Herald Journal Columns
Feb. 6, 2006, Herald Journal

By the time you read this, I’ll be in jail


That’s right, by the time most of you read this column, I will be in jail – on the outside of the bars, of course.

I have resigned from full-time employment at Herald Journal, and have accepted a job as a correctional officer at the McLeod County Jail in Glencoe. As you read this column Monday morning, I will be working my first shift, getting trained in.

Several years ago, I became a reserve police officer for the City of Silver Lake, and have enjoyed doing this kind of work. I feel that this is the next logical step in a transition toward a career in corrections/law enforcement.

I have enjoyed my time here as a staff writer at Herald Journal, and have been fortunate enough to cover some great events and happenings in our area. Becoming involved in the paper at a very young age has given me a unique perspective to watch all of the communities Herald Journal serves grow and prosper. Along with the communities, the paper, itself, has also grown, and is something I am proud to have been a part of.

Herald Journal owners Chris Schultz and Dale Kovar have this newspaper thing down, and readers are lucky to have the staff of the Herald Journal watching out for their best interests.

Throughout my years here, I’ve enjoyed meeting many great people, and writing about many things, including Waverly native Tiffany Ogle, who was Miss Minnesota 2004, and a contestant for Miss America.

Try as I would, Chris and Dale just wouldn’t spring for sending me to Atlantic City to cover the Miss America pageant. I’d challenge anyone to tell me a better assignment for a young, single, male reporter to cover.

In Howard Lake, I enjoyed getting in touch with many retired Howard Lake firefighters for a story about the school fire of 30 years ago. I’ve also enjoyed over the years being a sales representative for many people, including the last account I maintained – Gerry’s Super Valu in Howard Lake. My best wishes to Gerry and his family, and a sincere thanks for everything over the years, including being there with a little note when it meant the most.

In Montrose, being in the right place at the right time led me to getting a photograph of the Dongoski family behind the counter at Red’s Cafe. Seven of Mike and Mary Dongoski’s eight children worked at Red’s, and were enjoying lunch at the Miller’s restaurant the day I showed up to take a photo for the story about their 30 years of ownership.

I’ve also enjoyed serving as vice president of the Montrose-Waverly Chamber of Commerce, and helping out at the first two Montrose-Waverly Ice Festivals. Former chamber president Kent Houston taught me a lot about running an organization such as a chamber, which is something I will always be appreciative of.

In 2001, I was able to interview many local people who were featured as extras in the movie Herman USA, which was filmed in New Germany.

More recently in Winsted, a story that had been forgotten except for a select few whose families were involved, was brought back to life with the tale of the original nail gun being invented in Winsted by John Ollig, Marvin Hirsch, Reuben Miller, and James Westerholm.

Among many other things, watching the teamwork that took place when Winsted Police Officer Glen Strom and former Winsted Fire Chief Paul Herbolsheimer coordinated the rescue of a pet bird out of a tree for a Winsted widow showed me just what small-town life is all about.

The Lester Prairie School Board has probably been my most consistent assignment over the years, and a “beat” I have enjoyed covering. I am not much of a meeting guy, but in this job, they come with the territory. I don’t think I will ever meet a more honest and trustworthy school administrator than Joe Miller.

I’m also thankful for the time I’ve spent as secretary of the Lester Prairie Business Association throughout the past three years. To Mike and Brenda Merriman – keep chasing those Oaks.

In addition to capturing the good at the newspaper, the bad comes along with it. Like any area, ours stirs up a controversy every once in a while; and sometimes, even a tragedy happens in our own backyards.

Without going into details, I will never forget being a photographer arriving on the scene of a car accident where someone just lost their life, fires, floods, aircraft crashes, and other disasters that impact people in so many ways.

I started at the paper when I was still in school. I believe my first official “byline” was a story I wrote in spring of 1998 when country singer Stephanie Bentley was added to the Winstock line-up.

Which leads me to Winstock, which has always been nothing short of a fantastic opportunity for me to enhance my writing, photography, and public relation skills.

It is hard to even try to think of all the things the festival has done for me – from talking to country legend Merle Haggard on his tour bus after his show in 2000, to learning on the spur of the moment how to direct traffic coming at you in four different directions, to photographing some of the biggest names in the country music industry.

It has been amazing watching something that two hometown guys, Tom Ollig and Dick Langenfeld, started 13 years ago (This is the 13th year, right Bonnie?) grow into one of the nation’s premier country music festivals.

The Langenfelds and Olligs, along with a core group of Winsted people, started the annual festival back in 1994.

Committee member Bonnie Quast has done more for the community and for that festival than most people probably will ever know – she has taught me a lot over the years.

Winstock turns into its own community one weekend a year, and to see the efforts people faithfully put into it year-after-year, is a pretty wonderful thing.

To that core group of people that have stood by me from the time I was the annoying little kid wanting to meet a country singer, through covering the event for the newspaper, to everything in between – my biggest thank you.

Although there have been some ups and downs, I will always say that I do enjoy the festival, and still hope to be involved with it. Relationships that are formed, friendships that are made, and great music that is heard – make for nothing short of a winning combination, and something I will always be supportive of. It doesn’t hurt that it’s right in our backyard, and that the funds benefit local education, too.

One of the most important pieces of advice ever given to me came from Haggard during that interview, when he told me, “When it stops being fun, then it’s time to quit.”

I’m not saying the Herald Journal isn’t fun, but writing does get hard after a while, and I also think change is a good thing.

I am looking forward to this new opportunity, and am thankful to everyone here at Herald Journal, along with the people I’ve dealt with on a regular basis for story ideas, etc., that I’ve worked with over the years, for all the experiences and memories – I wouldn’t trade them for anything, and I hope to still keep in touch.

I just hope I don’t see any of you at my new job.

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