Candidate Q&A: Trevor Berg, Mayor
Why are you running for office?
I feel I can bring more leadership to the council than it’s had previously. I felt under Bruce Ahlgren, the city had slow growth in the right direction, which was good. Cloquet’s been phenomenal to me, and my family. It’s a good city. I just feel it’s veered off a little over past two years from what it should be.
What do you think are the two biggest issues facing the city of Cloquet? If elected, how would you work to resolve those?
Crime and housing. To address the crime problem better, we need to get more accurate numbers of what and where it is going on. The drug problem is a leading source of crime that needs a multi-headed approach including health officials, city, law enforcement and the tribe to get together and work on a common plan on how to target this. We can’t arrest our way out of this problem: we have to attack the underlying problem as well.
To tackle the lack of housing we need to try to find investors, rezone, build more apartments and single-family housing built to relieve some pressure. The middle school project was handled well, but that’s an existing building. If other buildings can be changed -- great. But we need to speed up. People want to move here, but it’s too expensive and too difficult to find a place.
What’s the best thing the city has done over the past four years?
The best thing is the ongoing local option sales tax.
Tax to do improvements to try to bring businesses into town. The park thing, when there’s no houses for anyone to live in, why do the parks? You can do a park and still do other projects instead of doing all the parks and the new one at Dunlap Island. I’d like to see work in areas of I-35, 14th Street and Highway 33: add water and sewer out there, and I’d like to see a frontage road added (from Hwy 33 to 14th). And run the one in front of DNR further down. It would show we’re committed to developing that area.
The tax free zone north of town has been a failure. It’s a good spot for manufacturing, but that’s a hard sell right now. We need to get stuff in that spot by the DNR. I’d love to see a Cabellas or Bass Pro because it’s right there for I35 and Hwy 33; it’s the perfect last stop. Other retail too. Cloquet is growing. If we can get housing going, companies are going to come in because we’ll have labor.
Name three character traits of yours that you think will make you a good public official.
I am very good at compromise, no issues with that. That’s lacking here and around the country.
I am very personable. I’d like to see the government be more transparent than it has been.
I’ve been told I have natural leadership ability, people tend to gravitate toward me. I think that’s a heck of a thing to have in government. You don’t want to be bullheaded - it doesn’t work very well.
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?
No, I do not believe they acted appropriately. I have no issue with Chief Palmer but I feel a wider net should have been thrown to see what kind of candidates we could have brought in. I think there could have been some very experienced chiefs we could have brought in. If there was not, then having Palmer brought up is just fine. But I still think should have cast a wider net, not just popped somebody right in there. I think for any city job that should be the case. We want the best people.
What do you see as the role of the mayor?
Since it’s a soft mayor situation, I think it is to work with the council to try to bring the council more together. Right now there seems to be a lot of division. I think we need to unite. That’s definitely something I could do as mayor.
I would like to see the mayor do a little more in the sense of trying to branch out into bringing companies in to take a look, work with city staff to be a little more proactive. We need to take all ideas, not just from council.
Seems like we’ve been shutting out the public a lot. Not enough information given to the public about what’s going on. The multi-million deals in the consent agenda bothers me. That should be put out for discussion. I think we need more public notice on whatever platform we can get it out on, for upcoming issues. We need to make sure the citizens of this town know what’s going on. The more ideas we have, the better we are.
I don’t believe the mayor or council have all the answers. Getting more people involved and more transparency is the way to go.