Felon-turned-drug counselor to run for Duluth City Council

Miranda Pacheco said she turned her life around when she came to the city to attend a treatment center.

Miranda Pacheco.jpg
Miranda Pacheco

DULUTH — A one-time felon who now works as an addiction counselor plans to announce her campaign Monday for an at large seat on the Duluth City Council.

Miranda Pacheco, 42, a West Duluth homeowner, will be the third candidate to announce a bid for one of two seats that cover the entire city.

"While I beat the odds, I have seen the ways that we are failing people in need," she said. "My brother could not get the care he needed, and we lost him to suicide three years ago. When members of our community are lost to deaths of despair, when they turn to crime, or when they are forced out onto the street, we all suffer. I believe we can do better."

Incumbents Roz Randorf and Janet Kennedy and a repeat candidate, Ashlie Castaldo, have made their political intentions known.

Pacheco said she was abused as a child, dropped out of high school, experienced homelessness and gave birth to her first child as a teenager. She developed a drug addiction and was convicted of numerous felony and misdemeanor offenses in the Twin Cities, including multiple instances each of drug possession, impaired driving and theft.

She said it was in Duluth that she turned her life around. She came to the city to attend a drug treatment center and briefly lived at the American Indian Community Housing Organization's domestic violence shelter — later going on to work at both facilities. She also reconnected with her Ojibwe roots, attending ceremonies and getting adopted by local advocates Skip and Babette Sandman.


Pacheco is a counselor at the Mash-ka-wisen Treatment Center in Sawyer and consults for a working group that seeks to create more inclusive workforce recruitment. She has also worked at LifeHouse and was part of Zeitgeist's Healthy Hillside initiative.

Pacheco earned an associate's degree from Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and is currently studying social work at the College of St. Scholastica. She has an adult son who lives and works in Hermantown and two teenage daughters who attend Duluth Public Schools.

She will become the second candidate to announce plans to run for one of two open at large seats.

She plans to formally launch her campaign at 11 a.m. Monday in front of the Chief Buffalo memorial at Gichi-ode’ Akiing, next to the Lakewalk.

"Listening to people is the most important thing we can do to make effective changes, and I believe in doing the hard work to get it done," Pacheco said. "This is what I will bring to all issues before the city council, from supporting our most vulnerable to addressing potholes. Every day I am fighting for people, and every day I am giving back to the city that gave me life."

Already announced in the at large race are Ashlie Castaldo and Jenna Yeakle. Incumbent councilors Arik Forsman and Noah Hobbs said they do not intent to run to retain the seats.

Up to four candidates will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot. A primary election election to narrow the field, if necessary, will be held Aug. 8.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or
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