Today at 7:10 a.m.
Working as County Coordinator for the past three years has been demanding, he said, but added that a lot of the changes that he’s been working on are happening now.
“For that reason and other personal reasons, some health issues, I’ve not been able to put the time that I’d like to in this campaign and with this, I’m officially noting my withdrawal from the race,” he said. “I want to continue to focus on my job, doing it well, and spending time with my family and our farm.”
Genereau apologized to supporters and any who have already voted for him via absentee ballot. He said the move came only after a doctor told him he needed to cut back and friends and family that he consulted said they supported the move.
“You really do know how to steal the show,” Radosevich told him. “Announcing on the night of the forum that you’re no longer running for office is a big deal.”
Radosevich noted that Genereau had appeared on his political talk show, Harry’s Gang, more than once.
“Your issues with the County Attorney’s office weren’t really with how Mr. Pertler ran the office, rather how you would have run it yourself,” he posed to Genereau, who concurred, saying he would have focused on the things he could have brought to the office rather than on the current County Attorney.
Radosevich turned to Pertler.
“It’s an interesting position for you, Mr. Pertler,” the moderator said. “You will have to continue to let people know that you are the only candidate now.”
Rather than end the County Attorney forum early, Radosevich proceeded to question both men on their jobs with the county, a parallel line of questioning that was awkward at times, especially because Genereau’s position as county coordinator is not an elected position and was never in doubt.
Pertler stressed his qualifications for the job, including nine years as Carlton County Attorney and 10 years as assistant county attorney before that. He talked about his role in the recently created Carlton County Drug Court and his service heading up a legislative drug task force in 2009. He noted that the County Attorney’s office handles both the criminal and civil legal matters of the county, and advises the County Board and all the county departments. He acknowledged a growing crime rate and pointed out that his department continues to handle the increased number of cases with the same number of staff members.
“I’m very mindful of taxpayer dollars,” he said.
After the forum, Pertler said he only found out minutes before the forum and had no prior notice that Genereau might pull out of the race. He was not disappointed, however.
“I respect his decision to do it publicly and I thank him for his support,” Pertler said, referring to Genereau’s statement that he was throwing his support to the incumbent.
For his part, Genereau said after the forum that he felt some relief.
“To be honest, it’s been weighing on my mind for probably two or three weeks,” he said.
Whether or not he will throw his hat back into the ring in four years is an unknown. Genereau said he’d rather focus on his work as county coordinator.
“I hope in four years the community will be proud of the work that we’re doing on a county level,” he said. “I hope to get kids and adults understanding what the county does, our role.
“As for the County Attorney’s office, I would expect things to be handled there in a good way and I would support Thom. If they’re not … I’d support whatever brings about that improvement.
“It’s a very important office and it needs to be handled well.”
The County Attorney forum was, rightly, the shortest event of a night that also included candidate forums for Cloquet School Board, Cloquet City Council Ward 1 and Cloquet Mayor (together), and Minnesota House Seat 11A. All of the forums were broadcast live on CAT-7 TV (channel 7 for cable TV subscribers) and on WKLK at AM 1230 or FM 96.5 or online at northwoodsradio.com. CAT-7 will rebroadcast the forums regularly until shortly before the General Election on Nov. 4.
Highlights of the different candidate forums follow:
subhed: Cloquet School Board
All five candidates for three Cloquet School Board seats were present for the forum, including incumbents Dave Battaglia, Dan Danielson and Ted Lammi as well as challengers Richard Colsen and James Mallery II.
In their introductions, Battaglia stressed his 34 years as a school teacher and administrator; Colsen talked about his 17 years in human services and concerns about being prudent with school district dollars. Danielson said his background in law enforcement offers him a unique perspective, while Lammi, a pilot for Delta Airlines, pointed to his work as chief financial officer for his church. Mallery, an accountant by trade who now oversees an organization (Mash-ka-wisen Treatment Center) with a $4 million annual budget, said he could bring financial knowledge and acumen to the board that he thinks is lacking.
All five candidates either have or had children in the Cloquet School District and said they wanted all children to have the same opportunities they did when they went to school.
The first and most telling question to the candidates was about the proposed new middle school. Pete Radosevich — who alternated moderator duties with Barry Bergquist — asked each one if they thought the school would be built and if so, what they’d like to see. Most of the answers turned into a commentary on whether or not the candidates thought now was a good time to try to build a new school.
Both Colsen and Mallery don’t want a new school built until the district pays off all its current debt, which is close to $20 million.
Colsen pointed to the district’s space issues. (Both elementary schools are very full, and a new middle school would likely include students in grades 5 through 8, moving the fifth grade out of the elementary schools and creating more space.)
“I believe … some of the space issue is an artificial problem created by open enrollment [by students outside the district] and the district’s not capping open enrollment,” he said, adding that he didn’t like what he heard about the district diverting funds from the middle school to other building projects. “The district is holding us hostage. We’ve got space — we just need to make some tough decisions.”
Danielson spoke next, and talked about a failed referendum for a new building 15 years ago, and the lack of space.
“The security issues are near and dear to my heart,” Danielson said, voicing his support for a new middle school and renovations at several other schools. “I want to make sure our staff and children are safe.”
In his response, Lammi compared investing in major repairs (like the heating system, which was installed in the 1950s) to putting new tires on an old car a week before you were going to sell it.
He said janitors at the middle school go up to a room on the third floor and “feel the temperature,” then run down three flights of stairs to adjust the ancient boilers.
“That building needs to be replaced,” he said. “And decisions made earlier [about spending money elsewhere] don’t change the fact that there is no parking and no green space at the middle school.”
Battaglia said people need to make up their own minds.
“I’ve been told a new school will cost me about $10 a month in property taxes,” Battaglia said, adding that the school portion of his property taxes has only gone up $19 in the last five years. “People need to look at their own taxes. You can’t just say there’s going to be a tax burden. Look at your own situation.”
Open enrollment, he pointed out, brings in between $6,000-$8,000 in funding per student, so he thinks it’s a good problem to have.
“Get 10 new students and it more than pays for a teacher,” Battaglia said.
Mallery hammered the issue of fiscal responsibility, and said if he is elected he will make sure people understand the district’s current debt (estimated at more than $20 million) and what will happen to that debt if the referendum (and additional debt of close to $50 million) are approved.
There were more than 30 people in the audience for the school board forum, the largest crowd in the past few years for the candidate forums sponsored by the legislative affairs committee for the Cloquet Area Chamber of Commerce and its media partners.
subhed: Mayor of Cloquet, Cloquet City Council Ward 1
Ward 1 incumbent Dave Manderfeld and challenger Jeff Rock answered questions about their priorities for city government along with incumbent Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren, since the issues are largely the same. Mayoral candidate Dave Hallback had work obligations and couldn’t make the forum but sent his regrets.
The three candidates talked about why they were running for office.
“If I’m elected, my No. 1 priority is curbing the escalating crime problem,” said Rock, noting that if elected he will support the police department any way he can. “Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen the increased burglaries, robberies and vandalism. This stuff never used to happen in this town. We all have to be more vigilant. … I’m running for City Council because I want to make Cloquet better and safer.”
Manderfeld talked about his experience working 22 years in everything from logistics to quality management at USG, plus his time on the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District Board and what those things have taught him about leadership and life. He said he ran four years ago after his cousin told him if he was going to complain, he should get involved.
“I will listen to you,” he said. “I’ve been in this community listening all along. … I want to see this community grow. I don’t want ridiculous taxes, but I also don’t want to lose services.”
Ahlgren listed the things he’s helped make happen — the Cloquet Senior Center, the Cloquet Area Recreation Center (now Northwoods Arena) and the local option sales tax, something he lobbied for at the Legislature for close to 10 years.
He promised this would be the last term, but said there are things he wants to finish.
“Cloquet is in great financial shape,” he said. “We’re going to do what’s right. We’re going to fix more streets. We are studying facilities, housing, parks. We need affordable housing and I’d like to see a skate park. And a splash pad for the young kids who don’t swim yet. I’ve got 40 years of community service, volunteering, and 40 years of networking. I know people at the national level, local, county and at the governor’s office. I know I can do the best job for the people of Cloquet because of my networking abilities.”
Editor’s note: The Pine Journal is working with Cloquet High School teachers to arrange at least one forum for both mayoral candidates.
subhed: Minnesota House of Representatives, District 11A
Challenger Tim Hafvenstein and incumbent Mike Sundin had plenty of differences, making the job that much simpler for voters.
Hafvenstein would trash MnSure, the state’s version of the Affordable Care Act because “so much of it is unworkable.”
Sundin supports it.
“I believe the closer we move to affordable healthcare for everyone, the better off we’ll be as a society,” Sundin said.
On the fact that the Polymet mine has yet to get approval, eight or nine years later, the two also differed.
“If we can do it safely, let’s do it, but the burden of proof is on the company,” said Sundin. “Until they prove themselves capable, that project should be on hold. Those minerals will still be in the ground and when we get to them, we get to them. We need to protect our waters.”
“I’m for the mine being open,” Hafvenstein said. “Yes, we need to make sure it’s safe, but I think that eight or nine years figuring out whether or not it’s safe and all the regulations and all the hoops they’ve had to jump through. There’s nothing there showing there’s a problem. I think it’s time to start giving approval.”
Hafvenstein, a Republican, is a former shop teacher in Esko who was laid off when the district dropped its shop program. Since then he’s been office manager at two different businesses, and now works as a substitute teacher during the school year and a camp maintenance director near Mahtowa in the summer. He and his wife homeschooled their three children.
Sundin grew up in International Falls and then Grand Rapids, moving to Cloquet in 1977. He was involved in coaching while his boys were growing up and his building trades union. He’s also been active in politics for a long time, and decided to run for office two years ago when the redistricting created an entirely new district for Cloquet.
On whether or not they would consider an increase in the state gas tax to pay for repairs to state highways and bridges, Hafvenstein said no and wondered what happened to funds he thought voters had approved for road projects.
Sundin said he would prefer to fund improvements another way, stressing that it’s important for commerce and safety. He gave as an example using a hybrid system that would tax wholesale sales of petroleum products.
Sundin was all for public transportation, including a high speed train to Duluth and expressed concerns about the state’s rail system hauling dangerous and large quantities of oil.
Hafvenstein said he is opposed to light rail because he thinks it is too heavily subsidized, adding that it makes no sense to run a train from Duluth to Minneapolis. He would, instead, put that money back into roads and bridges.
Editor’s note: Check out the Pine Journal website next week for additional highlights from each forum and look for our special Voters’ Guide section in next week’s paper, which will include information on any candidates in elective contests who responded to our questions.