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Cloquet City Council appoints Keller to vacant Ward 3 seat

The Cloquet City Council voted unanimously to appoint Iris Keller to the vacant Ward 3 council seat.

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Cloquet City Hall.
Dylan Sherman/ 2022 File / Pine Journal
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CLOQUET — Iris Keller was appointed to the Cloquet City Council to fill the vacant Ward 3 seat on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Keller said she is looking forward to getting started with the council in the coming weeks.

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Iris Keller.
Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal

"I'm going to tip-toe in and get my feet wet, before I dive in," she said. "I am really looking forward to being a part of this, it is going to be a very educational experience."

Keller is an American Sign Language educational interpreter for the Cloquet school district, and has worked for the district for 23 years.

Councilor Lara Wilkinson made the motion to appoint Keller, which was then unanimously approved by the council.

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The council held a work session prior to its meeting, where it interviewed Keller and Peter Erickson — the other candidate for the position. The questions gave a chance for the candidates to explain their views to the council in more detail from their applications.

Both candidates said this would be their first experience in government, and shared similar issues the city faces, including housing and infrastructure.

The council thanked both candidates for applying and councilors said that it was a very tough decision.

Councilor Kerry Kolodge even joked that both were such good candidates that if one of them wanted to move into his ward they could have his place on the council.

"This is a hard one because you both did so well, it is like you are a team almost," he said.

Councilor Sheila Lamb said that the council could not go wrong with either choice, and her decision was made by the smallest of margins.

The council had opened up the seat to applications at the end of last year, and both Keller and Erickson were the only two applicants.

The pair had also run as write-ins for the seat in the election in November, after the was vacated by Chris Swanson in August when he moved out of the ward.

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The timing of Swanson's move left his name on the ballot and was after the deadline for any additional candidates to be on the ballot, which is why the two candidates ran as write-ins.

However, they were unsuccessful at defeating Swanson, who received 84.9% of the vote.

City Administrator Tim Peterson had previously stated that the council had two options for filling the vacant seat, through appointing a councilor or holding a special election.

Peterson said holding a special election would be costly for the city, and when a special election was held for the same position previously it had a very low voter turnout.

The last time the city held a special election, which was for the same seat, Peterson said they received 100 votes out of 1,300 registered voters.

Keller will take her seat on the council at the next meeting on Feb. 7.

Her appointed term will last until the next general election in November 2024.

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Related Topics: CLOQUETCLOQUET CITY COUNCILGOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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