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News from the week of September 1, 2004


Guardsmen given emotional send-off

Patriotic pride mixed with bittersweet uncertainty at a send-off ceremony for Marshall-based National Guard Unit.

The 130-member unit, which includes many local citizen soldiers, received its activation orders this weekend. The Battery A of the 1-151st Field Battalion hasn't been notified of its mission, or the actual date of deployment. But their date of departure is expected soon, and after additional training at Fort Dix, the guardsmen are likely to be deployed overseas to support American forces in Iraq.

Gale Otto, a Tracy Elementary School teacher and Vietnam veteran, was among the speakers. He urged families and friends at home, regardless of politics, to “be positive” to help keep the morale of servicemen high. He also told the guardsmen to take their training seriously. Otto, whose son Jim, is one of the National Guardsmen being activated, received a standing ovation from the soldiers.

Governor Tim Pawlenty said he was proud of the National Guardsmen.

“These are not typical citizens, they are dedicated and strong individuals. They demonstrate what it means to be an American, they give up their comforts of home to serve their country.”

Pawlenty presented a Minnesota state flag to Captain Aaron Krenz, asking him to fly it when possible during their deployment, and to bring it back to him when all their troops came home.

Captain Krenz said that he could not ask for a more dedicated group of soldiers. He said that they would not be here without the love and support of their families.

Jon Trost, assistant brigadeer adjutant general, informed the unit that they would be joining 2,000 other guardsmen in Iraq. He said that the guardsmen are ready for the tasks they will be asked to do.

“God will protect you and you will make our country proud,” said state Represenative Marty Seifert. “Each of you are my hero and I have been a teacher to some of you, a neighbor or a friend too,”

We are all looking forward to the next celebration to welcome you home,” said Robert Byrnes, Marshall mayor.

The governor's wife, Mary Pawlenty, explained her Family Care Initiative to help support the families during their time of separation from their loved ones. Families can log onto the National Guard's web site at and search for support groups near their home. Organizations that are willing to participate in this Initiative may also register by logging onto the Governor's web site at and then clicking on the First Lady's Military Family Care Initiative.

“This Initiative represents an outpouring of affection for you, the families of service men and women who have or will be deployed,” said Mary Pawlenty. “Family members should call or click the mouse to receive volunteer services, don't wait,” she said. “Thank you all for your hard work and dedication. God bless you and all your families.”

Master of Ceremonies was Del Rutz of Balaton. The ceremony was held in the Marshall High School gymnasium.

Members of the National Guard unit include:

Alan, Tyler PV2

Allen, David SPC

Aderson, Jason SSG

Barry, Benjamin PFC

Baumgartner, Brad SFC

Beek, Jordy, SFC

Belsheim, Zachary SPC

Boerboom, Nathan PV2

Brunsvold, Douglas 1SG

Brunsvold, Eric SPC

Brunsvold, Quentin SGT

Brunsvold, Ryan PFC

Bunn, Robert SSG

Buysse, Brandon PV1

Christopherson, Kyle PFC

Coulter, Andrew PFC

Dale, Thomas SPC

Dean, Eric SGT

Debaere, Joseph SPC

DeBlieck, Chad SGT

DeBlieck, Joshua SPC

DeVlieger, Wage SPC

Dierickx, Francis PFC

Doll, Benjamin SPC

Dorschner, Lance SPC

Doyscher, Scott SPC

Ellington, Christopher SPC

Enninga, Mark SPC

Esping, Mark SGT

Fogelson, Scott SPC

Gernentz, William SPC

Gilbery, Curtis SPC

Gile, Mark 1LT

Girgen, David PFC

Green, Nathan SGT

Green, Timothy SPC

Haen, Bryan SGT

Hamilton, J

Hall, Rebecca SPC

Hancock, Harold SSG

Handevidt, Jasmine PV2

Hauschild, Dustin SGT

Helnecke, John SSG

Hoffman, Andrew PV2

Janssen, Joseph SPC

Jenniges, Jonah SPC

Jerzak, Curtis SGT

Kesteloot, Dru SPC

Kesteloot, Kurt SGT

Kesteloot, Terry SPC

Koenen, Derek SPC

Kolhei, Lance PFC

Krenz, Aaron CPT

Lambertus, Larry SFC

Lamote, Curtis SPC

Larsen, Chad SPC

Larson, Matthew PV2

Lightfoot, Benjamin SPC

Lightfoot, Brandon SPC

Lolkus, Brandon SGT

Louwagie, Kerry SPC

Louwagie, Shawn SPC

Lundberg, Aaron SPC

Marble, Benjamin SPC

Marlette, Dustin SPC

McAlpin, Brennen PV1

McChesney, Jared SPC

McDonald, Scott SPC

McKinney, Justin SPC

Mellenthin, Cody SPC

Mix, Nathaniel PV1

Morin, Jason PFC

Moua, Sue PFC

Myhre, David SPC

Naab, Tracis PV2

Nelson, Jason SPC

Nielsen, Paul SFC

Noakes, Matthew PV2

Ortmann, Brandon SGT

Otto, James SGT

Pankonen, McCord SSG

Paulzine, Raymong SPC

Perkins, Chadd SSG

Pingeon, Brent SPC

Reynolds, Timon SPC

Rieder, Shane SPC

Ross, John SGT

Rutz, Brian SGT

Rutz, Steven SGT

Schaefer, William SGT

Schmidt, Justin SPC

Schreier, Bradley SPC

Schuelke, Justin SPC

Schulte, Benjamin SPC

Schultz, Richard PV2

Schultz, Mark SPC

Sell, Mindy SPC

Sereyn, Matthew SSG

Shatek, Scott SPC

Sheik, Kyle SPC

Sik, Sarah PFC

Sik, Steven PV2

Simon, Eric SGT

Sletten, Robert SPC

Smit, Scott 1LT

Strangeland, Duane SSG

Steinmetz, Nicholas PV2

Stelter, Bradley SPC

Strom, Ross SSG

Swoboda, Christopher SSG

Thompson, Justin SPC

Thor, A PFC

Timm, Kenneth PFC

Timmerman, Adam SPC

Timmerman, Clayton SPC

Timmerman, Travis PFC

Vandelanotte, Jonathon PFC

Vanderhagen, Jeremie 2LT

Vanoverbeke, Jeremiah SPC

Walerius, Paul SPC

Wambeke, David SPC

Warnke, Dustin PV2

Weber, Jack SPC

Weber, Jhett SPC

Weikert, Marcus SPC

West, Anthony PV2

Williamson, Jeremy PV1

Wood, Michael C. SSG

Wood, Michael L. SPC

Nine seek Miss Tracy title; 'exceptional show' forecast

Nine Tracy Area High School seniors are competing in the 2005 Miss Tracy Scholarship Program, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in the high school gym.

Contestants are vying for $4,800 in scholarships. The 2005 Miss Tracy will be awarded $1,300. The first and second runners-up will receive $700 and $500, respectively. An additional $500 in scholarships will be given in the following categories, which participants are judged upon scholastic achievement, creative arts presentation, fitness, presence and composure, and panel evaluation. Each candidate will receive $200 in alumni scholarships.

“All of the highlights are very entertaining,” said Jessie James, program co-director. “As much as we do them (in practice), I haven't gotten tired of anyone of them yet."

“We have nine girls who have been working very hard and will put on an exceptional show,” said Sandy Fultz, program co-director.

“They (the public) will be looking forward to a very entertaining year,” she said.

James promises an extraordinary evening with a few twists. This year's program will have a different flow, he said, due to the number of candidates.

“We're doing a very unusual opening number. And I won't go any further than that,” he said.

Candidates are:

Kayla Lau, daughter of Jack and Sandy Lau, sponsored by Tracy Country Club. She will play piano.

Kristina Gervais, daughter of Jim and Desneige Gervais, sponsored by Currie Town & Country. She is preparing a speech and art presentation.

Jeremy Trulock and Mary Poss will emcee the event. Miss Tracy candidates and 2004 royalty will kick off the night with an opening number. Emily Rayman and Stefanie Hebig, 2004 royalty, will do a creative presentation. The Twister Dance team will also make an appearance.

School year underway

St. Mary's staff has new look

Three new teachers and a new principal greeted students at St. Mary's School Wednesday morning.

Jina Baartman of Ruthton is St. Mary's new principal. Baartman, a 1994 graduate of Southwest Minnesota State University, is no stranger to the Catholic school environment or to administration.

Her first teaching job was in Big Lake, where she taught for two years. She married husband Brian in the spring of her second year there, and moved back to the area. During the 1997-1998 school year, she taught part-time at Tracy Area High School. Her position was eliminated, and the following year, she began teaching at St. Edward Catholic School in Minneota. For the past three years, she has taught at Yankton Country School, a charter school, in Balaton. She served in an administrative position as lead teacher for two of her three years there.

Baartman said she wasn't even looking for a new job when her husband showed her the ad for the St. Mary's principal job and encouraged her to apply.

“I loved teaching at the Catholic school in Minneota,” she said. “The only reason I left there was because of the long drive.”

She also had administrative experience from her time at Yankton Country School. She also served on the board there, and served as the board treasurer and was on the finance committee.

She sent in her résumé, and within just a couple of weeks, she had the job.

While Baartman does not have an administrative degree, she plans to pursue it beginning next fall.

“I had been contemplating going for my master's degree anyway,” she said.

She began her duties on Aug. 2. Former principal Lisa Schaar came in with Baartman and went through pertinent information with her.

The principal's job is a three-quarter-time position. The other quarter of her time will be spent teaching.

“I think that's what I'm looking forward to the most, besides the administrative duties,” she said. “It will be fun going back into the classroom.”

At Yankton, a project-based school, classes aren't structured the way they are in a traditional school.

Baartman is also happy to be back in the family environment of a Catholic school.

“I'm excited to get back to a Catholic school atmosphere,” she said. Baartman succeeds Lisa Schaar, who resigned her position at St. Mary's to accept a teaching position at Tracy Elementary School.

Baartman and her husband, Brian, have two children, Jared, 5, and Kylea, 2.

The biggest change facing St. Mary's this year, she said, is that half of the staff is new. There are three returning teachers—Mindy Otto in kindergarten, Juli Neuman in second grade, and Mary Engesser, who teaches religion. New are Grace Coudron in first grade, Suzanne Lightfoot in fifth and sixth grades, and Angie Marketon in third and fourth grades. Brian Hanson of Slayton also joins the staff as a custodian.

This year, the all-school prayer at St. Mary's has been changed from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. The lunch schedule is also being changed slightly to allow for a different rotation.

Friday, Sept. 3 marks the first fund-raiser of the year, when students kick off their annual magazine drive.

Parents' night has been set for Wednesday, Sept. 8 in the St. Mary's gymnasium.

See this week's Headlight-herald for the rest of this article.

Tracy Elementary boosts programs

Changes are helping usher in new school year at Tracy Elementary School.

The school has new faces, staff additions and program expansions as school begins.

“We have lots of changes,” said Principal Scott Loeslie.

Two programs, English as a Second Language and Title I, have more staff to help accommodate Hmong and special needs students.

“The biggest change, if we look at that picture from a district perspective, is last year we had only one ESL teacher for the entire district. This year, we'll have three,” he said.

There are also three full-time Title I teachers.

“Our Title I staff has really expanded in the last few years,” he said. “It's a matter of the services we need.”

Also among the changes is a computerized test devise to analyze students' performances in reading and language arts. The program is called MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) through the Northwest Evaluation Association. It will be implemented in either grades two through nine or two through 10, Loeslie said.

It's a program he's excited about.

“I think that's really going to help us pinpoint the instruction we need to deliver. It's going to be a really exciting tool we all can have access to,” he said.

He hopes more disciplines can be added to test later down the road.

“Like anything new, you have to try it out for a while,” he said.

Neighboring schools have used the program, he said. “We know it's good. It has a proven track record,” he said. From a teaching and learning standpoint, it will help everyone, he said.

The school year is already off to a fresh start with new staff at the school.

“I guess it's always exciting when you have new staff in the building,” he said. Newcomers and veterans gel together to make a solid educational team, he said.

“It's a good place, and we have gotten better because of the new additions and the new staff,” he said

See this week's Headlight-herald for the rest of this article.

Higher student numbers expected at high school

Tracy Area High School leaders are expecting about 485 students on the first day of school, according to second-year Principal Chad Anderson.

If the forecast is correct, school enrollment will be up about 30 students compared with last spring.

The school faculty has three new faces.

Derek Flann, a graduate of Concordia College, Moorhead, will be teaching three classes: seventh grade geography, eighth grade history, and sophomore history. A 1999 graduate of BOLD High School in Olivia, Flann played both football and baseball at Concordia. This fall he has served as an assistant football coach with the Panther football program. He and his wife, Erin, live in Tracy.

Flann's position was created to alleviate large social studies class sizes that existed last year.

See this week's Headlight-herald for the rest of this article.

AFS serves up triple treat
Students hail from France, Italy & Guatemala

By Brady Averill

Three countries. Three AFS students. Three perspectives.

Two weeks ago, three AFS students from abroad arrived in Tracy. For the next year, they'll live in the area and attend Tracy Area High School. They'll improve their English skills, understand better the blended culture of North Americans, and embrace opportunities few have the chance to experience.

Family connections

Diana Benavente hails from the Central American country Guatemala. She hopes to build her English-speaking skills and represent her home country. She lives with Jeanine and Jim Vandendriessche. Her brother and sister, Leonel and Claudia also lived with them in the early `90s. The 17-year-old has known her exchange parents for 10 years, making the Minnesota transition a little easier.

“I feel good here because I know this family maybe 10 years ago,” Benavente said.

“I like this family because they are good persons. They give me love,” she said.

Her new Tracy home actually feels like home, she said.

Venturing from Guatemala to the northern tip of the United States boasts many differences. She sites the landscape, people and size as some.

“I like this country because it's different than my country,” she said.

Her hometown is Guatemala City, the country's capital. It makes her a big-city gal, but she enjoys the small-town feeling where everybody knows everybody, she said. During trips to the downtown scene, she's met several friendly people, she said.

“It's small, but it's beautiful,” she said.

Benavente, who is following her siblings' path of an AFS experience, said learning English is important in her country. Her parents encouraged her to learn English and live in the United States.

Her sister is an English teacher, and helped prepare Benavente.

The Guatemalan teenager joined the Twister danceline team at TAHS. As she learns a dance they will debut at the Miss Tracy Scholarship Program, she's teaching the girls some new Latin moves.

“They like salsa, and I teach salsa,” she said.

Because she has already met a number of her classmates and TAHS students through the team, she's excited about starting school, she said.

That way, it will be easier.

See this week's Headlight-Herald for the rest of this article.

Commission gets charges against police chief

The Tracy Police Commission is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider civil charges against Police Chief Bryan Hillger. However, the citizen whose complaint led to the charges is asking that the commission drop the charges, casting doubt on whether the charges will be considered.

Gary Tholen, in a short written notice to City Administrator Audrey Koopman Monday, requested that the commission not consider the charges against the chief, and that the proceedings be dropped.

City Administrator Audrey Koopman said Monday afternoon that it is unlikely that the police commission will consider the charges in light of the Tholen request.

Police Commission Chairman Thad Lessman could not be reached for comment Monday or Tuesday. Bernie Holm and Todd Radke are the other commission members.

Charges filed

The charges against the police chief were drawn up and referred to the police commission on a 4-3 vote by the Tracy City Council on July 26. (Jan Arvizu, Mike Fraser, Russ Stobb, and Tim Byrne voted for the charges, with Mayor Steve Ferrazzano, Robert Caron, and Greg Torkelson voting against). According to city charter, it is the police commission's responsibility to consider the merits of the charges, and determine what discipline, if any, to impose on a police officer found guilty of a charge.

At a Thursday, August 26 police commission meeting, commissioners formally received the council's charges against Hillger for the first time. Hillger was also presented with a copy of the charges for the first time.

The council asked the commission to determine if the police chief was "guilty of inefficiency or misconduct."

The council's official charges were drafted as follows:

"The Tracy City Council, as appointing authority, requests determination by the Police Civil Service Commission if Bryan Hillger, chief of police, was guilty of inefficiency and/or misconduct, by:

"a) In his capacity as a police officer for the City of Tracy did an act knowing it was in excess of his lawful authority, and/or,

"b) Under color of official authority, intentionally and unlawfully injured another in the other's person, property or rights under the following circumstances:

"By failing to properly use standard police procedure, including adequate investigation, in making a defamatory statement of driver's license fraud concerning Gary Tholen in his communication with the Department of Public Safety and/or,

"Using his office in an attempt to coerce Krysta Tholen, a juvenile, for surrender of her restricted farm work license, when by his own admission Bryan Hillger never intended to request prosecution of Krysta Tholen for any violation of her restricted farm license or to request prosecution of Gary Tholen relating to an alleged fraudulent application for said restricted farm work license."

Citizen complaint

The council's charges centered around a chain of events that began last summer when an unidentified individual or individuals complained to Tracy police that Tholen's then 15-year-old improperly used a farm work driver's permit to drive to work at the Tracy Aquatic Center.

On August 22, Hillger mailed a hand-written note to Gary and Theresa Tholen, asking that their daughter turn in her farm permit within a week. The Tholens also received a copy of a letter Hillger had sent to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, asking that the Tholen girl's farm permit be canceled. In the letter, Hillger charged that while the Tholens do own agricultural land, "they are not actively involved in farming the land..." The police chief wrote that the farm permit was obtained "under what I consider to be fraudulent circumstances."

Tholen subsequently appealed to Hillger to withdraw his request for the farm permit forfeiture, and asked that the chief apologize for charging that the permit had been obtained by fraudulent means. Tholen asserted that the police chief did not conduct a proper investigation before making the allegations. Tholen maintained that his daughter had lawfully met state criteria for the farm permit, because she is required to work on the farmland he and his wife own and manage. Tholen said that he and his wife own more than 1,000 acres of agricultural land.

Following the August 22 correspondence with the Tholens and the state, Hillger referred the matter to City Attorney Frank Nielsen. Nielsen asked that the Tholens turn in the farm permit by first August 28 or face prosecution. Nielsen later requested an opinion from the state attorney general's office.

In December, Hillger told Tholen's attorney that he was not pursuing charges in the case.

In February, Gary Tholen presented a formal complaint against Hillger's handling of the case to the Tracy City Council. The council discussed the complaint at a closed meeting Feb. 23, which Hillger had requested be open to the public.

In May, the council discussed the Tholen complaint at an open council meeting. Jim Kerr, assistant city attorney, advised the council that it was their responsibility to determine whether Tholen's complaint had enough merit to be passed on to the police commission. If so, he advised, the council needed to draw up specific charges against the chief, to be considered by the police commission. If charges against the chief were approved, Kerr said, the subsequent police commission proceedings would be open to the public.

The council discussed the Tholen complaint at three closed meetings before approving the charges against Hillger July 26.

At last week's commission meeting, Kerr outlined recommendations for the commission to take in considering the charges against Hillger. However, Kerr stressed that how the commission proceeded was their decision. The attorney said that he was advising the commission at the request of Koopman, who he noted was an ex-officio member of the police commission. Kerr said that he did not intend to participate in future commission meetings regarding the charges against Hillger.

See this week's Headlight-Herald for the rest of this article.

Over 2,000 take in
Milroy combine demo

By Brady Averill

If food and beverage sales signal a good turnout, the combine demolition derby in Milroy Saturday was a hit. Twelve hundred hamburgers, 400 hot dogs and 23 kegs of beer sold out.

Over 2,000 people attended the Milroy Fire Department's daylong fundraiser. The event included a children's pedal pull, tractor and pick-up pulls, and a unique combine demolition derby.

“It exceeded our expectations. It was a fantastic show, and all of our hard work paid off,” said Tim Zwach, event coordinator and volunteer firefighter.

Money from admissions and concessions has yet to be counted. However, Zwach thinks the derby raised plenty of money.

“It puts us over the top of what we needed to complete our building project,” he said.

The goal of Saturday's event was to raise enough money to complete a garage addition, pay for a rescue rig and some equipment. Leftover money will be used for future projects, he said.

The atmosphere, crowd and spectacles resulted in a successful fundraiser. Zwach was still ecstatic Monday during a telephone interview.

“How would I describe it? It was just fantastic. All the spectators loved the pulls, but they really liked the combine demolition derby. They were really into it,” he said.

“We had a very good crowd on hand,” he said. “The crowd was thick, and everyone was enjoying themselves,” he said.

At around 3:30 p.m., cars poured in from all directions. There wasn't enough parking near the baseball field, so people parked in town around houses and businesses, Zwach said.

Zwach drove a donated combine in the demolition derby.

“It was exhilarating,” he said.

Another participant, Jeff Knott, had nothing but rave reviews for the event.

“Super time,” he said about his first-time experience driving in a demolition derby.

The retired combine he drove was all decked out in red, white and blue colors. His son and friends helped him get ready for the consolation round, which he won.

It took several hours to get the combine ready to meet the derby's regulation guidelines, he said.

“But like I said, I'd do it again,” he said.

The combine demolition derby, Zwach promises, will return next June.

Knott, whose combine needs only a few hours of rehabilitation, said he's ready for the next one.

“If you didn't see the first one, you better see the next one. We're only going to make it bigger and better from here,” Zwach said.

• • •

Winners in Saturday's events were:

Combine Demolition Derby

1) John Schutte, New Auburn; 2) Denny Oeltjenbruns, Marshall; 3) Andrew Schutte, New Auburn; Consolation-Jeff Knott, Milroy; “Best in Show”-Denny Oeltjenbruns.

Tractor Pull:

3,500 class—1) Gene Frieseh, 2) Brydon Ourada, 3) Lee Leysen; 4,500 class—1) Lee Leysen, 2) Brandon Miller, 3) Gene Friesen; 5,500 class—1) Wally Engel, 2) Devin DeVoss, 3) Lee Leysen; 6,500 class—1) Mike Buesing, 2) Wally Engel, 3) Kevin Vianne; 7500 class—1) Brad Fuherman, 2) Kevin Vianne; 8500 class—1) Bud Fuherman, 2) Ed Haney; 9,500 class—1) Rick Martens, 2) Ed Haney; 10,500 class—Jamie LaBat, 2) Jason LaVoy, 3) Dan Roby; 11,500 class—1) Roger Schwartz, 2) Adam Goblisch, 3) Adam Fuchs.

Kids' pedal pull

Ages 5-6—1) Emily Buysse, 2) Tyler Illg, P.J. Bot; Ages 7-8—1) Sarah Buysse, 2) Jacob Welu, 3) Spencer Van Overbeke; Ages 9-10—1) Derek Buysse, 2) Stephanie Bot, 3) Dillan Sando; Ages 11-12—1) Rodney Schaufler, 2) Devan Duetz, 3) Chantal Fuchs.

Pick-up Pull

Results not available as of Tuesday.