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Morris in 2012: What happened around here? (Part I)

MORRIS - In part one of our look back at the year that was, record high temperatures hit in January, redistricting left Stevens County without incumbent legislators, and both Morris Area principals announced they would be leaving the district.


• Shopko and Pamida announced that they would merge and, over the next 12 months, convert 193 Pamida stores in 17 states to the Shopko Hometown format. The conversion for Morris' Pamida store began in August, with a grand opening for the new Shopko in September.

• Morris residents took in a round of golf at the Pomme de Terre Golf Course on Jan. 5 thanks to the unseasonably warm weather. A record high temperature for that day - 46 degrees - was recorded at the West Central Research and Outreach Center. In January, Morris saw high temperatures of almost 60 degrees.

• The Otto Bremer Foundation awarded $50,000 to the Morris Area Schools to be used by the Morris Area Student Leaders, Students of Service to educate teachers, administrators, students and staff in the region about the harmful effects of bullying.

• The Stevens County Board of Commissioners approved hiring Carl Thunem, a 2007 graduate of the University of Minnesota law school, as assistant county attorney. Thumen, who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army National Guard, was sworn into office in May.

• Connie Beyer of Hancock was found alive after an apparent abduction near Hot Springs, S.D. According to family members, Beyer was abducted outside a truck stop and taken into nearby hills where she was robbed and thrown into a ravine. After a week of investigation, the Fall River County Sheriff determined there was no evidence to support Beyer's story but left the investigation open if further evidence turns up.

• Arne Kildegaard, an associate professor of economics and management at the University of Minnesota, Morris, was named the new director of the Center for Small Towns.


• Steve Poppe, horticultural scientist at the West Central Research and Outreach Center, was selected to serve as a flower judge for All-American Selections, a non-profit association that tests and promotes new seed varieties for gardens.

• Five students from Morris Area High School's chapter of Family, Career, Community Leaders of America advanced to the state tournament in their first year of competition - Jolene McNeill, Katie Jergenson, Aaron Jones, Tracy Meichsner and Bobbi Jo Kurtz.

• The Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta wrestling team earned three all-conference honors and one honorable mention. Zach Gibson claimed the conference title in the 285 pound weight class. Joel Harrison and Connor Metzger also earned all-conference honors, and Evan Nelson received an honorable mention.

• American Legion National Commander Fang Wong came to Morris as part of a four-day tour in Minnesota. Wong spoke to a group of about 60 people at the American Legion about the budget challenges facing the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and the need for ongoing support from young veterans returning home.

• Liane Classen, former business manager for the Chokio-Alberta School District, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $263,000 in restitution after stealing approximately $300,000 from the district over a 10 year period.

• World War II veteran Art LeSage of Morris was honored with his service medals at a ceremony in Duluth. LeSage was captured by German troops after being wounded in Italy during World War II. He later escaped while on a forced march through Poland and made his way back to freedom. He did not receive his medals at that time - an oversight corrected at the ceremony in Duluth.

• Fifty-three-year-old Steven Anderson of Morris was killed in a snowmobile accident on Togwotee Mountain in Teton County, Wyoming. A member of the search and rescue team sent to help Anderson was killed when the helicopter that responded to the call for help crashed.

• New legislative redistricting maps left Stevens County in a bigger legislative district and without an incumbent state senator. Soon after the redistricting maps were released, Rep. Torrey Westrom announced his intention to run for senate in the new District 12.

• The hockey season for the Morris Benson Area boys' hockey team came to an end after a first round win in the Section 6AA tournament over Prairie Center and a second round loss to Little Falls.

• Dani Schultz, a 2011 graduate of Morris Area High School, was named the Norther Collegiate Hockey Association Player of the Year. Schultz established herself as a premier goalscorer for the University of Wisconsin, Superior Yellowjackets in her freshman season.


• Tiger wrestlers Tim Ostby and Zach Gibson were individual champions at the Section 3AA tournament and represented the team at state. Both Tigers placed at the state wrestling meet - Ostby took second at 145 and Gibson took fourth at 285.

• A representative with HBH Consultants presented a communications plan and logo to the Tourism Board as part of a joint tourism effort between the City of Morris and the Morris Area Chamber of Commerce. The communications plan marketed Morris as rural, green, plentiful and open and hoped to capitalize on the area's agricultural heritage. The Morris City Council approved a tourism logo designed by Superior Industries in April.

• Torrey Westrom and Scott Dutcher received endorsements for their candidacies in Senate District 12 and House District 12A at the District 12 Republican Convention.

• Krista Matthews-Saugstad and Thomas Roberts were selected to represent the district in the Academics, Arts, and Athletics (Triple A) Award program.


• Two Morris Area FFA students were named State FFA Star finalists. Junior Brooke Wente was recognized in Agriscience for her work at AgReliant Genetics and senior Lloyd Lesmeister was a finalist in Placement for his work at Wayne-n-Jean's Evergreens.

• The Morris Area FIRST Robotic's team just missed advancing to nationals, but did advance to the first-ever state robotics tournament in Minnesota.

• Morris Area Elementary School Principal Brad Korn announced that he would retire from the district effective June 30, 2012 after 21 years as principal.

• Morris Auto Plaza broke ground for a new showroom as part of a major renovation and expansion. The newly-remodeled facility, which opened in November, includes a bigger car delivery space and a climate-controlled service reception area.

• The Stevens County Planning Commission recommended amending the Stevens County Zoning Ordinance to add a new commercial designation and re-zone property on Perkins Lake to allow for development of property previously owned by Luther Crest Bible Camp.

• Democrats in Senate District 12 endorsed John Shultz of Correll and those in House District 12A voted to endorse Elbow Lake Mayor Jay McNamar at their nominating convention.


• City Finance Director Gene Krosschell announced he would retire at the end of July. Two weeks later, the Morris City Council voted to promote Deb Raasch, a 14-year veteran of Morris' finance department, to finance director.

• Margaret Kuchenreuther, a University of Minnesota, Morris associate professor of biology, was awarded the University of Minnesota Outstanding Community Service Award. Kuchenreuther is the first faculty member from UMM to receive the award.

• The Morris Area School District recognized retiring teachers Muriel Lindback and Cathy Matthews, as well as retiring speech language pathologist Sharon Stock at the district's annual retirement breakfast.

• Long-time University of Minnesota, Morris political science professor Paula ­O'Loughlin announced she would be leaving UMM for a position in academic administration at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.

• Meadowland Market celebrated their grand opening at a new location on Pacific Avenue.


• Sixty-eight area seniors received their diplomas at Morris Area High School's graduation ceremony for the class of 2012. Valedictorian Kevin Viratyosin and Salutatorian Holly Amundson gave the graduation addresses.

• The Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta girls' track and field team tied for first place at the Section 6A meet at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. Athletes advancing to the state tournament included Katie Holzheimer, MaKenzie Smith, Abby Travis, Beth Holland, Sydney Engebretson, and Adrianela Mendez. The girls eventually won ribbons in three events at the state meet.

• Six candidates filed for three open seats on the Stevens County Board of Commissioners: Bob Kopitzke, Paul Watzke, Ron Staples, Jim Swenson, Donny Wohlers and Diane Nelson.

• Cougar softball player Molly Olson was named Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Softball Player of the Year. The freshman was also named Freshman of the Year, First Team All-UMAC, and All-Defensive Team.

• Westmor Industries celebrated 40 years in business with a day of education and outreach for customers this month.

• Morris Area High School Principal Mike Coquyt resigned from his position to serve as an assistant professor at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. The Morris Area School Board voted to immediately move forward with the search for a new high school principal.

• KSAX-TV cut 17 employees from its station in Alexandria and reduced operations in central Minnesota.

• The Morris Area Chamber of Commerce hired two new directors - Administrative Director Rhoda Smith and Tourism and Membership Director Carolyn Peterson. Smith and Peterson hosted a meet-and-greet at the Common Cup Coffee House to introduce themselves.

Look for the rest of the Year in Review in the Jan. 5, 2013 edition of the Sun Tribune.