Michelle Leonard started covering the Farmington community in June, 1994. 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 Farmington American Legion Auxiliary Unit 189, and acts as 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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There's good news for neighbors of the Dakota County Fairgrounds. Chances are, things will be a little quieter in your neighborhood this summer. On Tuesday, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve changes to the county's ordinance that regulates assemblages of large numbers of people.
It might not have been the Xcel Energy Center, and Niklas Backstrom might not have been in the net, but there was still plenty of excitement at Meadowview Elementary School's annual floor hockey tournament March 11. The tournament capped off several days of skills training in phy ed teacher Joe McCarthy's classes. Students in grades 1-5 learned all of the basics of hockey -- in a scaled-down version, with no checking, of course -- over the past couple of weeks. Students in grades 1-2 just learned about the skills and played a little during class.
Understanding death -- especially a sudden death -- is hard for anyone. Grasping the whys can plague a person's well-being for days. "Why did it happen?" "Why him? Why not me?" "Why?" is one of those questions children ask over and over as they're trying to understand a new concept. And if that new concept is death, why is a pretty big topic. Two elementary children have died in Farmington schools this school year. Those deaths naturally brought out whys from classmates and other students, but there's no one answer to any of those questions.
Not too far down the road, folks over in Hastings are watching the Mississippi River to see if reaches flood level and spills over the banks. Here in Farmington, though, the Vermillion River is already over the banks in some areas. That's just a common sign of spring around these parts. That's not to say residents shouldn't be careful when they visit Rambling River Park or try to walk the trails through downtown. The river is high, and it's flowing at a pretty steady pace.
Whether the cause is illness, natural, accidental or intentional, death is hard for those close to the deceased to deal with. When it happens to a student, regardless of age, death impacts more than just family and close friends. That's why Independent School District 192 has a group of counselors who are specially trained to help when someone in the schools dies. Known informally as the trauma team, the five counselors help those who are hurting to grieve, but they also also help keep everyone else's school days on schedule.
When Amanda Christensen moved to Farmington last summer, she had no idea she was going to make history in her new community. All she knew was that she wanted to be a firefighter. This week, she accomplished both when she sat down for orientation Monday evening. Christensen was among the six newest Farmington fire fighters to start orientation this week. She's also the first woman to join the local department's ranks. It came as a surprise when fire chief Tim Pietsch called her last week to ask if she'd sit through an interview for this newspaper story.
There might not be people sleeping in cardboard boxes in Rambling River Park, but poverty is present in Farmington all the same. Now, a bunch of high school students aim to increase awareness, and hopefully lend a helping hand. On March 19-20, about 120 Farmington High School students will spend the night at the school to help combat poverty in their own community. Back in December, the students in Marianne Feely's Youth Development group started talking about what kind of service project they could do.
One Castle Rock Township official was unseated and a new Eureka supervisor was elected as a result of Tuesday's township elections. In Castle Rock, David Nicolai beat out incumbent Michael M. Keifer by a nearly three to one margin for the three-year Supervisor B seat. Nicolai received 179 votes to Kiefer's 62. Incumbent Russell Zellmer was reelected to the Supervisor A seat for another three-year term. Zellmer received 196 votes. There were 22 write-ins for the seat, as well. Castle Rock township clerk Jane Bistodeau was also elected to a two-year term, with 211 ballots cast in her favor.
They say you can't judge a book by its cover. And for good reason -- lots of times, you just don't know what you're going to find on the inside. That's kind of true, two-fold, when it comes to the two new book clubs at Farmington High School. The Fantasy Book Club and the Girls Book Club are still pretty new at FHS -- both of them were started in January --but so far, the clubs seem to have gathered some student interest. Reading specialist Kari Simonson has seven or eight in her Fantasy Book Club group, while English teacher Kim West has nine in her Girl's Book Club.
With $13,000 per person in federal funding on the line, the Minnesota 2010 Census organizers are gearing up for next month's Census distribution. The Census is nothing new -- it's been around since 1790, and is taken every 10 years. But in Minnesota, this year's Census is particularly important. The results determine how much aid the state receives from the federal government, but there are also some political implications. Minnesota stands to lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives if the state doesn't produce the kind of numbers needed to support its current eight members.