Archive for Hot Topics

Mistaken letter causes stir for New Germany church

NEW GERMANY, MN – An error of sending an incorrect letter angered a family and ended up with a television news story last week.

St. Mark Lutheran Church of New Germany mistakenly sent a letter regarding the church’s self-exclusion policy to Darleen Pawelk, 84, a long-time member, rather than the intended letter regarding a peaceful release from the congregation.

The incorrect letter also referred to her not being eligible to be buried next to her late husband in the church cemetery.

A family member posted the letter on social media which caused a flurry of comments, and eventually a story on Fox 9 News last Monday.

The church has “deeply apologized” and acknowledged Pawelk may be buried next to her husband.

Photo: Winsted’s new councilor takes oath of office

WINSTED, MN – “I’m really excited to be here,” Winsted’s newest city council member, Patricia “Patty” Fitzgerald, said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Patty and her husband, Rich, moved to Winsted from California last April. They’ve quickly become involved in the community, and are members of the Winsted Lions Club and the Winsted Lake Watershed Association.

Look for a story about Patty in the Monday, Feb. 8 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here to subscribe online or in print.

Rich Fitzgreald holds the Bible while his wife, Patty, takes her oath of office, read by Mayor Steve Stotko.

Rich Fitzgerald holds the Bible while his wife, Patty, takes her oath of office, read by Mayor Steve Stotko.

Howard Lake woman wins $100,000

HOWARD LAKE, MN – “I don’t normally play the lottery. Yesterday, I just had a feeling and thought, ‘I’m just going to go for it,’” explained Lacy Detlefsen as she claimed a $100,000 prize at the lottery’s office in Roseville Jan. 19.

“I had a $20 winning ticket that was given to me as a Christmas present, so I decided to turn that one in and get another. I thought, ‘Go big or go home, I’ll buy the $50 ticket and see what happens,’” the Howard Lake resident recalled.

Before purchasing a Big Money scratch ticket on Jan. 18, Detlefsen asked the sales clerk, “Do people actually win on these things?” Detlefsen said the clerk replied that people do sometimes win so she went ahead with her purchase and later that day, she uncovered a $50,000 win – twice.

Roger’s Amoco Inc., located at 300 Highway 55 N.W. in Maple Lake, sold the winning ticket.

Lottery players have won more than $6.3 billion. All Minnesotans are winners because $2.5 billion in proceeds have helped preserve, restore and protect Minnesota’s environment in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties. Lottery proceeds also help fund state programs including education, public safety, health & human services.

For more information about the Minnesota Lottery, visit

Highway 12 crash kills one, injures three

DELANO, MN – A Wednesday evening crash on Highway 12 west of Delano that killed a 40-year-old Cokato woman and injured three other individuals was alcohol-related, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.

Michael Steer, 24, of Waverly, was driving his 2003 Ford pickup east in the westbound lane of Highway 12 and struck a 2001 Chevrolet Lumina head-on. The Lumina then spun around and struck a 2002 Ford Escort.

Mayla Macon, a passenger in the Lumina who was wearing her seatbelt, was killed. The driver of that vehicle, Dustin Helget, 30, of Cokato, was seriously injured. He was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.

Steer, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. The Minnesota State Patrol reported that alcohol was detected in Steer’s system at the time of the crash.

The driver of the Escort, Carol Jahnke, 65, of South Haven, was transported to Buffalo Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. She was wearing a seatbelt.

The crash occurred at 10:47 p.m. west of Ebersole Avenue Southwest.

No more valedictorian/salutatorian at HLWW?

HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN – In an effort to fairly recognize all graduating seniors who have achieved a high grade point average (GPA), Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District’s leadership team is proposing an alternative to valedictorians and salutatorians.

HLWW High School Principal Jason Mix

HLWW High School Principal Jason Mix

If approved, seniors with a GPA of 3.5 or higher would be recognized as summa cum laude, magna cum laude, or cum laude. The change would be fully implemented for the class of 2018.

“I put out a survey to Minnesota principals last year asking about their val/sal status – of the responses, about 50 percent of them no longer recognize val/sal,” HLWW High School Principal Jason Mix noted after last Monday’s school board meeting. “Some that do not recognize val/sal are Maple lake, Annandale, Big Lake,  Osakis, Milaca, LeSueur-Henderson, Canby, Browerville, Edina, and there are others.”

“Approximately 50 percent of schools in Minnesota no longer use valedictorian and salutatorian status; they’ve gotten away from it because it promotes competition,” High School Principal Jason Mix said at the Jan. 11 school board meeting, referring to schools he surveyed on the topic.

Wade Moravec, a high school math teacher at HLWW, commented that this system would give students more freedom to choose rigorous courses, instead of being tempted to go for an “easy A.”

“I personally feel that changing the system a little bit helps foster growth,” he said.

Board Member Michelle Heuer agreed, noting that students may opt out of a difficult advanced placement course due to concern for their class rank.

With the proposed change, “everyone who qualifies is recognized,” Heuer said. “Everybody who does the work should get the credit.”

Board Member Charles Bush disagreed, stating that cum laude designations are typically for colleges, not high schools.

“It seems like we’ve lost respect for history and tradition, and we’re going to change everything,” he said, adding that, years ago, schools used to grade on a bell-shaped curve. “I’m not saying that’s the way we should grade, but I think we should look at it.”

Bush also noted that students should not strive for a high GPA in order to win an award.

“I just think we’re going overboard in the recognition,” he said. “. . . I don’t know that we need to be hanging these carrots out all the time.”

Mix said he was puzzled by Bush’s response, because at previous meetings, Bush advocated for students to be recognized for having part-time jobs.

“I really thought this was right up your alley,” Mix said. “I’m flabbergasted that you’re so completely against it.”

Bush answered that he is not completely against it, but he is concerned about the use of antidepressants in youth, and “the kind of pressure we’re putting on kids today.”

“I see that we’re reducing that pressure,” Board Chair Jamie Wiech commented.

Bush commented that he is worried the school is contributing to an “entitled culture.”

“Again, I’m very confused,” Board Member Joanie Kocher told Bush. “You want them to be recognized for good deeds – Why don’t you want them to be recognized for studying hard?”

Mix noted that last year, four graduating seniors at HLWW had GPAs of 3.9 or higher, but only two of them were recognized as valedictorian and salutatorian. Students with GPAs of 3.5 or higher currently graduate with honors at HLWW, so the new system would not be changing the number of students honored, he said. Instead, it would change how the students are recognized.

“We’re here to develop talent,” Mix said. “We want students to have ability to try new things, expand their minds, and work hard.”

Look for the rest of the story in the Monday, Jan. 18 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here to subscribe online or in print.

Lester Prairie man charged with fleeing police at 122 mph

LESTER PRAIRIE, MN – Bradley Michael Raiche, 48, of Lester Prairie has been charged with fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, a felony.

According to a formal complaint, a McLeod County deputy observed a vehicle driven by Raiche traveling northbound on Babcock Avenue near 190th Street Dec. 20 at approximately 8:41 p.m.

The vehicle did not have a front license plate, and had a headlight out, according to the complaint.

The deputy attempted to stop the vehicle, and observed it accelerate rapidly, and turn eastbound on Highway 7.

The deputy activated his radar, which indicated Raiche’s vehicle was traveling 122 mph in a 60 mph zone, according to the complaint.

The deputy activated his emergency lights, and Raiche’s vehicle continued eastbound, passing other vehicles.

Raiche eventually lost control of the vehicle and entered the ditch near the intersection of Highway 7 and Carver County Road 33.

Raiche told the deputy he did not have insurance on the vehicle he was driving, according to the complaint.

If convicted, Raiche faces a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine on the felony charge of fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle.

He was also charged with a misdemeanor of operating a vehicle without insurance, which is punishable by 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

The Minnesota State Patrol, Lester Prairie Police Department, Winsted Police Department, and Carver County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the traffic stop.