WABASHA — In a 5-0 vote, the Wabasha County Board of Commissioners voted to offer the job of county administrator to Michael Plante during a re-convened meeting of the board Wednesday night.

Plante, who had worked as county administrator in Wabasha County previously, had left the job in 2019 for a city manager position in Prior Lake, Minn. That job ended after six months when the Prior Lake City Council let him go after he was charged with – and eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of – domestic assault. For the past year, Plante has been the city manager of West Concord.

Plante and the county still need to agree to a contract, and that contract will need to be approved at a future meeting, said Board Chairwoman Cheryl Key.

MORE READING: Court records show troubling past of Wabasha County administrator applicant

Key said the issue of Plante's assault charge was discussed during Wednesday's meeting.

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"For me, he was the candidate who best fit into the role at this time," she said. "I weighed that in with the decision I made."

Winona County offering waiting list for COVID vaccine

WINONA — Winona County has created a waiting list for residents age 65 and older interested in getting their COVID-19 vaccination.

Using current Minnesota Department of Health guidelines, the waiting list can be accessed via an online form at form.jotform.com/winonaco_em/over65. County residents should complete the form for anyone 65 and older in their household. Then, as vaccine supply permits, staff will randomly select from the list and call or email to make sure individuals can receive the vaccine and schedule appointments.

Anyone needing help completing the form should call (507) 457-6375 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

Jazz band promotes Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway

WINONA — A Portland, Ore.-based jazz band, Pink Martini, has released a video promoting the Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway, which runs 88 miles from La Crescent in Houston County to Dexter in Mower County.

The video is available on YouTube, according to HBC, a regional tourism advocacy group and administrator for the byway, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=2budBpjaLHw.

This is the first of several promotional videos HBC plans to release in the coming months, including four detailing the gateways of the byway which include Harmony and Chatfield along with LaCrescent and Dexter.

$5,000 scholarship for college upperclassmen studying ag, forestry

The Sustainable Agriculture & Forestry Scholarship Endowment Fund is offering a $5,000 scholarship to qualified students for the fall semester.

Available through the endowment's website at www.protectourresources.org, and managed by the Rochester Area Foundation, applications are due by March 31. Details about the scholarship are also available at the website.

The scholarship is designed to provide merit-based financial aid to individuals growing up in southeast Minnesota and attending school in the five-state Upper Midwest, and who are committed to sustainability in the fields of agriculture and forestry, have demonstrated leadership and communication skills, and are interested in pursuing a career in sustainable agriculture and/or forestry.

Paint the Town applications being offered through SMIF

OWATONNA —In partnership with regional hardware stores, the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation is accepting applications for free paint and coating products for community mural, community welcome sign or historic structure projects through its Paint the Town Grant program.

The grant is available to communities with a population under 10,000 throughout SMIF’s 20-county region. A total of up to 10 projects will be awarded paint products based on visual impact, public benefit, volunteer participation and community support.

Participating stores include Arrow Hardware & Paint, Faribault Ace Hardware, Pellicci Ace Hardware and St. Charles Ace Hardware.

"Pellicci Ace Hardware is honored to be a part of such an impactful program such as the Paint the Town Grant," said Mark Pellicci, owner of four of the participating stores.

In the past, the program has helped distribute more than 10,000 gallons of paint to 277 projects. Applications are due by March 31. For more information, visit www.smifoundation.org, or contact Jennifer Heien at (507) 214-7040 or jenniferh@smifoundation.org.

Mower County farmer added to Minnesota Association of SWCD

AUSTIN — Randy Smith, chairman of the Mower Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors, has been selected to fill a seat on the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts board.

Randy Smith
Randy Smith

“Randy’s experience in conservation issues as a supervisor for Mower SWCD will be extremely valuable as a board member for the association,” said LeAnn Buck, executive director of MASWCD. “With his leadership, the association will continue to make significant contributions in the area of local resource management.”

Smith said he’s excited to work with other supervisors on the MASWCD board and bring his extensive farming background that includes working with SWCD staff on projects known as “two-stage ditches” that benefit agriculture and the environment. He also prioritizes animal agriculture in his SWCD work.

As the Southeast Area 7 director, Smith represents 11 SWCDs in southeastern Minnesota.