John R. Russett
John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts.
You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett
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TOWN OF ST. JOSEPH — RV Horizons district manager Rod Engh promised Town of St. Joseph officials they were at the end of a two-year struggle to get the Colorado-based real estate company current on its payments to the town. The pledge came just moments before Thursday night's unanimous Town Board vote to reinstate the operating license for RV Horizons-owned St. Croix Meadows RV Park.
The Dakota County Sheriff's Office was eliminated over the weekend from the USA Today Law Enforcement Lip Sync Challenge and ultimately finished third in the national contest. The video, which was filmed in 2016, lost out to Flower Mound, Texas, police department for a spot in the finals. Flower Mound is up against Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., police department in the finals. USA Today's website shows Dakota County's video received a total of 34,400 votes throughout the contest, which nearly doubled fourth-place finisher Seattle Police Department's total of 18,020.
Houlton, Wis. — When Ronda Moline moved to St. Croix Meadows in November 1997, she planned to stay for one year. In April 2016, after nearly two decades in the front row of the 50-lot mobile home community off Main Street in Houlton — and 12 straight months without running water — she stopped paying rent. One month later, she was served with an eviction notice and taken to court. Moline's story is indicative of a nationwide trend. In a number of manufactured home communities, residents feel relegated to the fringes.
A grant from the University of Minnesota combined with a local Cub Scout pack recently resulted in some new gardens outside Farmington Elementary. The grant, which the school received last spring, was for a learning garden for their first-grade classes. "Our goal is to be able to have them plant out here and then tend and watch all summer long and in the fall, harvest and see what they've grown," said Susan Fagnant, who headed the project for Farmington Elementary. Fagnant ordered the supplies and helped coordinate a date for the install of the five-tier garden.
FARMINGTON — Kenny LaBeau has built a career on food. When people ask for recipes to some of his kitchen creations, they are met with the same response — there is no recipe. "Kenny's pleasure is feeding people," said wife Alicia LaBeau. "He likes to feed people, so anything he can do to make people happy when it comes to food, he's all over it. It's what he does." Just two years after celebrating the 30th anniversary of Longbranch Saloon and Eatery, the owner and driving force behind the operation has another celebration planned.
Returned from Vietnam unopened with "KIA 10-31-72" written on it in black marker, its contents of Kool-Aid and cookies made known from the note taped to the outside, a plain brown package showed up 20 years later at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. A replica of that package, along with some of the more than 400,000 items left at the wall in D.C., will be in St. Paul at the State Capitol grounds through Sunday, June 24, along with "The Wall That Heals," a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Nearing the end of her collegiate career, seeking a student teacher position, Erin Holmes knew what she needed: marching band experience. She also knew where she needed to go to get it: Waseca. What she didn't know was nearly two decades later she would be named the first female jazz chair of the Minnesota Music Educators Association and one of School Band and Orchestra Magazine's 2017 "50 Directors Who Make a Difference" within the span of a couple weeks. Now, the woman in charge of Farmington's band program knows all of those things.
In Polk County, Wis., a man — young by most standards at no more than 23 or 24 — picked up the phone, dialed 911, then sat down on the couch next to his gun and waited for an officer to arrive. Little more than an hour's drive north of Spring Valley Police Chief John DuBois' office — up through Baldwin, past Pine, Bear Trap, Wapogasset and Deer lakes — sits the town of Centuria. Years before he became a chief, DuBois patrolled the streets of Centuria with its roughly 950 residents, anxious and unsure, awaiting a solitary call.
On a good day, Trish Nolan never would have met the man. It began as a group of four. They would sit around and talk regularly, usually until around 2 a.m., as music from the employee lounge permeated the halls. He kissed her behind the scenes when he thought no one was looking. He lied to her about his alcoholism. He lied to her about his marriage. He got her phone number. Then he showed up at her apartment and raped her. "It was like," Nolan paused, "going into hell."
Far from a new issue, law enforcement and mental illness have become increasingly more entangled since state governments began to close their mental health hospitals in the 1950s, continually taxing the agencies tasked with responding to those in crisis.