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News from the week of January 15, 2003

Cal Ludeman begins new chapter in public service

The quick-wit and self-effacing humor was still the same.

Asked whether discarding everyday Lyon County farm garb for formal business suits at the state capitol had been an abrupt change, Cal Ludeman admitted that it was.

"Well, you know, I do have quite a supply (of suits) that haven't seen much use these last few years," Ludeman quipped. "They might be a little out of style by now."

The 1969 Tracy High School graduate left his family farm to start a new job in St. Paul Monday. At a press conference that generated statewide news coverage, Governor Tim Pawlenty announced his choice of Ludeman to head the Minnesota Department of Employee Relations.

In a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon, Commissioner Ludeman said he was both honored by his appointment, and looking forward to the challenges of the job.

"We've got a lot of work to do," he said. Since assuming office on Monday, he said his schedule has been tightly booked into 15-minute blocks.

Ludeman learned of his selection Friday, when Pawlenty called him at his Amiret Township farm home. But Ludeman said he wasn't entirely caught off guard by the call, since he had conversations with Pawlenty's team about "several possibilities" over the past few weeks. He said it took him "about 20 seconds" to accept the governor's appointment.

As Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employee Relations, Ludeman will be responsible for about 27,000 state employees in 11 different bargaining units. An immediate challenge is an unresolved state employee contract that was hammered out after a strike in late 2001. The contract was not ratified by the 2002 state legislature.

New mayor, council members take helm of city government

The Tracy City Council began 2003 with a two new members and a host of appointments Monday night.

Russ Stobb, Jan Otto-Arvizu, Tim Byrne, Greg Torkelson, were sworn into office on the council. Steve Ferrazzano took the oath of office as mayor.

Stobb and Otto-Arvizu were both re-elected to new four-year terms in November, while Byrne was elected to his first term. Ferrazzano, who had served on the council, elected to a four-year term as mayor.

Torkelson was appointed to fill out the remaining two years of Dave Berndt's council term. Berndt resigned from the council last month because of a new business venture in Minot, N.D.

Hannasch, who did not file for re-election, thanked city residents for the privilege of serving as mayor for the past four years.

Russ Stobb was named as the council's "president pro-tem," meaning he will have the responsibility of chairing council meetings in Ferrazzano's absence.

Council members were assigned to various city boards and commissions. They are:

Community education financial & advisory board—Mike Fraser.

Planning commission—Stobb.

Economic Development Authority—Torkelson and Byrne.

Attorney meetings—Otto-Arvizu, Ferrazzano.

Hospital advisory board—Ferrazzano, Hannasch.

Prairie Pavilion lease—Ferrazzano, Fraser.

Municipal liquor store—Ferrazzano, Caron.

Pool committee—Arvizu.

Police commission—Byrne, Torkelson, Caron.

Public asked what qualities they want in superintendent

What qualifications and personality traits should the District 417's next superintendent have?

Tracy school board members want to know what district residents think. To find out, a survey is being distributed in the community. The questionnaire lists 24 traits and qualifications, and asks people to rank each item's importance.

The surveys will be available at Tracy Publishing, City of Tracy office, Minnwest Bank South, Tracy Elementary, and Tracy Area High School this week. Surveys should be completed and returned to the district office by Friday, Feb. 21.

School faculty and staff will also be asked to complete the survey.

Darrold C. Williams, a consultant with Midwest Management Resources, updated school board members on the superintendent search process at their regular meeting Monday evening.

Williams said the position has been posted in several locations, and that there have been many inquiries.

Children's theatre is coming to Tracy

Local students invited for cast

Live theatre will take on new meaning for Tracy students this spring.

The Fine Arts Council of Tracy, with the help of the Prairie Fire Children's Theatre, is sponsoring an April 4-5 production of a well-known Disney classic. Local students ages 7-18 will make up the cast.

Prairie Fire is a professional, touring theatre-company based in Barrett. The company has been bringing theatre to communities in the Upper Midwest since 1986.

Two professional actor/directors from Prairie Fire will be in Tracy March 30 through April 5. During the residency, the group will hold auditions and conduct practices for a theater production that will be put on twice that weekend. Prairie Fire provides all costumes, sets, and props. The company will also conduct a theatre workshop for adults.

Students are invited to informational sessions about the production at Tracy Elementary, Tracy Area High and St. Mary's schools on Friday. The elementary and high school sessions will be conducted during the noon hour; the St. Mary's presentation is planned near the end of the day.

The Friday sessions are planned to get an idea of how many students are interested in the production. Auditions will be held on March 30 or 31. The title of the play will be announced to students Friday.

For many children, mentor becomes crucial role model

By Val Scherbart Quist

Who mentored you? Was it a parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle? Or maybe it was a special teacher or coach who made the difference in your life.

“Who Mentored You” is the theme of the second annual National Mentoring Month, which is being observed this month.

Everyday, adults and teenagers throughout the country, and locally within Lyon County, give their time to mentor children.

Members of the Tracy Area High School Peer Helpers are among those who mentor within the Tracy community.

Senior Greg Carlson, who is vice president of the Peer Helpers, volunteered to lead the Big Buddies program this year. He said he felt it was important for the Peer Helpers to continue mentoring younger students.

“This could possibly be the best program we do as the Peer Helper group,” he said.

Carlson has been involved with Big Buddies for the past two years. He began planning the year's events with Elementary Principal Scott Loeslie in September. The program kicked off in November.

Twenty-six TAHS students are participating in the Big Buddies program this year.

Flax a brain food? New research seeks answers

Research commissioned by the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) is looking deeper into the nutritional values of Minnesota-grown ag products.

Eleven small grains are being examined to determine what functional traits are contained within them that may increase their value.

“An example is flax,” says Michael Sparby, AURI project development director in Morris. “Can we extract from flax Omega 3 fatty acids that have been shown to benefit brain activity? We first want to know if components like this can be extracted, then we can see if there is a market for them.”

Functional foods are defined as any food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains. The grains being evaluated include wheat, barley, flax, sunflower, canola, wild rice, buckwheat, edible beans and more.

“This evaluation isn't the end, it's the beginning,” says Sparby. “We are working to provide producers with more information about what opportunities are out there. We want to know if there are identified traits that producers can capitalize upon.”

Results of the study, which began last fall, should be available by the end of February.

AURI is a nonprofit corporation created to improve the economy of rural Minnesota through the development of new uses and new markets that add value to the state's agricultural commodities.