Cloquet’s Elizabeth “Lyz” Jaakola appears to have enough support to become the next Ward 5 city councilor after the election Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Jaakola received 725 votes — or about 54.5% of the total — to edge opponent Dennis Painter in the election. In all, 1,331 people voted out of 1,598 registered voters in the two Ward 5 precincts.

Elizabeth "Lyz" Jaakola
Elizabeth "Lyz" Jaakola

Jaakola, a media and music teacher who unsuccessfully ran for the at-large seat in a special election won by Lara Wilkinson in 2018, edged Painter — a political newcomer — for the only contested seat on the Cloquet City Council. Wilkinson and Ward 4 Councilor Kerry Kolodge both ran unopposed for reelection this fall.

“I am really excited, and I would use the word ‘humble’ because it really is a humbling process to go through,” Jaakola said. “I had not won an election before, so now I really have to take stock of what I’m doing and look at how I move forward with this new chapter.”

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Jaakola, the child of a Finnish-American father and an Ojibwe mother, highlighted areas of potential partnership between the city and the Fond du Lac Reservation — entities that overlap both physically and with their interests.

Jaakola also advocated looking for creative solutions to an array of problems facing the community. Animal control has been a nagging issue in the community since the Friends of Animals Shelter in Cloquet closed in 2018.

In addition, during a candidate forum Oct. 21, Jaakola acknowledged the economic havoc the COVID-19 pandemic had wrought on Cloquet. Jaakola advocated for activating an “arts economy” in the city that would provide opportunities in the community — particularly for young people.

Throughout her campaign, Jaakola tried to highlight the diversity of people and ideas in Cloquet and advocated for creative solutions to challenges.

Painter, a supply chain lead at Sappi in Cloquet, was gracious in conceding to Jaakola Wednesday, Nov. 4, and said either candidate was a good choice for Ward 5.

Dennis Painter
Dennis Painter

“Through this whole race, I’ve watched Lyz’s campaign and I’ve watched her message and we have a lot of the same views,” Painter said. “We look at a city that we both want to move in a positive direction ... So it wasn’t a me versus her kind of thing. I believe the city wins in this case, no matter what.”

Painter said while this is a setback, he plans to remain active in Cloquet going forward.

“I’m going to stay involved, and I’m glad I put myself out there,” he said. “It’s not the result I wanted, but I’m happy I did it.”

This story was updated at 11 a.m. Nov. 4 with comments from the candidates. It was originally posted at 12:23 a.m. Nov. 4.