Brainerd Ward 4: Emily LeClaire wants to serve her community

Emily LeClaire is running against incumbent Gabe Johnson and fellow challenger Johnathan Miller.

Emily LeClaire (1)
Emily LeClaire is a 2022 candidate for Brainerd City Council Ward 4.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Emily LeClaire is impassioned to serve her community, wants equal representation and to listen to residents’ needs.

Her bid for Ward 4 of the Brainerd City Council is based on a long-standing interest in politics and a strong desire to see more female representation on the governing body. With only one woman on the seven-member council in a city that is roughly 55% female, LeClaire said she feels the council makeup should be more reflective of the city’s demographics.

“To have a representative council in this case, we need to have people from all different areas of the community,” she said, during an interview Friday, June 24.

LeClaire, 32, is a single mom of four kids — Jude, Lucy, Prudence and Michelle — and works as the children’s ministry campus coordinator for the Aitkin campus of Journey North Church. Born and raised in Brainerd, LeClaire has lived near Harrison Elementary School in Ward 4 for nearly three years. As an alumna of Harrison, LeClaire said it is one of her favorite things about Ward 4 and she enjoys being able to see her kids play on the playground where she made so many memories as a child.

She is in her second year of serving on the board of directors for the Minnesota Head Start Association, which works with low-income families in the Head Start program, offering educational resources for both students and their families.


The issues

While LeClaire doesn’t have any specific issues on the top of her mind, she said she plans to talk with constituents to learn about their concerns.

“I’m kind of one of the glass-half-full-type of people that don’t really see the issues on the surface,” she said. “I feel like it would definitely take a lot of time spent talking with voters who live in Ward 4, just to see what their take is on the issues because I think that’s one of the most important things is just listening to what the people have to say. Because my experience in Ward 4 might be different than half the people I know, so if I’m representing them all, I need to have a good understanding of where everyone is at with the issues.”

To understand those issues, LeClaire said she feels social media could be a good way to open a line of communication with community members and to allow them to see updates on policies and city issues.

“For example, the charter with the nonprofit funding, that kind of thing is something I think would be good to share thoughts on or updates on social media,” LeClaire said, referencing recent proposed changes to the city’s charter that would have impacted funding to certain nonprofits.

As far as other means of communication, LeClaire said she is comfortable with constituents reaching out via phone, email or Facebook and is willing to use other means that work for people.

“I’m open to whatever means of communication will help with communicating with constituents,” she said.

Choosing a candidate

LeClaire believes her board experience with the Minnesota Head Start Association would be a valuable asset for the City Council.

“I do have experience representing smaller areas on a larger scale by representing our parents here at the tri-county level and representing the tri-county level at the state level,” she said. “I think I just have that experience.”


But regardless of who voters choose, LeClaire just wants them to get out and vote.

“I think a lot of people take voting for granted, but it’s something that we need to remember,” she said. “It was a right that was fought for, and it is not just a right. I think it is a responsibility that we all need to interact with.

“I have known a few people who say, ‘Oh, I don’t care about voting because it doesn’t matter.’ But especially at the local level is where it really has an impact.”

Primary election

LeClaire is running against incumbent Gabe Johnson and fellow challenger Johnathan Miller to represent Ward 4, which encompasses southeast Brainerd. The primary election is Aug. 9. The top two vote-getters from the primary will be on the ballot for the general election Nov. 8.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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