Back to the May-Jun 2022 issue

Bits & Briefs

Recognizing Civic All-Stars

Photo courtesy City of Winnebago

Move over, red carpet. The City of Winnebago celebrates residents who have demonstrated committed, long-term civic engagement with its very own Hall of Fame. The tradition dates back to 1989 and is popular with the community.

“After attending funerals of cherished community members that had died, a group got together and came up with the Hall of Fame to recognize those living who have gone above and beyond in their selfless giving of their time and talents to the betterment of the community,” says City Administrator Judi Hynes.

Each recipient has been honored with a plaque and reception. The names are also displayed at City Hall, and the Faribault County Register provides a write-up of their accomplishments. The most recent inductee to the Hall of Fame is “community cheerleader” and former Mayor Jeremiah Schutt.

A Big Lift From the Littles

Happy, smiling, jumping kidsWho doesn’t need a little boost of cheerful confidence these days? To answer the call, West Side Elementary School students in Healdsburg, California, have recorded motivational messages that anyone can call in to hear. Dial the PepToc hotline number, (707) 998-8410, and navigate the menu to receive the kind of encouragement you need (yep, there are options).

The hotline is the vision of art teacher Jessica Martin. Initially the hotline was scheduled to run through the end of the school year, but after receiving peaks of 11,000 calls an hour this spring, Martin launched a fundraiser to support the hotline’s volume and possibly maintain it for years to come.

Farmington’s Anniversary Video

Several city employees participated in this video to say, “Happy birthday, Farmington!” (Photo courtesy City of Farmington)

A festive “Happy birthday, Farmington” video was recently shared to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the city’s first election on April 1, 1872. Communications Specialist Lauren Siebenaler was inspired to make the video by a social media campaign celebrating the 150- year anniversary of Gainesville, Florida.

The whole city organization is well-represented in the video, including several City Council members, Municipal Liquor Operations Manager Josh Solinger, and K9 officer Smoke. “From the north to the south, we are excited to be celebrating this huge milestone,” says Siebenaler.

The city will be incorporating the sesquicentennial theme into many public events. Watch the 46-second video at

PTSD: It’s Treatable

Doctor-patient conversation

National Mental Health Awareness Week is May 10-16, and June is PTSD National Awareness Month. These are great opportunities to review your city’s mental health and wellness culture and practices. This is especially important for public safety personnel who, due to the nature of their job duties, may be at increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health conditions.

As you think about your city’s wellness culture, take a few moments to watch a new video from the League of Minnesota Cities featuring Dr. Heather Rose-Carlson, clinical psychologist, and Scott Marks, Minnetonka police officer and trained counselor.

Available now as part of the League’s PTSD and Mental Health Toolkit, this short video introduces important mental health concepts with a public safety lens. It helps public safety officers see how members of their team can recover from trauma and return to their careers. Watch the video at

Oronoco Fire Lends a Hand Across the Globe

Johann Sonnenberg, right, receives a donation from Myrtle Fire Chief Paul Hansen. (Photo by Kathy Brandt-Rucker)

The Oronoco Fire Department recently led an initiative to collect and send fire and rescue gear to Ukrainian firefighters. Training Officer Johann Sonnenberg organized the collection.

“You can see pictures of firefighters over there who are wearing all their gear as well as a bulletproof vest,” says Sonnenberg, “because not only are they fighting fires, but they’re doing it in the middle of a war.”

To get started, the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s office put him in touch with Chaplain Ministries International (CMI) in Lindstrom, and they took on the logistics of delivering the donated items to Ukraine. CMI encouraged Sonnenberg to think bigger, and the call for gear quickly spread to chiefs in Minnesota’s 15 fire regions. Sonnenberg noted that fire gear must be retired 10 years after manufacture date, so it’s common for departments to have extra gear around that is otherwise usable.

The drive was able to provide more than 200 sets of turnout gear gathered from 42 departments across the state (and Wisconsin!), including coats, pants, boots, helmets, gloves, and axes. Sonnenberg gave donors a certificate and a few other small gifts of appreciation.

A Sweet Community Tradition

A young resident enjoys a recent tree tapping event in Wayzata. (Photo by Merrily Babcock)

Wayzata offered residents a limited supply of tree tapping kits this spring as a good way to get outside and try out a time-honored spring ritual — turning tree sap from maples and other species into syrup. The kits, 30 in all, were offered for $20, and if returned clean (not sticky!) syrupers got back $10. Detailed instructions on the tree tapping process were offered on the city’s website.

During the pandemic, the DIY approach has temporarily replaced large in-person events the city’s Parks and Trails Board has held since 2011 to highlight the city’s Big Woods Preserve maple forest. In a typical year, each step of the process is a community gathering, and once the sap is collected, a large pan is set over a barrel stove fire to reduce the sap to syrup. Residents sign up for three-hour shifts to feed the fire and fill the sap pan. There are also “community pours” for distributing the finished syrup in glass jars. “It is a glorious time of year to be outside,” says Parks and Trails Board Member Merrily Babcock. “The sun is rising higher in the sky, the birds start to return, and it’s too early to clean up the yard.” Organizers plan to return to hosting the events in person in 2023.

City Electric Vehicle Actions at a Glance

Electric car at a chargerWhat are other cities doing to get ready for electric vehicles? Now you can find out what cities from across the state are doing all in one place. The EV City Resource Database from the Great Plains Institute includes descriptions of city activity — everything from fleet studies to charger installations. And if you want to get a fleet vehicle review, or find out more about an ordinance, city contact info is included, too. Learn more at

To use the database, set up an account with a name and password, and take the tour to get familiar with the features. Want to add your city’s progress on EV readiness? Add your data at


Favor Ayumba was selected as an honorable mention essayist in the League of Minnesota Cities 2021 Mayor for a Day Essay Contest. Her last name was misspelled on page 12 of the March-April 2022 issue of Minnesota Cities. We apologize for the error.