Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.
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In the daytime, it doesn't look like much. But for two nights last weekend the patchwork construction of two-by-fours and black plastic that sprawls across Matt Philpot's backyard became the scariest place in Farmington. Philpot's creation -- he calls it the Tunnel of Terror -- is quickly becoming a Halloween tradition in his north Farmington neighborhood.
In a rare defeat of an incumbent judge, Red Wing resident Larry Clark unseated Judge Timothy Blakely in the First Judicial District. Clark, an assistant Dakota County attorney, said called the victory "an extreme honor." "This is the highest honor I think an attorney can achieve," he said early today. Late poll figures showed Clark leading Blakely 58 to 42 percent.
Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows was elected to a full four-year term Tuesday, defeating Apple Police Sgt. Mitch Scott by a 54- to 45-percent margin, 67,377 votes to 56,216 votes. The Dakota County Board of Commissioners appointed Bellows sheriff in February after former sheriff Don Gudmundson announced his retirement from the position. Bellows has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience and had been chief deputy with Dakota County for 10 years before his appointment as sheriff. "I am very gratified with winning this election and the support I received," said Bellows.
The name on the door will change this year in Senate District 36, but the political party of the person working behind that door will not. Republican Dave Thompson beat DFL opponent Steve Quist Tuesday in the race to replace longtime state Senator Pat Pariseau, who did not seek re-election after 20 years in the Senate.
On a night when the Farmington School Board was guaranteed at least two new members, voters opted instead for a clean sweep. Newcomers Tera Lee, Brian Treakle and Melissa Sauser all won seats on the board in Tuesday's election. Veronica Walter, the only incumbent who defended her seat, finished fourth in balloting. Lee was the top finisher with 4,565 votes. Treakle had 4,187 votes, Sauser 3,643 and Walter 3,245. Ron Groves was a distant fifth with 2,420 votes, Rebecca Keeler was sixth with 2,173 and Carol Kappes was seventh with 1,893.
Pat Garofalo won his fourth term in the Minnesota House of Representatives going away. Garofalo, a Republican, received nearly twice as many votes as DFL challenger Sigrid Iversen, 12,317 to 6,381. The win provided one familiar face in a sea of change on election night. Garofalo, a Farmington resident who won his first election to take a vacant seat six years ago, was in front from the beginning of Tuesday's vote count.
A 29-year-old Minneapolis man who had a few drinks and got into an argument with employees at a Castle Rock Township business attracted the wrong kind of attention from police earlier this year. The Dakota County Sheriff's department got a call around 1 p.m. May 20 that the man, later identified as John Francis Nies, had been drinking and had just left the business. A sheriff's deputy found Nies' pick-up truck a short time later and followed him up Highway 3 to about 170th Street, where Nies pulled over and parked.
I had a conversation last week about the importance of getting kids interested in science and technology at an early age. The person I was talking with was passionate about ensuring there is a future generation of researchers and inventors. Sparking an early passion for science is especially important, he suggested, given the number of soldiers coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan missing arms and legs.
Roger Pedersen can only think of a handful of Farmington businesses that have been in the same family longer than the auto repair shop he opened in 1960. There's Gerster Jewelers. Sauber Plumbing. Farmington Greenhouse. And he's pretty sure that last one has just a few years on Pedersen Auto Shop, which celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this month. Pedersen grew up around machines. His parents were farmers, and he learned his way around an engine at an early age. He built his first car, a 1907 Brush he put together from parts around the family farm, when he was 10 years old.
Enrollment this fall in Farmington schools is 125 students below projections, according to information presented Monday to school board members. It's a change that will cost the district money. As of Oct. 20 there were 6,422 students enrolled in Farmington schools. That's well below the 6,558 projected for the 2010-11 school year and nine below the enrollment on Oct. 1. Because schools receive state funding based in large part on the number of students enrolled, the student shortfall means the district will receive $637,436 less than expected from the state.