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Cloquet's new police chief a familiar face in Duluth

Steve Stracek of Esko is Cloquet's new police chief. (File / News Tribune)

A national search for Cloquet’s new police chief took stock of finalists from as far away as Florida and Arizona. But it finished in Cloquet’s backyard, where Steve Stracek of Esko has lived almost throughout his 21 years working with the Duluth Police Department.

Stracek, a current Duluth police lieutenant, was approved for hire by the Cloquet City Council in a special meeting Friday. He’ll start work in early August.

“He came out on top with flying colors,” Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren said. “He’s got experience as a command person and is very personable. He was the unanimous pick.”

Stracek replaces the retired Wade Lamirande, a hometown cop who in 10 years as chief made a host of progressive changes, such as bringing in a school resource officer and starting a Citizens Police Academy. Stracek, who is versed in the data analysis sweeping policing, figures to make changes, too. Only, not right away.

“The first thing I’ll do is get in there, look around and understand what’s already in place,” he said.

Stracek’s departure will force the Duluth Police Department and other agencies to replace him as commander of the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force. Conversely, Stracek figures to use that background to help Cloquet address its issues with drug trafficking and abuse along the Interstate 35 and Highway 33 corridors. He acknowledged the city’s problems with heroin, property theft and even violent crimes are “big concerns.”

“I’ve got quite a background in strategies addressing the core problem,” he said.

Stracek also is versed in the town’s dynamics. He and his wife, Lisa, have three involved teenagers, and he said his social circles are primarily in the Cloquet and Esko areas. He already is a dedicated member of Cloquet’s Knights of Columbus and coaches trapshooting with the Carlton County 4-H.

He grew up in tiny Staples. Minn., and said returning to a smaller force was a fitting next chapter.

“I’ve enjoyed Duluth,” he said. “But when this came along, it was something that excited me. I’ve spent a lot of time in Cloquet, and my message of being from a small town, but having a bigger city policing perspective helped me.”