William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009.
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SOUTH WASHINGTON COUNTY — Voters flocked to the polls in today's state general election, braving rain, sleet and a bitter cold wind that seemed to echo the country's acrimonious political divide. As of midday, a polling place at Newport Elementary School had been averaging about 85 ballots an hour, according to one election official. By 1:12 p.m. Tuesday, 537 ballots had been cast, election clerk and assistant to Newport City Administrator Travis Brierley said. By 6:30 p.m. the number of ballots had swelled to nearly 1,200, he said.
Representatives from Old National Bank presented teachers, staff, students and parents with a $1,000 grant Oct. 24 at Pine Hill Elementary School. The grant was awarded thanks to the efforts of the school's parent teacher association. They collected the most online votes in the bank's Tools for Schools competition, which took place in September. One school from each of the bank's 17 regions in the Midwest received a $1,000 grant based on the number of votes they generated. Pine Hill was the only school in Minnesota to win.
COTTAGE GROVE — Following the 1895 premiere of "The Importance of Being Earnest" in London, critic William Archer deemed the play "to be empty of meaning" since it did not address social issues of the day. He added, with apparent lack of irony, that it was "nothing but an absolutely wilful (sic) expression of an irrepressibly witty personality." Misguided but accurate, sir. Subtitled "A trivial comedy for serious people," Oscar Wilde's comedy of manners continues to enthrall and amuse, with its farcical take on marriage, mores and money.
COTTAGE GROVE — East Point Douglas Road became the haunted highway during the Oct. 27 Monster Bash parade in Cottage Grove. The annual Halloween celebration is sponsored by the city's Strawberry Fest Committee and brings out costumed spectators, the Park High School marching band and ghoulishly-decorated floats. Some two dozen organizations marched down the mile-and-a-half route from the District 833 Service Center to the District 833 Program Center under a spooky gray sky. Photos by William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia
For 65 years, John Bartl Hardware in Newport was the go-to place when you needed just one of something: say, a beveled washer for a home faucet repair job, a copper pipe fitting for a furnace, a float valve for a balky toilet. And you could pay for it with pocket change. That aforementioned beveled washer would set you back a grand total of 65 cents.
TJ Maxx/Home Goods opened Sunday morning in Cottage Grove. The 40,000 square foot complex is the company's first dual site in Minnesota. The scene was skin to black friday, with some shoppers camping out overnight in order to get the best selection of Rae Dunn pottery, clothing, food, housewares and other items.
SCHOOL DISTRICT 833 — If anyone deserved to write his name in the wet cement at the brand-new Oltman Middle School, it's Mike Vogel. Vogel, who will retire Oct. 31, arguably did more than anyone to help grow and reshape the district's footprint during a quarter century of change. He negotiated purchase of the land and oversaw the construction of both East Ridge High School and the new Oltman Middle School. The South Washington School Board bid farewell to Vogel at its Oct. 17 meeting.
Each year, as the leaves turn and autumn puts its damp, chilly fingers on the back of your neck, Zywiec's Garden Center on Highway 61 in Cottage Grove is overrun by zombies, fiends, ghouls and scary clowns. The Haunting Experience runs weekends and select weekday evenings through Oct. 31.
District 833 students scored well on an annual standardized test that measures college and career readiness. Results released Oct. 17 showed that the graduating class of 2018 exceeded the state average in all four categories — mathematics, science, English and reading. Their overall composite score of 22.4 beat the state average of 21.3. "We're pretty proud of that percentage," said Brian Boothe, director of professional development and accountability. "A majority of our students who take the ACT are demonstrating some aspect of career and college readiness."
Lowering health care costs continues to be my top priority, as it was two years ago. Last session we tackled this issue head on and made great progress, approving new laws that banned the practice of surprise billing, and lowered premium rates for those purchasing health insurance on the individual market. Because of this, we finally ended the double-digit increases Minnesotans had experienced every year since the implementation of Obamacare. We also provided more choices by bringing more competition into the market and provided better access to care. We're off to a great start, but there's still more work to be done.