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Candidate Q&A: Dakota Koski, Ward 3 Cloquet City Council

Why are you running for office?

I’m running because many people I’ve talked to over past few years said that I should. Then I started to get more involved: going to council meetings, reading the minutes, being more active educationally on a political level and paying more attention.

Between my job, the various programs I volunteer with and my personal life, I hear a lot of different opinions about what’s going on in the area. I thought be nice to step up on a political level and be a voice for those people as well as be a mediator. I’ve been to many leadership trainings and courses. I believe mediation is a skill that I have between my job working with parents and kids and mentors, trying to get people to come to common ground. I don’t get too worked up over things. Even if I’m passionate about things I can still relay information respectfully and not belittle people if we don’t agree.

Then I’m an advocate for youth voice and I’d like to see more of our youth get involved. (At age 29) I think I may be the one of the youngest (candidates). I have a different perspective. Being a political newcomer, I’m not going in with something I’m ticked off about or an agenda. I’m open to discussions and conversations and hoping I can be a good person for people to spread a message that they want, I guess.

What do you think are the two biggest issues facing the city of Cloquet? If elected, how would you work to resolve those?

Definitely the two biggest issues are Friends of Animals and the (old) middle school building, which is in my ward. I think will be a lot of conversations and discussion about that.

As far as resolving it, I’d like to help be a part of the Friends of Animals negotiations with the city, sit down with FOA and city. Being the director of a non-profit, I understand the non-profit world and how things work. I also see the city’s side of budgeting and what makes sense on that level. So working together with them to come to an agreement … I’m sure both sides are going to have to give. But I don’t want to see them shut down. They’ve been around a long time. Whether it’s restructuring and more education on their end … and more give and stuff from the city. It’s deeper than just give me a number of what we owe you.

Also, the middle school is in my ward. I know a handful of surrounding neighbors have concerns about traffic and crime and what is going to be taking place there with that school. Being able to to sit down with those who have opinions about that school is also going to be important. The developer said they are leaving the auditorium and the gym, which, from a programming level, working with youth, I think it would be great to sit down with them with a committee of other people in the community. I have some ideas about what could happen with that to bring more community activity and involvement, not only for community members but also the people in the building … keeping kids occupied with activities and things to do so there’s not as much mischief going on.

What’s the best thing the city has done over the past four years?

I would say the best thing that Cloquet has done is putting more investments into things for our youth to be a part of and do.

Name three character traits of yours that you think will make you a good public official.

Personable - I’m easy to talk to. You have to be when you’re working with kids and difficult family situations.

Compassionate

I’m a leader, which involves a lot: being able to listen and understand and not always feel you have to respond. Form educated responses when the time is appropriate. Having resources you can go to get more information, educate yourself, reach out on different issues and topics. Being loyal. I think that’s what encompasses being a good leader. Also knowing what your weaknesses are.

Do you think the city council acted appropriately when it hired a new police chief without following the city’s usual hiring process for department heads? Why or why not?

I don’t have all the information -- I wish I knew more. But I think it’s important to follow the rules and guidelines of how things should be done. I understand at times when it could be appropriate to not follow a guideline in special circumstances but don’t know if this circumstance was one of them. I know some things were public and some were not, I don’t have the full story. I guess if they were going to make this decision anyways and hire the new police chief regardless of going through all this and saved the city money, I guess I could see that side. But I think it definitely tarnished their reputation and those procedures on that particular issue should have taken place because it was such an important topic here in the community and there was a lot of controversy. That should have gone through the proper procedures.

What do you see as the role of the city council?

I think the role is to be a voice for your ward but also, larger picture, for your community because you come together to vote, so the city as a whole is affected. I think the role is to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars and listen to the people of your community. And work together as a council for the best interest of our community.

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