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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According to Farmington Associate Director of Bands Bradley Mariska, the hardest part of new band director Matt Clark's transition from his work solely with the marching band over the past two years to his own band — and his own office — is getting the students to call him Mr. Clark instead of Matt. Aside from a slight shift in formality, Clark's permanent presence has seamlessly slipped into the culture created by Director of Bands Erin Holmes and Mariska.
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.
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.
One of the highlights from this year's state legislative session for Dakota County was $6.2 million in funding for the county's Safety and Mental Health Alternative Response Training Center in the bonding bill. Construction on the new center, which is slated to house other public safety partners, including the Dakota County Electronic Crimes Unit, the Dakota County Drug Task Force and the Dakota County Criminal Justice Network as well as serve as a crisis response center, is scheduled for completion by 2020.
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.
Dakota County Board Tuesday, June 5, gave its approval to move forward with construction projects across the county. One stretch of Highway 55, according to Dakota County Engineer Mark Krebsbach, can be particularly dicey. Krebsbach said left turn lanes are needed for Highway 55 westbound traffic at County Highway 42 and for eastbound 55 traffic at Fahey Avenue. The lack of turn lanes have resulted in increased traffic collisions, he added.
For just the second time since 2006, the Minnesota Psychological Association recognized a county with its Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award. Dakota County and its roughly 1,800 employees learned they received the award last month. "We were excited to be nominated for it," Dakota County Director of Employee Relations Andy Benish said. Dakota County was nominated by Sand Creek, which administers the county's employee assistance program. According to PHWA Committee Chair Jenn Pollard, that is not normally how the process works.
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.