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Michelle's column: Much has changed in 20 years

I’m not sure how this happened, but it turns out I’m just 12 days away from hitting my 20th anniversary of covering Farmington.

I thought about this last week, while I was at Randy Ferguson’s retirement party at Dodge Middle School. Randy came into our office a couple of weeks ago, handed me an invitation and asked me to attend.

Back in the days when the old Farmington Middle School West did its Veterans Day program, Randy and I always wound up down in front of the assembly, both of us with cameras in hand. And back then, we both used 35 mm cameras. And more than once, one or the other of us had to borrow a roll of film or an extra battery from the other.

I noticed, too, a couple of weeks ago, that the trees outside of the school — which has gone from Farmington Middle School to Farmington Middle School West to Dodge Middle School all since I’ve been here — have grown up. When I started here 20 years ago, my first school board meeting was at FMS. The building was just one year old then. I remember passing by the trees, but they were nowhere near as tall and fragrant then as they are now.

And that leads me to think of all of the other wonderful changes I’ve experienced over these years. FMS was the new school then. That was three elementaries and a high school ago.

Farmington City Hall was on the corner of Fourth and Oak Street, as was the police department. Of course, the police department moved up the hill long ago, and the new city hall has been open for a couple of years already.

What we know as the Dakota County Library in Farmington was still a grocery store back when I started here. The library was in the city hall building on Oak and Fourth back then, too.

I took my out of town guest around downtown Farmington last week. She marveled at the Exchange Bank Building. I told her about how it had been boarded up and in desperate need of renovation when I first came here. Sadly, the Exchange Bank Building is no more open and used by the public now than it was back in those days.

While I was at Corinthian Cemetery for Monday’s Memorial Day service, I was struck again by how long I’d been around. Besides seeing so many of the wonderful people I’ve come to know in this community, I also caught sight of the graves of a few people I’d come to consider friends over my years here.

It’s kind of weird. So many things have changed, yet so many feel the same. I drive into work every day, and sometimes scarcely notice the difference in the trees. That they’ve greened up, sure, but that they’re so much larger than they were back then. The buildings I see every day look the same, but I now have memories associated with those stone fronts. I get invitations to attend retirement parties, and I have graves to visit.

Now that I look at it, I don’t know what my life could have been if I hadn’t come to Farmington. But this is the life I have, and it’s a pretty good one. Thanks for a great 20 years, friends.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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