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Surprenant named to board


Matt Surprenant will succeed Al Landa on the Tracy Area Public Schools Board of Education.

Monday, board chairman Rod Benson presented two candidates for the board, Surprenant and Sarah Willhite. He noted that two other candidates had considered applying, but declined because they are on the fire department, and the department’s meetings are on the same night as the school board’s. Tom Hook, whose term on the board ended in December, was also approached but declined the invitation.

Benson said both candidates had many strengths to offer. However, he recommended that the board choose Surprenant since he is from Currie, a part of the district that was not previously represented on the board.

“I’ve always been an advocate of including the whole district,” Benson said. “We haven’t had anyone from Currie in quite some time.”

The board voted to appoint Surprenant to the remaining two years of Landa’s term.

Rignell family grateful for Tracy caring

By Seth Schmidt


Friends and community members have set up a benefit account for Tom Rignell, a Lake Shetek resident who had an artificial heart implanted by a team of Rochester Mayo Clinic physicians on Feb. 9.

Rignell, a 1971 Tracy Area High School graduate, remains in the intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.

Wade Rignell, Tom’s son,  says that he “can’t find the words to explain how thankful the family feels” at the outpouring of community support they have experienced since the heart surgery.  Thousands of people have extended their best wishes to the family on Tom Rignell’s Caring Bridge on-line site.  Many others have sent cards and letters.

“As a family, it’s been amazing to us how many people care about dad and are pulling for him to get through this,”  Wade Rignell said.  “It brings tears to my eyes knowing how many people are thinking about him.  On those tough days when you really have to dig deep, knowing that people care really helps.”

Wade described his father as “a fighter.”  In the first painful days after his extensive surgery, Wade Rignell said that the Caring Bridge comments and cards helped give his father strength to keep battling.

Tom Rignell, 61, was an insurance agent in Tracy for more than 20 years, first for American Family, and later for the Tracy Insurance agency.  He retired from Tracy Insurance in 2013, after a worsening heart condition forced him to stop working.

A former Tracy Chamber of Commerce board president, Rignell is a well-known community volunteer.  He served for many years as a Panther boys’ basketball coach, and kept a busy schedule with his part-time, after-hours house painting business.

The artificial heart implanted in Rignell’s chest is designed to be a temporary bridge until a donor heart becomes available for a transplant.  Mayo heart doctors told the family to expect 6-12 months of hospitalization in the St. Mary’s heart ward, and perhaps longer, waiting for the transplant.

For more on this article, see this week's Headlight-Herald.