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A lot happened in 2012: A look back

Lake Park-Audubon High School opened a brand new 105,000-square-foot building in Lake Park in September. Photo by - Brian Basham1 / 3
Lake Park-Audubon High School students learn about new lunch policies during the first day of school in their new building in September. Photo by - Brian Basham2 / 3
Rep. Kent Eken, center, shakes hands on election night. Eken was elected to the newly created Minnesota Senate District 4 seat. Eken will now move from his seat in the House to the new seat in the Senate. Photo by - Carrie Snyder/Forum Communications, Co.3 / 3

As with any year, quite a few things happened around the Detroit Lakes and Becker County area throughout 2012.

At times, it's hard to remember top local stories without paging through each issue since January. We did the work for you.

Here are some of the top stories from around the area for this year.


• Every 10 years, ward boundaries are adjusted following the census count. This year the ward boundaries changed for the city of Detroit Lakes, which caused changes in the county as well. There were changes at the state level as well.

Though no aldermen changes were made within Detroit Lakes, the county boundaries ended up creating a new district, and pitted two commissioners against each other in a newly formed district. All commissioners had to run for re-election.

• Incumbent John Okeson defeated incumbent Gerry Schram for the District 3 Becker County Board seat.

• In the newly created county district that only saw newcomers, Ben Grimsley defeated Craig Fontaine to become the newest Becker County commissioner.

Grimsley will represent District 2, which consists of Detroit Lakes city wards 2 and 3.

• At the start of the year, Marty Waller was appointed to the DL City Council after a vacancy due to Jim Anderson's resignation. Waller ran for election in November for his alderman-at-large position and retained it.

• After many years as a legislator, Sen. Keith Langseth retired from politics this year, leaving his district open for a new senator.

• In a closely contested race for the newly created Minnesota Senate District 4, Democrat Kent Eken of Twin Valley beat Republican Phil Hansen of Detroit Lakes.

• Minnesota voters defeated a proposed amendment to the state Constitution to require a photo ID before voting.

The Minnesota vote went against a trend in other states to approve voter ID.

• Minnesotans also became the first state to reject a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

• The voters of the Frazee-Vergas School District passed an operating referendum for $700 per pupil.

• The Frazee school board will also be seeing a couple new faces in January. Incumbent Steve Jepson was re-elected along with newcomers Don Trieglaff and Tammie Nunn.

• Jackie Buboltz was the top vote-getter in the race for the Detroit Lakes School Board. Others elected to the board are Tom Seaworth and Ladd Lyngaas.

• Challenger Brad Grant defeated incumbent Jeff Quam in the battle for the title of Audubon mayor.

School districts

• The Frazee-Vergas School Board approved hiring interim superintendent Chuck Cheney for one more year. Earlier this month though, the board took action on the hiring process for a new, full-time, permanent superintendent for next school year.

• The Frazee School District went through some other changes with their staff, including terminating contracts with custodial company Marsden and food service providers Chartwells.

• The Detroit Lakes School Board approved the purchase of 244 iPads, which will go to every single 5th grader in the Detroit Lakes Public School Districts, as well as every 5th and 6th grade teacher.

The cost for this initiative is roughly $105,000.

• Lake Park-Audubon School District opened a new 105,000-square-foot high school in Lake Park and extensively remodeled its elementary school in Audubon.

Becker County

• The Becker County Courthouse upgraded security and now those entering the court wing must go through a medal detector and one-on-one screening with a security guard.

• Not only did University of Minnesota Extension Service office get a new home this year -- 1120 Eighth St. NE, Detroit Lakes -- but the 4-H program also hired a full-time coordinator, Kari Sayer.

• The Becker County Board of Commissioners agreed to contract with an invasive aquatic species specialist for six months, at a cost of $20,000.

• After interviewing county administrator finalists twice -- including Auditor-Treasurer Ryan Tangen -- the Becker County Board of Commissioners decided to send out another request for county leaders.

They eventually offered the position to Jack Ingstad.

• Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon resigned Oct. 30, retiring after more than 34 years with the sheriff's office.

Gordon was hired by the sheriff's office on July 1, 1978, as a deputy assigned to the White Earth Reservation. He served in several capacities, including as a child abuse investigator, DARE officer and for 17½ years as a K-9 officer, before being elected sheriff in November 2002.

Gordon is now under investigation, but Becker County officials remain "somewhat in the dark" about the exact nature of the investigation, though the BCA had taken possession of a boat, boat trailer and outboard motor purchased by the sheriff's office last July.

• Kelly Shannon was appointed to replace Gordon as sheriff for the remainder of Gordon's term. He said he has no plans to seek election to the position in 2014.

City of Detroit Lakes

• The Detroit Lakes City Council approved spending up to $750,000 on improvements to the Pavilion, but opted not to convert it into a year-round facility.

• Lakes Liquors Manager Brad MacMaster and the city opened a new $1.8 million liquor store in Detroit Lakes at the corner of Highway 10 and Holmes Street.

• After multiple meetings and presentations, the Detroit Lakes City Council approved becoming the landowner of the Detroit Mountain four-season project and contributing $300,000 to the project. The city is waiting to see if they received Legacy grant funding for the project.

• Veterans Memorial Park in Detroit Lakes --located along Highway 10 -- was dedicated this year.

White Earth Reservation

• Chairman Erma Vizenor and the White Earth Nation proposed to build a Twin Cities casino that could help fund a new Vikings stadium. An early estimate indicated a new Twin Cities casino could produce $300 million profit a year, which Vizenor said would be split between the tribe and the state.

The proposal was eventually turned down.

• White Earth Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor and District 3 Tribal Council Representative Kenneth "Gus" Bevins have both been re-elected to four year terms.

Both won their respective primary elections by more than 50 percent, which under tribal election rules means they are re-elected and there was no general election this year.

• In May, the Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Event Center celebrated 20 years in existence.

• White Earth lost one of its best storytellers when Andy Favorite died in May. Favorite served as tribal historian and archivist and was a pipe-carrier for the tribe.

Other newsworthy stories

• Mahube Community Council -- which has traditionally served the counties of Mahnomen, Hubbard and Becker --has expanded its territory to include Otter Tail and Wadena counties. It is now Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership.

• A pre-prom mock accident at the Detroit Lakes High School, became real when an unmanned fire truck slowly accelerate down the street and plowed into two cars that were staged for the mock crash, injuring several people.

Authorities said nobody appeared to be injured very seriously -- although several were taken to the emergency room at Essentia Health-St. Mary's to be checked out.

• Trumpeter swans were celebrated this year on the 25th anniversary of being reintroduced to Minnesota. They were released 25 years ago in Tamarac Wildlife Refuge.

• Miss Northwest Siri Freeh, Lake Park, won the Miss Minnesota crown. She will compete in the Miss America pageant in January.

• The Detroit Lakes area lost one of its greatest voices when broadcasting legend Al Leighton passed away. Leighton was the founder of Leighton Enterprises, the broadcasting company that owns all three radio stations in Detroit Lakes (KDLM, KRCQ and WAVE 104.1), as well as TV3.

• The Becker County Sheriff's Office has yet to solve the mystery behind a July 4 boat crash on Big Cormorant Lake that left a West Fargo man seriously injured.

Deputies have searched, and seized, multiple boats, looking for the one that hit Terry Erickson and his family.

• WE Fest celebrated its 30th anniversary in August, asking back the band Alabama, which played the inaugural festival.

• Cinema 5 in Detroit Lakes closed briefly this year and reopened under new ownership. The theater is now 3-D capable.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.