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Remembering 2008

By Staff | Dec 30, 2008

EDITOR’S NOTE – This is the first in a series of articles to chronicle the life and times of Palo Alto County during 2008. Another installment will appear in The Democrat on Wednesday.

It was another outstanding year for Emmetsburg and Palo Alto County! The preceding 12 months were filled with the ups and downs of life. Following is the first of three installments of a review of the year that was 2008. Photos, highlighting moments from January through April can be found on Page 8 of today’s “Reporter.”


• Palo Alto County welcomed the first baby of 2008 at Palo Alto County Hospital on Jan. 2. Ian Thomas Roethler, son of Justin and Angie Roethler of rural West Bend, was presented with a gift basket filled with gifts donated by several Emmetsburg businesses.

• Record crowds attended the 2008 Palo Alto County Caucuses. An estimated 300 Republicans showed up in the auditorium at the Emmetsburg campus of Iowa Lakes Community College, while 688 Democrats flocked to the Smith Wellness Center gymnasium. For Republicans, Mike Huckabee came out on top, followed closely by Mitt Romney. Democrats gave 62 delegates to Hillary Clinton, 53 delegates to Barack Obama, 49 delegates to John Edwards, 14 delegates to Joe Biden, and six delegates to Bill Richardson.

• The Emmetsburg City Council Welcomed New Faces–Mayor John Schad and council representatives Corey Gramowski and Sandy Pelzer took their seats at their first council meeting on Jan. 14. Schad told the council of his intention of starting a Web site airing city council meetings in their entirety.

• It was announced that Ron Seaman of Emmetsburg, and his sons Ty and Tim Seaman, were to be escorts for the Grand March of the 2008 State Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The Seamans were chosen as a family whose presence connotated its commitment to the sport of wrestling.

• The Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors Approved Raises For Elected Officials–The Palo Alto County Compensation Board previously approved a recommendation of 4.3 percent for the five elected officials, auditor, recorder, treasurer, attorney, and sheriff. However, the Supervisors approved a lesser amount, establishing a 2.8 percent raise.

• Verdicts Handed Down in Ten-Year Old Murder-Kidnapping Case -Third Judicial District Court Judge Don Cortney found Juan Humberton Castillo-Alvarez guilty on all three charges filed against him in connection with the murder of Gregory “Sky” Erickson in 1997.


• Citizen of the Year Named – Former Emmetsburg Mayor Myrna Heddinger was named recipient of the Charles A. Hughes Citizen of the Year Award. The presentation was made Feb. 1, during the annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet at Iowa Lakes Community College.

• Conference Board Met – Palo Alto County Assessor Lois Naig reviewed her yearly report as members of the Palo Alto County Conference Board and representatives of the Emmetsburg City Council and Wild Rose Casino & Resort met in the courthouse basement. The topic of the casino’s assessment generated considerable discussion at the meeting of the organization, which is comprised of school board members, mayors, and the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors.

• After hearing an idea to issue the second portion of the county’s bond plan earlier than was originally planned, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors agreed to proceed with the additional $5 million plan after discussion with the county’s financial advisor. The total cost of the bond is $11.8 million with the initial $5 million previously issued.

• John O’Leary of Emmetsburg was selected as Grand Marshal of the 2008 St. Patrick’s Parade in Emmetsburg. O’Leary, who is responsible for painting the green stripe down Broadway each year prior to the St. Pat’s Parade, was nominated by Rick and Diane Brennan.

• Plans Announced To Acquire Drug Dog – According to Palo Alto County Sheriff Dennis Goeders, acquisition of a drug dog would greatly enhance the security of Palo Alto County residents. The drug dog would be certified in the detection of dangerous drugs during traffic stops, search warrants, and other suspicious circumstances.


• More than $1.5 million was distributed to communities and organizations in Palo Alto County during the Second Grant Awards night held Mar. 1, in the Wild Rose Casino & Resort Ballroom. Gaming license holder Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation presented grants ranging in amount from $900 for the 4-H Babysitting Training Clinic to $75,000 for revolving loan funds for both Palo Alto County Economic Development and West Bend Economic Development Corporations, as well as a pump/tank truck for the West Bend Fire Department. Each of the county’s nine communities also earned funding on a per capita basis.

• St. Pat’s Royalty – Four lovely young ladies were crowned to reign over the 2008 St. Pat’s festivities during the annual St. Patrick’s Pageant at Corrigan Hall. Little Lassie was Natalie Ruiz, Little Miss was Anna Brennan, and Irish Miss was Paige Naig; all are from Emmetsburg. Ringsted resident April Gunderson was selected as Miss Shamrock.

• Celebrating St. Pat’s Day – Despite chilly temperatures and overcast skies, the luck of the Irish prevailed and the 2008 St. Pat’s Celebration went down in history books as a success. The streets were lined with people enjoying the annual celebration.

• Main Street Community Theater Stages Steinbeck Drama – Emmetsburg MSCT presented the John Steinbeck classic “Of Mice & Men,” written in 1937. The show ran over two consecutive weekends in March and April.

• School Board Approves Budget, Tax Asking Down – It was good news for the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education and for the community of Emmetsburg at the March meeting of the board. The board considered the proposed budget for the 2008-2009 school year, and learned that the school district’s tax asking had decreased by $1.

• Emmetsburg Public Library Celebrated 100 Years – “Exactly a century ago this month, on Mar. 8, 1908, a referendum to establish the Emmetsburg Public Library and to levy a tax was passed with a vote of 358 to 226. Women were allowed to vote in the special election.” Mary Ellen Leners, retired librarian, shared this information and other history at a program honoring the library’s 100 year history.


• The ribbon was cut and the new Regional Emergency Response Training Center at the Emmetsburg Campus of Iowa Lakes Community College was officially dedicated Apr. 5. The Center was built because of two grants from the State of Iowa. The facility will be used by area firefighters and paramedics as a training facility to simulate risks faced during a fire or other emergency situation.

• Swearing In -Emmetsburg Mayor John Schad conducted swearing-in ceremonies for Emmetsburg city officials–Kim Kibbie was sworn in as city clerk, Jill Kliegl was sworn in as finance director and deputy clerk, and Lisa Gappa was sworn in as secretary of the Emmetsburg Municipal Utilities Board of Trustees.

• Palo Alto County Supervisors agreed with a recommendation by the county engineer to extend an embargo on North Huron Street in Emmetsburg to limit the amount of damage to the roadway during the spring thaw.

• Community Beautification Underway – New benches, planters, and trash receptacles were placed throughout the downtown Emmetsburg business district in an effort to beautify the downtown area.

• Groundbreaking ceremonies were held at the Emmetsburg Business Park, 58-acres located on the southeast side of town along 25th Street. The new business park has 33 lots available for small business and industry. Funding of $685,000 came from USDA Rural Development, which included a $200,000 guaranteed loan to Iowa Trust & Savings Bank in Emmetsburg and a $485,000 direct loan to the Emmetsburg Community Development Corporation.