I think I still did a very good job as mayor, and I want to continue to do that and I want to see a progression of Cloquet.

I don't really have any complaints with any of the council and the way they're doing things now. I can say there is probably less turmoil with Citizens United (a local Facebook group critical of Hallback’s term as mayor) out of the way, and they haven't been vocal or maybe the whole COVID thing is slowing people down because they're not having open meetings. If I am elected, I look forward to working with all the current council members. I think I know each and every one of them pretty well.

If elected, what will your priorities be as a council member?

A lot of things rally around this COVID disease. With small businesses, I want to see if we can all help them out the best way we can — maybe all businesses — and keep people working. I want to take on any other challenges that come forward. I still think there’s a lot of drugs in this town, and I would like to see continued good police work. With all the retirees we’ve had in the last couple of years, we’ve got a lot of younger officers, and I want to show a bunch of support for the hard work they are doing.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in Cloquet?

Cloquet is still a very attractive city to come work and raise a family, and we have opportunities to keep that going on and make it better.

Candidate Elizabeth “Lyz” Jaakola

Elizabeth "Lyz" Jaakola
Elizabeth "Lyz" Jaakola

Elizabeth “Lyz Jaakola, unsuccessfully ran in the primary for the At-Large seat in 2018 eventually run by Lara Wilkinson. She works as a music and media teacher at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet.

What do you think of the current council’s performance?

I think that they're doing a good job in terms of navigating this time — this pandemic. There have been positive changes since 2018. We’ve seen things turn around some and some difficult issues hashed out. I think the city council is being consistent and thoughtful in how they’re proceeding with some very difficult issues.

I think they’ve been able to really build on relationships, looking at what’s in our community, the neighbors, the area, the different municipalities and making decisions with a broader scope. I think that has been something there’s doing a good job at. Also looking internally at things that need to be examined and discussed in such a way that they can move forward. For example, with the selection of the new police chief, I think that was a good call and we’ve already seen some positive relationships blossoming with that decision.

If elected, what will your priorities be as a council member?

First and foremost, really listening to people in Ward 5 and getting to know a little bit more about what is on their mind and the things we need to focus on collectively. Of course I have my own ideas.

Being a citizen, we really need to look at public safety issues and building community around how we make a safer Cloquet, how we encourage neighbors and neighborhoods to work together to look at important issues and build those bridges. In any community, when you start to encourage neighbors to look for solutions and not lean on leadership to make the solutions, that’s when you start to see great strides toward a stronger community.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in Cloquet?

I know we have housing needs, and I think that in any growing community we want to work together to address those with some of the infrastructure stuff, but looking at how we responsibly make decisions with the funding to make sure that we can bolster and support the gifts of our community and take care of the things that we already have.

We have so many people in our community who are skilled and creative thinkers that if we just give a little bit of a nudge to those folks to work together, then we're gonna see a lot of opportunities come out of that beautification.

Candidate Dennis Painter

Dennis Painter
Dennis Painter

Dennis Painter, 43, is seeking public office for the first time. He works as a supply chain lead at Sappi North America’s Cloquet paper mill.

What do you think of the current council’s performance?

I would say they're doing a great job. The current council has done a really good job getting it back to business as usual. Cloquet two years ago was in a very tumultuous time with a lot of headlines, and we were kind of going in a negative way, if you will. I think that the current council has done a great job in righting the ship and getting back to business as usual and running the town more efficiently and the way it should be done.

If elected, what will your priorities be as a council member?

My number one priority as a council member will be to represent the people of Ward 5. I'll be there as a voice for them, that’s how I look at City Council and how you should take that job on. You’re there, but you’re there to represent the interests of the people that live in your ward and live in your city. With that being said, I think one of the things that the City Council does that's a very important part of our community is being fiscally responsible to the city and to its residents. That’s one of the ones I'll take the most seriously is to make sure that we're doing the right things, spending the money and spending our tax money and the way we need to to best benefit the majority of the people in the city.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in Cloquet?

The biggest challenge right now, obviously, is what we're coming out of dealing with this pandemic, COVID-19 and just how we handle the remainder of this. The other end of it is the rebound for local businesses and residents in the community that they continue to thrive after this is done.

I think the opportunity there that's risen is we need to not only support our local businesses and give them the best opportunities to succeed so that we have them here in the community for both opportunities for residents to shop at and support, but also for them to flourish and thrive in the future. With that being said, I'd also say that an opportunity moving forward is we do need to look at other opportunities to bring new businesses and new employers into the area to expand on and diversify Cloquet as a community to live in and raise a family.