By Kristen Miller
With Cokato being his home and now the town in which he will raise his children, Carl Harju is taking a seat on the city council for his family.
“That’s why I’m on [the council] for my family,” Harju said.
He wants to ensure that Cokato will continue to be a good community for his wife and step children, Harju said.
Harju was born in 1965, to Bill and Margaret at the Cokato Hospital.
Harju’s father and uncle Neal owned Harju Tire and Service on Third Street in Cokato, and his mother worked at the Cokato bakery.
Harju originally went to college for elementary education, but after volunteering as an EMT on the Cokato Ambulance, he found nursing to be an interest to him.
Now, Harju works for Meeker County Memorial Hospital in the Center for Senior Behavioral Health as a nursing assistant.
There, he enjoys caring for elderly patients with medical needs, such as Alzheimer’s.
What Harju likes about this particular career is that he works with each patient on an individual basis and tries to make them feel as comfortable as possible, as well as giving them as much of a stress-free life as possible.
Harju also works with the patients’ families to help them cope and deal with their loved ones who are affected by this disease.
Prior to doing this, Harju spent a year teaching English at a Finnish folk school in Reisjarvi, Finland.
“It was a rewarding experience,” he said.
This was the same school Harju attended for a year as an exchange student in 1986, so he was familiar with it.
“It was awesome really interesting. It was like being at home,” Harju said.
During his time in Finland, Harju became increasingly interested in politics and government, especially how things work and why, he said.
Harju will be sworn in Monday, Jan. 14 to finish Janice Severson’s term and will take her council seat for the next year.
Although Harju isn’t expecting to bring any miraculous changes to the city, he does have the ability to listen and hear others’ points of view and try to keep an open mind in the process, he said.
Harju has been happily married for a year to Trisha, and he is now a stepfather to six of her children.
“Cokato has to be a safe place for families to be raised,” he said.
As a Cokato native, it has been Harju’s experience that there is a good sense of belonging within the community.
“It may not be everybody’s experience, but we need to push for it,” Harju said.
Harju finds National Night Out to be a good thing for the community and would like to see more of these community activities, Harju said.
He is also interested in the downtown revitalization project. With more and more businesses moving to Highway 12, Harju wants to ensure the highway is setup in an attractive way for businesses.
Harju has seen Cokato move in a positive direction with the establishment of the EDA and the growth and expansion of many of the city’s industries including Olsen Chain and Cable, APT, Saunatec, and Holt Motors.
Also, the race track has been good for the city by bringing people in from around the state, Harju said.
Although currently serving on the planning and zoning commission, Harju would be interested in serving on the new Economic Development Authority in the future.
Harju remembers a time when there were more businesses in the downtown area and stores would be open Friday nights.
“There was a sense of community,” he said.
“No, we can’t return to that, but it would be nice to somehow create that type of environment again,” Harju said.