Retired police officer takes Cloquet mayor’s seat over incumbent Ahlgren
Bruce Ahlgren, Cloquet's mayor for the past 16 years, was pushed out of office Tuesday by a recently retired police officer. After 27 years with the Cloquet Police Department, David Hallback retired in May and said he decided to run for mayor wit...
Bruce Ahlgren, Cloquet’s mayor for the past 16 years, was pushed out of office Tuesday by a recently retired police officer.
After 27 years with the Cloquet Police Department, David Hallback retired in May and said he decided to run for mayor with the encouragement of friends and neighbors. He noted that Ahlgren at the time had said he would not seek another term.
As Hallback entered the race, Ahlgren had a change of heart.
Ahlgren, 64, said he had recently succeeded in getting a half-cent local sales tax approved that will generate about $1 million per year, and he also had worked to restore the local government aid Cloquet once received from the state.
“We’re putting a plan together to use that money for the city of Cloquet, and I thought: It’s a good plan. It’s well thought-out. And I’d hate to have someone new come in and take the train off the tracks,” Ahlgren said.
But given all the support he had already received, Hallback said he decided not to turn back.
“If Bruce was going to run, I knew it would be tough, but I decided to stick it out,” Hallback said. “I thought that for people to have a choice would be good for everyone involved.”
Ahlgren had to make up ground on his opponent.
“He had a lot of signs out. I’ll give him credit. He did a lot of work,” Ahlgren said.
Hallback, 50, figures he knocked on a good three-quarters or so of the doors in Cloquet - population 12,050. He described the experience as an eye-opener.
“When you’re a police officer and you’re called to someone’s home, you’re used to seeing people at their worst. But going door to door and talking to people as a candidate for mayor was refreshing. People were so friendly,” he said. “Many of them would invite me in, and I joke that I probably gained 5-10 pounds because of all the pie, cookies and rolls people served me during those visits.”
Hallback said he can’t point to any particular issues that catapulted him into office Tuesday, when he garnered 57 percent of the vote to Ahlgren’s 43 percent.
He suggested that he just connected with people.
“I’m not your typical politician. I’m just a blue-collar guy, and I think people liked that,” he said.
Hallback suggested that his efforts to reach out to would-be constituents also set him apart from the incumbent mayor.
“To be honest, I think I just got out there and outworked him,” Hallback said.
Ahlgren suggested current public sentiment doesn’t favor incumbents.
“With the mood of the country, I think people felt it was time for a change,” he said.
In retrospect, Ahlgren said: “I kind of wish I wouldn’t have run at this point. It would have been nice to go out on top of my game, instead of being defeated.”
But Ahlgren noted that when he steps down as mayor, he’ll enjoy new freedom.
“I’ve got grandkids and a daughter down in Texas, so I’ll be able to spend more time with her and the grandkids,” he said. “So that will be great, too.”