These were the most-read Rochester Magazine stories on postbulletin.com in 2019.
A hospital, at 130 mph.
Each Mayo One helicopter—and there are now four of them—carries a ventilator, IV fluids, 70 medications, various blood products, a handheld blood analysis lab, and, sometimes, an isolette for preemies.
The three-member crew in the retrofitted Airbus EC145 can transport critical patients up to 150 miles one way, insert a chest tube, realign a broken femur, and transfuse blood (most likely donated by Mayo employees).
All at 130 miles per hour, and 5,000 feet above the ground.
About half the time, when their radio goes off—when the dispatcher’s voice comes over their handhelds—here’s all the crew of Mayo One knows: Where they’re flying to.
They have little or no idea what they’ll find when they get there.
“Mayo One, we’ve got a trauma in Austin.”
That way, if the weather’s at all questionable—a yellow status—they have to make the decision whether they should fly based on the destination, on safety of the crew alone.
That way, they can’t be swayed by, say, a call about a kid.
If there’s such thing as a typical flight for Mayo One it’s this, stats-wise: A 55-year-old male in cardiac arrest.
A couple in a car crash.
A 16-year-old who’s been in an ATV accident.
A 75-year-old woman who hurt her head in a fall on an icy sidewalk.
“Cardiac arrest, stroke, motor vehicle accidents, ATV accidents,” says Meghan Lamp, who just celebrated her 40th year at Mayo Clinic, including 26 as a flight nurse for Mayo One. “And plenty of falls. Falls are the leading cause of trauma in Minnesota.”
But there’s no typical flight for Mayo One.
Instead, there’s the time in 2012 they landed in a farm field to find Nels Gunderson, a farmer who had been working on a commercial rototiller. The rototiller, according to Gunderson, “decided to jump up and landed on the end of my work boot. And before we could get it shut off, it sucked me into the rototiller.” Gunderson’s leg was completely severed four inches below his knee. Mayo One—which had been dispatched when the first 911 call came in—landed just minutes later. They administered seven pints of blood en route to surgery at Mayo Clinic. Gunderson not only survived. He was back home in five days.
“I’m living proof of how important [Mayo One] is,” Gunderson told the Associated Press. “Because, without it, I may or may not have been here.”
And there’s the time in 2015, when Mayo One landed at a small regional hospital to pick up Amber Manning, who had just given birth by emergency C-section. Doctors performed an emergency hysterectomy. Amber, though, would not stop hemorrhaging. She needed to be moved to an emergency trauma center. Amber was bleeding so much, in fact, doctors feared she would die on the way. The Mayo One crew was able to administer blood and plasma on the flight to Mayo Clinic. Once there, Amber received another 30 units of red blood cells and 15 units of plasma. By the time surgeons were able to stop the bleeding, her total blood volume had been replaced “four times over.” Amber (and her daughter, Amaya) survived.
For 40-year-veteran Lamp, there are the times she was part of a team that flew to remove organs from a donor and bring them back to a patient waiting at a Mayo O.R. for a life-saving surgery. “My mother-in-law’s sister was waiting for a heart transplant,” says Lamp, who also helped run the Grand Meadow ambulance service for 35 years. “I’ll never forget the flight when we delivered her heart to her.”
“It’s humbling to bring back a gift for others.”
There’s the teen suicide attempt and the girl who was burned trying to save her brother from a house fire and the new mom-to-be with a fetus in distress.
There’s the five-year-old kid on the bike who just got hit by a car.
“Even after all this time,” says James Tempel, who has spent 25 years at Mayo, including the last 14 as a flight nurse, “my adrenaline gets going when I know it’s a kid.”
Roughly 20 percent of Mayo One’s 1,000 annual flights—and that’s just the Rochester location—are triggered in the form of an “auto-launch,” a dispatch based on 911 calls from southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa and western Wisconsin.
Mayo One is auto-launched when that emergency call includes certain criteria, like: a vehicle accident at highway speeds, a vehicle rollover, passenger ejection, a death in one of the vehicles, a fall from “significant height,” near drowning, burns over more than 20 percent of the body.
(Roughly 75 percent of auto-launches, though, are canceled before Mayo One arrives. When other first responders get to the scene, they let the crew know whether they’re needed or not.)
Most Mayo One flights—maybe 80 percent—go to area hospitals, either those with recently admitted ER patients who need to be transferred, or longer-term patients who need more specialized care (such as a patient in need of a transplant or a preemie who is not responding like they should). A few times a month, Mayo One flies to a hospital to pick up an organ for donation.
The radios sound. The team, already suited up in flame-resistant Nomex coveralls, grabs helmets from their “offices”—the lockers set in the large garage-like space attached to the helipad atop St. Marys.
Regardless of the call type, the crew immediately begins their pre-flight checklist. The pilot reassesses the weather status (“green” is a go; “yellow” means other factors like distance and topography need to be considered; “red” is a no-go, often based on FAA weather minimums).
Since weight is extremely important, the helicopter is pre-fueled to a standard minimum amount. If the flight is longer—or requires an extra crew member, the pilot adds fuel.
One of the medical crew removes the blood cooler—carrying whole blood, packed red blood cells, thawed plasma, and platelets—from the refrigerator and loads it onto the helicopter.
All three crew members perform a walkaround of the helicopter, looking for any abnormalities, like signs of a fluid leak.
The pilot takes the starboard side seat. Straps an iPad—displaying navigation and weather information—to his or her leg. Starts the engines. Lifts off.
The entire process, from call to liftoff, should take place in less than 10 minutes. Mayo One averages just over eight.
For the first two minutes of flight, none of the crew members talk to each other. The only acceptable communication comes from and to the pilot and the dispatch. And here, maybe for the first time, the crew will get a hint of what they’ll be dealing with.
“Mayo One. We’ve got a five-year-old male with serious head trauma. Car versus bike.”
Roughly 100 team members—including 30 nurses, 30 paramedics, 10 mechanics, and two dozen pilots—make up Mayo Clinic’s medical helicopter (and airplane) units.
The standard helicopter flight crew consists of a pilot, a flight nurse, and a paramedic. They work 12-hour shifts (7:30-7:30) three or so days a week. Some days, some nights. The team is staffed every hour of every day.
“We always have a nurse on board,” says Kathleen Berns, a 26-year-flight nurse with 41 years at Mayo Clinic (who now serves as Clinical Nurse Specialist at Mayo Clinic Medical Transport). “And all of our nurses come out of the ICU, so that brings that critical care component to the team.”
And they are, says Lamp, teams. “People that work in EMS often like chaos, the unexpected. This is where they thrive. There are many things that are very rewarding about taking care of patients in some of the worst situations they’ll ever face. And you do it together. Your crew becomes like your family.”
Today’s flight nurse is James Tempel, who also works occasional shifts in the Vascular Radiology department.
“James worked at an ICU setting for many, many years before he came to this job,” says Bruce Goodman, today’s paramedic. “You should see him take charge in an ICU.”
Goodman, an 18-year veteran, was part of the team that saved a 54-year-old Goodhue man by performing CPR. For 96 minutes.
“I thought we’d revived someone who in my opinion couldn’t survive what he’d been through,” Goodman said after that incident. “He’d been down an hour and a half. The likelihood of him walking out of the hospital with any kind of life in my mind was zero.” A few days later, when Goodman went to visit the patient, “he stood up and greeted us when we came in,” he said.
Pilot Maxwell Conrad started flying for Mayo in 2013, after stints as a helicopter instructor for the Army and at the University of North Dakota. He spent a year in the Gulf of Mexico transporting people and equipment to offshore oil rigs. He’s a Minnesota kid who made his way back to the Midwest.
Piloting a Mayo medical helicopter is not a fresh-out-of school job. You’re required to have logged at least 2,500 hours of flight time just to apply.
Conrad, though, has no formal medical training. That, for the pilots, is by design. “I’m here to focus on flying,” he says.
That First Flight
Mayo bought its first helicopter in October of 1984. At the time, it was described as “the first hospital-based air medical transport service in the state and the largest aeromedical craft made.”
But Mayo One’s inaugural medical flight was unplanned.
The newly-formed team planned to spend an instructional week touring regional hospitals for introductory flights and demos. On Oct. 8, the new helicopter was in Whitehall, Wis., when a doctor in Oshkosh, 150 miles away, called Mayo Clinic. A patient who needed to be transported to Rochester, he said, would probably not survive the ambulance trip. Mayo called the helicopter team, which had paramedics aboard. They immediately cut the tour short and flew to Oshkosh. They picked up the female patient and were at Mayo in 80 minutes.
Mayo One—a specialty-retrofitted, twin turbine engine Airbus EC145, an $8 million aircraft—can fly at 130 mph with a 150-mile range. All while carrying a ventilator, IV fluids, 70 medications, a handheld blood analysis lab, and, if necessary, a neonatal team and a 350-pound isolette.
Onboard, the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) monitors airspace around the aircraft. The Storm Scope system detects lightning strikes. All crew members have night vision goggles.
Mayo One features Dual Global Positioning Systems, a Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System (HTAWS), something called a Duplex Autopilot.
Those fins above and below the cockpit are part of the helicopter’s wire strike protection system (WSPS), basically giant blades designed to cut through a 3/8-inch steel cable in case of accidental contact.
“Mayo has outfitted their aircraft to be some of the most advanced medical aircraft in the nation,” says Kathleen Berns. “They are top-of-the-line when it comes to crew safety, and top-of-the-line when it comes to the equipment that gives the best care to patients. Our helicopters are some of the few with two engines. It’s twice the maintenance, more fuel, more cost. But Mayo understands the safety for crew and patients, and that shows in Mayo One.”
And there are four Mayo Ones. All identical, from the cockpit configuration to the setup of the patient care compartment. Mayo has EC145s based in Rochester, and atop Mayo hospitals in Mankato and Eau Claire, Wis. The fourth helicopter, normally hangared in Rochester, serves as a back-up to all bases.
In its first year, 1984, Mayo One completed 57 medical flights. In 1985, that number had increased to 402.
Today, Mayo logs 2,000 patient transports, 3,000 flight hours, and maybe 250,000 miles every year.
And that’s just for the helicopters.
In 2016, Mayo added their first airplane—the $9 million King Air 350C twin turbo prop—to the Mayo Clinic Medical Transport fleet (MCMT).
“And the ‘C’ stands for that big cargo door,” says Joel Kozlowski, the former pilot-turned-Director of Air Operations at MCMT. “That 52-inch door is actually a special-missions door that the Army uses overseas because they can load pallets of equipment in and out of it. We use it to load patients, which works great because it’s huge. And we can get a patient in there and even turn them if we need to.”
The King Air, which is based at Signature Flight Support at the Rochester International Airport, can fly at more than 350 mph and can optimally cover 600 miles each way to and from Rochester. It makes 25 or so trips per month.
While the King Air is outfitted with exactly the same medical equipment as the helicopters, and carries the same medical crew (a flight nurse and a paramedic), it also carries two captain-rated pilots and an expanded medical team (and, sometimes, a patient’s family members as well).
Like all of the medical personnel, flight nurse Kara Grant can switch between helicopter and airplane shifts, though she spends “90 percent” of her time with the fixed-wing unit.
Although she’s been with Mayo since 2005, this is just year two as a flight nurse. When pressed, every crew member admits it took them a few years to really settle into the job.
“It takes a while to understand and process the stress,” says Grant. “We’re thrown into situations that are high-intensity on a daily basis. These are some of the worst days for these people that we’re dealing with.”
“The helicopter is more fast-paced, and it takes longer to get all of your logistics down on how to move in the aircraft,” she says. “With fixed-wing, there are longer periods to prepare. It takes us longer to get off the ground. It takes us longer to get to the patient. But we’re able to be with the patient longer.”
The Blood Bank
Mayo One is one of the few—probably the first, maybe still the only—civilian medical helicopters that carries whole blood in addition to units of packed red blood cells, plasma, and platelets (to promote clotting). Like a lot of Mayo One’s emergency medical decisions (including the re-institution of tourniquets), carrying whole blood was based on research from military medical choppers, especially those in the war in Afghanistan.
“We have a wonderful blood bank, and that separates us from a lot of other groups,” says Kathleen Berns, the Clinical Nurse Specialist. “The majority of our blood products come from our own employees.”
Mayo Clinic’s employees donate roughly 40,000 units of blood—that’s nearly 5,000 gallons—each year.
On Mayo One, the blood products are carried in the Credo Cube, a military cooler made in Minnesota and used in the Afghan war.
“We work closely with the military medical helicopters,” says Berns. “Unfortunately, we see a lot of the same types of patient situations they see.”
Most of the time—maybe eight out of 10 calls—Mayo One is landing on a helipad at one of the regional hospitals. Austin mostly. Albert Lea. La Crosse.
But the on-scene flights—those landings on highways and in farm fields and near neighborhoods—require another level of attention. Another level of collaboration.
Roughly 15 percent of all Mayo One flights are on-scene. That number, according to Lamp, is down from nearly 25 percent just a decade ago. She attributes that drop to fewer critical car crashes since the implementation of MnDOT’s Toward Zero Deaths program.
Those calls, though, are often the most critical.
“One of the misconceptions is that a 911 call comes in, and we’ll fly right to that uncontrolled site,” says flight nurse Rob Erickson. “We rely heavily on the first responders. If we have to land on a roadway of any sort—gravel, tar, freeway, highway—we rely on the local sheriff or fire department or whoever on site to set up a landing zone.”
That landing zone, according to FAA recommendations, should be 100-by-100 feet, “flat, firm, and free from debris,” well clear of overhead wires, downwind of the scene. For night landings, first responders should mark the touchdown area with five lights or road flares—one in each corner and one forward in the center to indicate wind direction.
Mayo One teams regularly meet with and hold training sessions with first responders.
“We’ll be the first to say those first responders are putting themselves out there doing some really important work,” says Erickson.
Mayo One averages “around 10 minutes on the ground of a scene flight,” according to Goodman. “We know we have to get those patients help immediately.”
Back in the air, the next level of treatment may be just beginning. Because, inside Mayo One, one of the medical crew—they take turns—will take what’s called the “patient seat” and start the in-flight treatment.
Meanwhile, the second medical crew member will be relaying information to the necessary Mayo teams or other trauma centers. A patient with serious burns may go to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Carbon monoxide poisoning cases may be flown to the specialized hyperbaric chamber at Hennepin County Medical Center. High-risk pregnancies—premature births and emergency C-sections—may go right to the helipad atop the Methodist Hospital’s Eisenberg Building (just north of the Kahler).
Most likely, though, they will be returning to St. Marys.
The helipad atop St. Marys Hospital—the heated concrete, 91-by-51-foot pad complete with fuel tanks—is the busiest private helipad in Minnesota. Four to five non-Mayo helicopters land there every day.
Mayo One (or one of the other Mayo choppers) makes a St. Marys landing another four to five times per day.
When Mayo One makes that landing, the specific department has already been alerted en route.
The emergency room. The operating room. The catheter lab. Vascular radiology.
“If we call a level one trauma, when we roll in there, they’ve got every person they could possibly need to intervene,” says Goodman. “We’ll have people from x-rays there and somebody with the blood bank and the cath team. And you’ve got your medical side of the house and the airway people. You’ve got your trauma surgeon and his staff, and you’ve got a pharmacist. You’ve got maybe 20 or 30 people waiting in the ER.”
An admissions person, with a rolling desk, meets the flight to check the patient in. But that process happens, many times, as the medical crew unloads the patient from the helicopter and gurneys them down the short hallway to the waiting elevator. Then it’s down to one of those specialty areas. It’s a two-minute trip.
“Our care doesn’t end until we put them in their bed,” says Goodman.
Then the medical team’s priority, says Lamp, is to “ready the aircraft for the next request.” Putting equipment back in designated locations. Restocking any items. Cleaning up blood.
Then, maybe, a quick discussion of the flight. A chance to decompress as the adrenaline slows.
Until that next radio call.
The Top Ten Motorcycle Rides of Southeastern Minnesota?
What makes a great motorcycle road? Over at Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly, our opinion is any road you can ride is good, just some are better than others. The best roads most always have a few common traits. First, it must be scenic. Second, a few corners are nice. And third, the less traffic the better. In the interest of motorcycling enjoyment, we called in sick and headed to our favorite riding area, Southeastern Minnesota, and using highly scientific methods complied this list. So, in no particular order here are our Top Ten Motorcycle Roads of Southeastern Minnesota.
Story by the staff of Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly
The Great River Road, Hwy 61. I know, I know, everybody knows about it. Sure, it can be busy, but how can you beat a road with “Great” in its name? Stunning scenery, quaint towns, and even a few curves. Be sure to follow it at least as far as the Iowa border. In the words of Bob Dylan, “And head that way down on Highway 61.” experiencemississippiriver.com
Hwy 60, from Zumbrota to Wabasha. Hwy 60 is unique because it’s the only state highway that runs continuously from one border to another, from Wisconsin to Iowa. The section we love is that 35-mile stretch on the eastern end. Along the route you’ll pass the Spring Creek Motocross Park, home to the legendary Spring Creek National Motocross race. For a fun side trip follow Wabasha Co. Rd. 11 along the Zumbro River valley which meets Hwy. 60 at the Spring Creek Motocross Park to Hwy 63 and loop back north to Hwy. 60.
MN Hwy. 16, “Bluff Country Byway” Preston to La Crescent. Here’s a veteran riding tip: If the word “byway” is in the name of a road, it’s probably pretty good. This historic road was once part of a network of national highways that connected the East Coast to the West Coast. Now a charming byway, this road brings you from the prairie to the driftless region of bluffs untouched by Ice Age glaciers. As a bonus, head across the river to the Wisconsin side, and take Hwy. 35 north. Or south. Either way. bluffcountry.com/byway16.html
US Hwy. 52, between I-90 and Preston. This is part of the Hwy 52 that returns to two-lane. As it heads south you are brought through the heart of Amish country in southeastern Minnesota. Watch for the black buggies. The charms of 52 lies in the relaxed feel of the countryside it literally rolls through. A fun side trip is to Niagara Cave and the underground waterfalls south of Harmony.
Welch Village Rd (Goodhue Co. Rd. 7), from US Hwy. 61 to MN Hwy. 19. This was once one of the semi-secret sportbike haunts of the south metro. A winding stretch of pavement that attracted a menagerie of riders on weekend nights. Quieter now, it still is one seriously fun road. A nice route includes heading either direction on Hwy. 19 toward Cannon Falls or Red Wing.
MN74, from St. Charles to Weaver. This highway is one of the oldest in the area. Some portions date back to earliest public roads in the territory. Passing through Whitewater State Park, MN Highway 74 is a mix of curving pavement in the southern section and winding gravel on the northern end.
US14 from Rochester to Winona. This U.S. highway runs all the way from Chicago to Yellowstone National Park. Most through traffic sticks to I-90, so we’ll let 14 be our little secret. Shhhh!
Trans Minnesota Adventure Trail. For the more adventurous crowd there’s the Trans Minnesota Adventure Trail, or TMAT for short. This collection of gravel roads and trails goes all the way from Iowa to Canada. Laid out by dedicated dual sport enthusiasts, the TMAT lets you explore some of Minnesota’s dirtier roads. (Not that kinda of dirty, we mean gravel and such.) Download the GPS tracks and learn more at minneadv.info/tmat/
Houston County Road 249 from Reno to Caledonia then MN Hwy 76 to I-90. These two roads are, in a word, bucolic. Yep, I had to look it up as well. Bucolic means “of or relating to the pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life.” Pretty much sums it up. 249 is gravel and 76 is paved. Enjoy.
Whatever road you’re riding on. We know, it’s a cliche that’s as cheesy as a 70’s era van with a wizard mural, but it’s true. Get out, ride, and enjoy it. Not every road can be postcard scenery and racetrack corners. The best road is ultimately the one you’re riding.
The City’s 7 Best Burgers
The Marvin. The Original. Abbots Gold. The Forager.
The Double. The Mushroom. My Bleu Heaven.
We asked, you answered. These are the seven best burgers in Rochester, as voted on by you, our readers (in no particular order, except for Newt’s, which was your winner).
5231 US 52, 507-226-8266;
216 First Ave. SW, 507-289-0577;
1201 S. Broadway, 507-258-7575
In Rochester’s realm of burger places, there is one joint that continues to sit on the (cast)iron throne, reigning supreme. Newt’s has been voted by Rochester Magazine readers as having the best burgers since 2003, and this year is no different. The Marvin’s Burger is marvy, as they say, with its tantalizing blend of hardwood-smoked hickory bacon, chipotle mayo, and cheddar cheese. When you sink your teeth into one of these bad boys, you’ll understand how Newt’s somehow manages to go through two tons—tons!—of ground beef a month, and why it’s still your number-one burger in town.
1105 Sixth Street NW
While its name may suggest that searching is in order, you won’t have to look far to find the best burger at Forager. The Forager Burger explodes with intense flavors—from the AmaBlu cheese hailing from Faribault to the smoked-and-sliced-in-house bacon. Even the pickled onions have a story—they’re from local farms. The bartender recommends that you pair the Forager Burger with a Slope Life IPA—the crispness will complement the rich flavors you encounter in each burger bite. And pretty much any day of the week you can expect to be entertained with live music. Great burgers, great brews, great bands. You’ll find what you’re searching for.
Brothers Bar & Grill
812 S. Broadway
For 28 years, Brothers Bar & Grill has been one of the city’s go-to sports bars. And its forté is crafting tasty sandwiches and burgers. You voted the Mushroom Burger as your favorite—rich with savory mushrooms and no shortage of mozzarella cheese. The juiciness of this burger is paramount. That’s why the beef is seared and cooked in a broiler, maximizing the tenderness of the meat and the intensity of the flavor. Pro tip: Visit during lunchtime when the mushroom burger is featured as a special for $6.75. Pair it with a craft beer and you’re having a really good day.
Hot Chip Burger Bar
1190 16th St. SW
Hot Chip is an ode to the ’90s and early aughts, that bygone era of the slacker ethos, Britney Spears’ hits, and Simpsons humor. The guys who opened Hot Chip are all children of the ’90s, and it was their dream to have a greasy-spoon diner that served damn good burgers, fries, and shakes, all in a nostalgic setting. And the secret to making those burgers so good? Local ingredients: a chuck-and-brisket mix from Minnesota farms (meat that it would be sacrilege to freeze; fresh is the only way), buns from a bakery in Minneapolis, and Tony Packo pickles, to name a few. The Classic Burger, of course, is one of Hot Chip’s bestsellers. The special sauce that gets slathered on it is very special indeed, with traces of charred jalapeños, aioli, and sweet-n-hot pickles.
1203 Second Street SW
Let it be known—the Honker slings a mean burger. And a lot of locals know it. Last year, more than 20,000 burgers were served from the kitchen, and a good chunk of those were Abbots Gold Bacon Cheddar burgers. While a lot of burger joints offer a bacon-cheddar option, this one has a few secrets that make it exceptional. First, the burger is cooked in a stand-up broiler (most cooks use a flat-top stove or grill). This is crucial because the broiler method promises that the juices will be sealed in the meat patty. Second, that cheddar is phenomenal, with a hint of caramelized onions. Third, all the ingredients are high-quality—from the thick slices of bacon to the local hamburger buns (from Rochester’s Gingerbread House Bakery). While the Honker may be known for its walleye, the burger is giving that fish a run for its money.
2800 41st St. NW
The Five Guys burger chain dates back to northern Virginia in 1986, when founder Jerry Murrell opened a tiny burger joint with a simple mission: to make really good burgers. And really good burgers they are. This fast-food business expanded into a chain of 1,400—including the one that opened in Rochester in 2010 (and was a finalist for Best New Restaurant). As anyone who’s indulged in a Five Guys double burger will tell you, this is not your typical fast food fare. Five Guys ingredients taste super fresh, and you can add “all the way” toppings at no additional cost. (We recommend grilled onions and grilled mushrooms.) And one of our favorite parts—as you watch your burger sizzle on the stove, you can munch on in-shell peanuts.
9 Third Ave. NW
Formerly known as Crossings Bistro, just off Third Avenue in the Kahler Inn, the revamped restaurant adopted the curtailed name CB3. Boasting cozy sports bar vibes, this eatery is an ideal place to tune into the game and order a handcrafted burger. The My Bleu Heaven burger is a favorite, packed with mouthwatering ingredients: applewood-smoked bacon, bleu cheese crumbles, lettuce, tomato, and a crispy onion ring. The staff will tell you that the Angus Beef and the brioche bun really make this burger sing. Pair it with the sweet potato fries and an Alaskan Amber ale, and you’ll be sittin’ pretty.
One Condo, One Complete Remodel
Having trouble finding your dream Rochester home downtown?
Try making it from the inside. That’s what Matt Baylow and Wolf Mirasol did when they relocated to Rochester last year.
The retired couple moved from California to Minnesota in June, after a long search for a place that was close to downtown as well as to Baylow’s aging parents. (Who happen to be former Mayo Clinic doc and city coroner Paul Belau and poet/artist/pianist Jane Belau, who’s been called “Rochester’s Renaissance woman.”)
Matt and Wolf settled on a fifth-floor condo at High Point Condominiums.
The 2,000-square-foot space was a rental property for decades, which meant previous occupants were minimally concerned with improvements, says Baylow, who grew up in Rochester and started his career in 1980 doing weekend weather at KTTC-TV. (Which is when he “televisionized” the spelling of his last name.) After stints in Las Vegas and WCCO in Minneapolis, Baylow spent 20 years as a well-respected weather anchor in San Diego. (The mayor of San Diego, in fact, named June 11, 2018 “Matt Baylow Day.”)
The remodeling rookies knew the condo wasn’t what they wanted long-term. So they jumped right in. The plumbing couldn’t move. But since all of the weight in the condo was supported by the floors and ceiling, the pair could tear down any walls they wanted.
And boy, did they.
“If we’d wanted to take out all of the walls, we could have,” Baylow says. Just look at these pictures alone for the before-and-after of this totally remodeled condo.
“We like that it’s a wide-open space—that’s how people live nowadays,” says Mirasol, a mobility trainer and certified powerlifting coach (who grew up in several exotic locations but is convinced Rochester is ‘where it’s at’). “We wanted to take the emphasis off the area and onto the people that are in it.”
We understand, not everyone can totally make over their space. But trust us—you’ll want to borrow some of Baylow and Mirasol’s tips.
Here are several ideas you might like (ranked in order of sheer commitment to your remodel):
Look for ways to bring in local flavor. The “supermodern space” inside is balanced out with touches of history, says Mirasol. Glance around the condo’s front room, and several Rochester-specific details jump out. Accent lamps near the fireplace came from Dr. William Eugene Mayberry’s office at the Mayo Clinic, by way of Baylow’s father’s office. The couple used acid battery containers from the Duluth Lift Bridge to make side tables. And those dining table chairs from 1965 came from Baylow’s parents’ southwest Rochester home.
Brighten it up. Because ceilings support much of the weight in the High Point condos, there was no drilling for light fixtures. Around the edge of the living areas, Baylow and Mirasol placed strips of LED lights facing the ceiling, which add brightness to the area. When switched off, they blend into the white walls.
Don’t like your layout? Change it up. Baylow and Mirasol started by hiring Dahl Home Builders as their main contractor, then tearing out the wall that separated the den from the kitchen to turn the space into an open plan. Then they went through room by room, changing doors and turning unnecessary features into storage space.
Maximize space. Mirasol’s a fan of the sliding barn door, which he chose to avoid adding bulk inside the rooms. “They don’t take away the space that some other open door would,” he says. And after an HVAC upgrade that decreased the home’s need for ducting, they raised the ceilings a little, increasing the height of the living areas. And of course, cabinet space pays back in dividends. Baylow and Mirasol created an entertaining-friendly space by storing almost everything under counters. “It’s more than a two-butt kitchen,” Baylow says.
But don’t be afraid to convert closets. A wide, shallow closet in one hallway is now a small office area, with space for two computer tables and chairs. The bathroom attached to the master bedroom initially had a separate shower and tub. What a waste of space, Baylow and Mirasol thought. So they walled off the tub (it’s now a closet space in the master bedroom) and moved in some storage furniture. Finally, one sink became two. There was another extraneous space in the other bathroom which is—you guessed it—another closet.
Share space with your contractors. Finding people to work on the condo was tricky, Baylow says, because of the amount of construction in Rochester. However, during the four months or so of work, the couple did occupy the condo—or just outside it, actually. An air mattress on the south-facing balcony and bathrooms and showers in the High Point lobby made it possible for them to avoid renting a room. “We lived on the balcony for a couple of months,” Mirasol says. “It was like camping—we got into the habit of getting up as soon as the crows started cawing, and we didn’t have electricity, so we went to sleep as soon as the sun went down.”
Kim Norton isn’t here to cut ribbons
Kim Norton’s first time door-knocking—or at least one of her first times—did not go well.
“It was a Sunday,” she remembers with a laugh. “The man who answered the door looked at me and said, ‘What are you doing? It’s the middle of the Vikings game.’ I guess they were playing the Packers. I hadn’t even thought about it.”
No door-knocking while the Vikings play the Packers. Yeah, some of us would have thought about that. Then again, that’s what makes her Kim Norton.
In 1858—ten years before he’d be stricken with (and die from) smallpox—30-year-old New York native Moses Fay was elected Rochester’s first mayor.
While many of us have squandered our days watching football and yelling at the TV, Rochester’s first new mayor in 16 years—and the first woman to hold the office in its 164-year history—has been asking where she can sign up for the shovel-work of civic engagement.
We’re talking eight years on the school board, ten years in the state house, and dozens of line-entries on our new mayor’s CV for the boards, committees, coalitions, commissions, councils, and conferences she’s served on since the late 1990s.
It’s exhausting just to look at it, and it’s work that has made her perhaps the most well-known, well-regarded candidate to have run for the office since W. W. Mayo.
But there’s a theme in Norton’s citizen-to-city-hall biography. She has written PTA newsletters, taught Sunday school, organized cultural fairs, and authored public safety law. She’s a mother of five who’s also been a special-ed family liaison, a former employee of the Nebraska state mental hospital who has manned rape crisis lines, canvassed the city to count the homeless, and gone on police ride-alongs.
So for every round of Rotary-styled community service, our incoming mayor has shown a determination to not forget the needs of those who are struggling. Not that you’ll hear it put into precisely those words from the newest face at city hall. “I get bored,” is how she downplayed her decision to embark on a late-career Bush Fellowship to study environmental stewardship, smart growth, and sustainable energy use. “I get antsy if I have to sit around.”
Again, some of us fight boredom with Netflix.
“I definitely plan to be a strong mayor in a weak mayor system.”
We are sitting in Panera, and I feel bad about taking Norton away from all of this virtuous activity in order to get her talking about her pathway to city hall. I have observed her in two political debates and at a strategy-sharing hour organized to pair the DMC brain trust with a quirky cast of visiting administrators from our sister city in Münster, Germany. (I’ve seen the future of Mayo-Münster meetings—this is not a deli joke—and it involves bike helmets strewn about during policy discussions.)
I’ve also done enough Norton-watching to declare that our incoming municipal figurehead has an unassuming personal style, is confident enough in her place at the table to remain chill as men with lesser pull drone on over her, and seems more interested in listening than talking. These, of course, are good qualities for a nonpartisan officeholder. But the job seems due for an update.
If anything, Norton’s experience may give us more mayor than we deserve, given the pay structure of the position. (At $36,650, the time-consuming job pays less than half what the mayor earns in Duluth.) Both the job of mayor, and the idea of Rochester itself seem destined to change in the face of what’s likely to be a vibrant, if messier urban future.
Critics are worried about political partisanship from the former DFLer. A recent Facebook post called her a shill for Mayo Clinic and the DMC. They question how she can be a strong mayor in a system in which the position doesn’t even get a regular vote on council issues.
“You can get a lot done through meetings and building relationships and sharing your vision,” says Norton. “I won’t be shy about weighing in.”
And while the mayor can veto council actions, Norton says she would rather work together with council members.
As for the partisanship and Mayo Clinic-shill fears, Norton says that “anyone who knows me would probably laugh at that. Most people are worried that I have too strong an opinion and won’t agree with them on everything. I’m usually more of a devil’s advocate.”
Either way, the days in which all of Rochester’s citizens shared the same basic needs, the mayor’s office was a ceremonial post, and there was ample parking for all are likely coming to an end.
Fortunately, the Mayor-Elect has some ideas: Transparency in government. Citizen engagement. Sustainable energy, affordable housing, worker training, strong neighborhoods, and multi-modal transit. “We’ve had a mayor who, in his own words, hasn’t cared that deeply about policy,” she told a gathering recently at Little Thistle Brewery. “I definitely plan to be a strong mayor in a weak mayor system.”
“Tight-knit potlucks just for themselves”
Norton, who is 61 and the oldest of four, was raised in Lincoln, Neb. Her father worked in the family wholesale paper business while her mother raised her and her younger brothers. Norton points to three women in her life as her greatest inspirations: her mother, who valued open communication and made sure the kids could talk about anything; a grandmother who received a graduate degree, traveled, and served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention; and another grandmother who studied ballet in New York before what has to have been a colorful career working in Vaudeville (a lover of the arts and music, Norton was a dancer and gymnast in high school).
After graduating from the University of Nebraska, Norton set out to work with the deaf, but life intervened when, while working at the state mental hospital, she met a psychology student who would become her first husband. The couple moved to Texas, where Norton briefly attended graduate school before the pair started a family. The couple had two boys and two girls, and he took a job in Rochester.
As a young mother with children in Harriet Bishop Elementary School, Norton joined the local PTA. One thing led to another, and pretty soon she was not only chairing the state PTA, but serving on the board for the national chapter. In 1998, Norton ran for the Rochester school board, a decision requiring her to learn about not door-knocking during Vikings games.
“I was on the phone for hours every day listening to parents,” she remembers. It started what has become central to the Norton brand, which is moving toward, rather than away from, critics. By 2004, having realized that the school board answered to the funding whims of the legislature, Norton ran for the state house. She had seen a host of pragmatic objectives needing attention in the statutes, and to her dismay, her legislator “only wanted to talk about reducing taxes.”
It’s a second characteristic of Norton’s brand that she could not run for state office until she figured out something most of us seem to know about ourselves from young adulthood—that is, what political party she identified with.
“I always just voted for the person that I liked,” she explains. After calling leadership from each party to tell them about her problem—that “I don’t know what party I’m in” dilemma—she found a successful listening post in the Democrats. Norton had already been to the State Capitol to advocate for a host of education objectives, including indoor air quality, increased parent and family involvement, and more K-12 funding. “Those are Democratic party issues,” then-Education Finance Committee chair Mindy Greiling told her. “I think you’re a Democrat!”
Norton may have found her party in 2004, but she lost that election—for state rep—to Fran Bradley by 311 votes.
She ran again in 2006, however, and this time she won by just 99 votes. She rolled up her sleeves to get to work on a host of bread-and-butter legislative needs, eschewing glamorous measures for the necessary but unpopular passage of a long-stalled primary seat belt law, a bill that had been idle for 26 years. After a conversation with a homeowner stuck with a mold problem, she championed radon-resistant construction. She also carried autism legislation, and with GOP Sen. Dave Senjem, the transformative bill funding the Mayo Clinic’s Destination Medical Center initiative.
Being in the majority party had made this kind of productivity easier, but when the GOP took power in 2010, things changed. A workforce bill Norton had spent years fine-tuning was carried across the finish line from the other side of the aisle with a cold efficiency that embodied a new decline in inter-party collegiality in St. Paul. The people’s house had become a less-friendly place. Norton doesn’t blame it on one party. Well, the potlucks, maybe.
“Tight-knit potlucks just for themselves,” she remembers of the GOP. “We didn’t get to socialize. The party structure became so toxic. It became a matter of, ‘We were going to pass bills, and we don’t need your vote, so we will do what we want.’”
The practice of adding amendments in the 24 hours before hearings—and the gamesmanship that produced—needed legislative fine-tuning, in Norton’s view. “I became very frustrated. There were bills that I wanted to make better. I just wanted to make policy.”
After three more victorious campaigns, Norton left the house in 2016, applied for a Bush Fellowship, and spent 17 days in Scandinavia studying how smart government works in places like Copenhagen, Malmo, Oslo, and Stockholm. She would later travel to Germany and the Pacific Northwest, picking up ideas in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley. She came back a champion for green energy and livable cities.
She had seen the move toward biking and walking in the cities with which we are increasingly competing for talent—how “downtown Seattle has jungle gyms,” and “Vancouver has five-story trees.” She had seen that Portland has an office of neighborhood engagement, and that Münster has a bicycle-only parking garage holding 3,000 bikes, a hub that fills up each day before noon.
During the aforementioned meeting with the administrative cabinet for Rochester’s sister city, Norton prodded the Burgermeister himself (Münster mayor Markus Lewe) to describe how the 300,000-person city had developed an astonishing bike-commuting infrastructure. The city offers six miles of lighted, bike-only expressways that seamlessly, safely move bicycle commuters from the outskirts to the core, are quickly cleared of snow in the winter, and are surely worthy of consideration by any Midwestern city that wants to be taken seriously as a bastion of health.
Of course, Rochester is currently dealing with heated skirmishes over whether Broadway will get so much as a new stripe allowing bikes three feet of turf. So we have a ways to go. “If we are going to double in size,” Norton says, “there’s not enough room for four more lanes on Broadway.”
Given these realities, her job, as she sees it, is to be the messenger capable of demystifying our coming changes. “I sit down with seniors and they say, ‘I don’t like bikes.’” she explains. “I tell them that if we can take the bikes off the road, and give the bikes their own space, drivers won’t have to worry about bicyclists pedaling so close to your car. When they hear that, they open up to the idea. You also have to tell them that if you make space for bikes, you’re going to have a better chance finding a spot to park. Because every one of those people on bikes are people who are not taking a parking space away from you and your car.”
It comes down to priorities that are grounded in the changing times, she says. “Are we building a city of individuals in cars,” she asks, “or are we looking to a future that’s pragmatic and that looks to best practices around the country? To say, ‘I want to it to be how it is now, and never change,’ that is not realistic. The key is to help people understand why a change is being made.”
And this, the bike issue, is a walk in the park compared to the seriously thorny matters poised to arise during Norton’s tenure as mayor. At a debate luncheon for the Chamber of Commerce, the city business community tasked Norton with a list of worried questions about municipal workplace mandates currently taking hold in the Twin Cities, including a $15 minimum wage, and mandated employer maternity and sick leave. Unlike her opponent, Norton left the door open to all of them, albeit if the full council approves. She also has ideas about getting garbage collection down to one firm per region (saving energy use and reducing wear-and-tear on the roads), the need to build affordable housing throughout the city, and the need to create and sustain “a diverse, strong, sustainable workforce.”
“Kim is interested in problem-solving,” says her husband of seven years, Randy Stone, a Mayo Clinic psychotherapist. “She loves connecting with people. She wants to be in the thick of things. She wants to engage with people. What you and I find tiring, she finds energizing. … She responds to all emails and she is not afraid of change.”
“She gives up so much to do these things,” says Theresa Wilson, a longtime friend and observer of the personal cost to Norton of electioneering. “To get through her first run for office,” Wilson says, “I swear she lived on nothing but red licorice for a year.” Wilson has also experienced the new mayor’s light touch when it comes to political differences.
“I’m a moderate Republican,” she says. “My husband is very Republican. But when it comes to politics, you can disagree vehemently with Kim, argue late into the night, and she’s still your friend tomorrow. People can oppose her and she’ll say ‘Let’s have coffee.’ She’s thinking, ‘I still represent them.’”
Governor-elect Walz One MN Stop
Mayor-elect Kim Norton
Mayor-elect Kim Norton
Governor-elect Walz One MN Stop
Mayor-elect Kim Norton
Governor-elect Walz One MN Stop
Governor-elect Walz One MN Stop
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Kim Norton Election Night Party
Working like a dog: Twelve K-9 teams patrol Rochester area
Here’s the 411 on Rochester’s four-legged officers.
It’s 12:20 a.m.
Sergeant Wade Blazejak stands motionless in the inky darkness. Tight at his side, the dark form of Riot, his German Shepherd K-9, sits at attention.
It’s cool and quiet—the kind of quiet that comes when you’re standing in a field on the outskirts of town at midnight. A breeze rustles some tall grass. A car engine rumbles in the distance.
Dog and sergeant remain motionless.
Riot tears away from Blazejak’s side—so fast he’s a blur—to the first of six 5’-by-5’ boxes dotting the field. He circles the box with stunning speed, his nose low, his focus palpable. He does the same to the next box. And the next.
At the fifth box, Riot circles twice. Then starts barking—a strong, incessant sound that reverberates across the dark field. He stays low, holding his position at the box until, from a small door at the bottom of the framework, the shadowy figure of a man crawls out.
“Heel!” says Blazejak.
Riot returns to his side.
Invaluable team members
Blazejak and Riot are one of eight teams with Rochester Police Department’s K-9 unit, for which Blazejak serves as supervisor. (Another four teams make up the Olmsted County Sheriff’s department.)
K-9 teams do work in the department’s patrol division, the emergency response unit (also known as SWAT), the street crimes unit, the narcotics unit, and the school liaison unit. Six of RPD’s dogs are currently certified in narcotic work. Two of the dogs are trained in explosives.
Dogs’ extraordinary sense of smell and hearing make them invaluable team members. They’re regularly deployed for burglaries, break-ins, tracking suspects, locating weapons, detecting narcotics, discovering evidence, and, notably, helping to keep officers safe during high-risk calls.
But they can only do that work when they’re properly trained.
Even after K-9 certification, generalization training exercises—like the box search—are a vital part of keeping the K-9s prepared for on-the-job situations.
How vital? K-9 handlers make time to train their dogs during every shift.
The Regional Training Center on the south side of Rochester—where Riot just demonstrated the box search—is one of two centers where officers and their K-9s train. The other is located in northwest Rochester.
The box search is one of several training exercises the K-9 teams use to keep the dogs’ skills sharp. In the box search, a decoy (in tonight’s case, Officer Vedran Tomic) hides in one of several boxes while a K-9 runs patterns in search of human scent.
The exercise mimics potentially dangerous calls when police search for suspects who are, for example, hiding in a building or have barricaded themselves in a room. The K-9 can determine where they are hiding and alert officers.
Officer Tomic and his dog, a Dutch Shepherd named Titan, graduated with his K-9 certification in May. Tonight, Titan heels at Tomic’s side before being sent through a course that mimics several obstacles a dog might encounter on the job.
On Tomic’s command, Titan climbs a wooden ladder to a catwalk high above the earth that simulates structures like attic stairwells. He crawls low under a wooden framework reminiscent of a low deck or vehicle. He jumps hurdles that mimic fences or walls.
After each obstacle, Tomic gives a release command—signaling to Titan that he can relax now. That he did a good job. That it’s time to take a break from police work and just be a dog again.
The bond between officer and dog
In nearly 12 years of law enforcement, Sergeant Blazejak has worked in an emergency response unit (SWAT team), has been a field-training officer, and a drug recognition expert. But, he says, no assignment has been more rewarding than the K-9 unit.
“I love the process, the bond with the dog, the way he gives back,” Blazejak says. “I love working with Riot to be able to find the suspects. To find the drugs. To help keep my fellow officers and the community safe. It’s a really, really cool job.”
Like the RPD’s other K-9 teams, Blazejak and Riot work 12-hour shifts—in their case, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. (A schedule that prompts him to say, “You spend more time with that dog than you do your own family on a daily basis.”)
In a typical year, Blazejak deploys Riot more than 125 times—using the dog for such tasks as breaking up fights, checking the perimeter of buildings during alarm calls, tracking suspects, and clearing buildings. And, of course, locating drugs.
“There’s not often a shift that goes by that I’m not using the dog on a traffic stop to check for narcotics,” Blazejak says. Which makes sense. RPD’s K-9s help remove hundreds of thousands of dollars of controlled substances from Rochester’s streets each year.
And then there are the more memorable calls.
Once, Blazejak got a call about a driver who threw a gun out his car window and into a ditch. The caller gave a quarter-mile estimate of its location. Riot found that gun.
Another time, he and Riot were called to a house where a suspect barricaded himself in an unknown room with the threat of a weapon. Blazejak sent Riot in to pinpoint the man’s location.
“When you’re the one tasked with coming around a blind corner, more times than not you’re going to deploy that dog first—so you can go home at night,” says Blazejak. “That’s the safety value these dogs provide.”
Becoming a K-9 team
K-9 unit dogs are world-class athletes in addition to being critical team members.
But before they get to that point, they must undergo a vigorous and comprehensive training program that focuses on obedience, tracking, agility, article searches, and criminal apprehension.
Training starts with dog selection. RPD dogs are generally German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois or British Labrador Retrievers that come directly from Germany or the Netherlands—where, says Blazejak, breeding and bloodlines are more closely governed.
A new dog is typically introduced into the unit in mid to late fall, and is immediately paired with a handler. The two then spend two to three months bonding and getting to know each other.
This gives the dog, which is typically between 9 and 14 months old, time to grow with the handler. “There is zero pressure on the dog at this point,” says Blazejak.
In late winter, training begins. If the department doesn’t have a qualified trainer on staff, the dog and its handler will attend an accredited K-9 school with the St. Paul police department.
The 12-week program wraps up around May or June—after which, the dog is patrol-certified and can start doing shift work with its handler. The dog will work as part of a K-9 team through the summer, gaining experience and exposure.
“They grow in confidence with each situation—with every suspect find, every dark building cleared, every environmental experience,” says Blazejak. “Some dogs are capable of doing things right away, while others might need more time, just like humans.”
After they’ve mastered their patrol work, many K-9 dogs are sent on to a four-to-five-week narcotic detection school. With that training, they’re certified to do narcotic searches in schools, airports, post offices, traffic stops, and other locations.
Training doesn’t end when the dogs become certified. The moment they graduate, daily maintenance training keeps the team’s skills polished.
It also keeps them prepared for testing—as all of Rochester’s K-9 dogs are tested and certified every year through the U.S. Police Canine Association.
“Our department needs to obtain that certification every year,” says Blazejak. “If we don’t, we can’t put that dog on the street.”
In addition to on-the-job training, Blazejak also takes Riot out for training on their days off. “When the family goes to bed, I’ll go out with Riot and track somewhere. Maybe we’ll go to Cascade Park, to the History Center, to Quarry Hill.”
It’s hard work. But it’s more than that, too.
“Working in a K-9 unit is a privilege—and a lifestyle I take seriously. The dog gives back to me more than I ever could’ve imagined,” says Blazejak. “The highlight of my day at work is to train and be with Riot. And the highlight of his day is when he gets to come out of the kennel and get in the squad car and go to work.”
It’s 3:30 a.m.
Sergeant Blazejak and Riot have spent the last several hours training, answering calls, and patrolling the streets. Blazejak is getting ready to head back to the office to take care of some paperwork. But first he runs the plate on a suspicious-looking car.
His instinct was right. There’s a warrant out for the owner’s arrest.
Blazejak pulls the car over. He verifies the driver’s identity and, after returning to the squad to confirm the warrant, discovers that the driver’s license has been revoked. He handcuffs the man and puts him in the back of the squad car.
Now it’s Riot’s turn.
Blazejak unclips the dog’s lead from the front seat of the squad, and Riot immediately fires up. He barks to let Blazejak know that he’s ready to go. That it’s time to get to work.
With the officers who’ve arrived as back up, Blazejak opens the doors and trunk of the driver’s car.
Riot heels at Blazejak’s side. Blazejak issues his command.
Riot leaps into the car. One, two, three seconds pass before Riot’s bark pierces the quiet dark of the early Saturday morning.
Frozen in place, his focus trained on the object he’s been instructed to find, Riot only stops his alert cry when Blazejak gives the release command.
The dog returns to his handler. As directed by their K-9 partner, the officers locate marijuana in a cup holder. Methamphetamine in a bag in the back.
“Good boy,” says Blazejak, rubbing his partner’s neck. “Good boy.”
When they’re not on the job, K-9s live with their handlers. “Riot is as much a part of our family as our house dog is,” says Wade Blazejak, RPD’s K-9 unit supervisor. “The only caveat is that he doesn’t stay in our house. There’s a boundary there. At the end of the day, he’s still a city resource—and while he’s my responsibility, he’s not my dog.”
A purebred German Shepherd from Hungary, Riot stays in an indoor/outdoor kennel in Blazejak’s garage.
For now, at least.
For most handlers, the officer/K-9 bond does not end when the K-9 retires, which is typically at 7-10 years old. And this team is no exception.
When it’s time for Riot to retire from police work, Blazejak will sign a waiver that releases the city of liability. And then the dog will officially come home to live with his family.
For Riot, who is nearly 6 years old, that day is coming in the next few years.
“He’s in the prime of his career,” says Blazejak. “But he’s not a rookie dog anymore. And after all we’ve been through together—all of the calls, all of the training hours, all of the blood, sweat and tears—it’s going to be a bittersweet day when he has to retire and not come to work with me anymore.”
Handler: Officer Tomic
Trained in: Patrol
Training in: Narcotics
Handler: Officer Bradley
Trained in: Patrol & Narcotics Detection
Handler: Officer Red Hill
Trained in: Patrol & Narcotics Detection
Handler: Officer Pretzloff
Trained in: Explosive Detection
Handler: Officer Roussell
Trained in: Explosive Detection
Handler: Officer Clement
Trained in: Patrol & Narcotics Detection
Handler: Officer Osborne
Trained in: Patrol & Narcotics Detection
Handler: Deputy Mangan
Trained in: Patrol & Narcotics Detection
Handler: Deputy Waletzki
Trained in: Patrol & Narcotics Detection
Handler: Deputy Jones
Trained in: Patrol & Narcotics Detection
Not pictured: The area’s newest K-9 dog, Axel, and handler Deputy Schmidt for Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office.
10 (or so) questions with ... Nick Dibble
Nick Dibble, Manager of CyberSecurity Engineering at Mayo Clinic answers 10 questions for Rochester Magazine
Rochester Magazine: I casually invited you to get a beer and take part in a laid-back conversation, and then I received an Outlook calendar invite with an agenda attachment.
Nick Dibble: Yes, that’s entirely accurate. My wife loves when I do that at home. We have a shared Google calendar with multiple calendars inside of it. So that way, we can closely coordinate all of my important, spontaneous events.
RM: Why did you pick the Tap House to meet?
ND: It makes me feel young and hip.
RM: Fair enough. Are you one of these guys that never sleeps?
ND: I sleep about five hours a night.
RM: And you can live like that?
ND: For the for the most part. Yeah.
RM: So when you were considering your mayoral run …
ND: I want to say it was about a year and a half ago when Rochester Magazine made a strong electoral suggestion that I run for mayor.
RM: You were really riding the wave after you used your video doorbell to catch Rochester’s Porch Pirate stealing diapers from your doorstep.
ND: I did a TED Talk earlier that year. And I spent probably around 100, 120 hours over the course of seven months preparing for that 18-minute TED Talk.
RM: It was excellent, by the way.
ND: Thank you. It’s on YouTube and has a respectable 4,000 views.
RM: And 62 dislikes.
ND: I know! How do you have dislikes on that TED Talk? That TED Talk was literally about helping disabled children. And people saw that and were, “I hate this.” Anyway, then a lady steals diapers from my doorstep. That video has garnered around 80,000 views on Facebook. So the idea is if you want to get your message out you just need to, apparently, steal something from someone’s porch.
RM: You busted her. I mean, you were relentless.
ND: I like to tell anyone who will listen that I have dedicated my entire life to solving minor crime in Rochester.
RM: Now you’re working hard on the dog-pooping-in-the-yard issue?
ND: Oh, yeah. This is a whole crisis in Rochester’s neighborhoods. Occasionally we’ll see people leave their dog poop on the lawn. Which requires a whole different level of surveillance and sophistication.
RM: Do you still have your homecoming crown from Kasson High School, 1997?
ND: Wow. Yeah, I do.
RM: How often do you wear it?
ND: It’s in the storage room. I like to remind the kids of my win every so often. So maybe once a year.
RM: On a more serious basis, 2008 started off on a really high note for you. You found out you were going to be a dad. But then you realized there were some issues. How did that change you?
ND: Yeah. We found out we were having twins, and there were very severe complications with that prognosis. At the end of a long NICU stay, my son Blaise passed away, and then we started to learn about ongoing challenges that my son, Adrian, would be having. It really catapulted me into adulthood, if you would. Prior to that, I was a single guy, and freewheeling and traveling and partying. My experience really framed what was important to me—having a voice for people who don’t have a voice like my son. That is never, ever a role I thought that I would want or that I would take on, but …
RM: The stress of caring for a child with a disability took its toll on you guys. Shortly after Adrian’s third birthday, you found yourself as a single dad. I know Adrian was having seizures. He wasn’t sleeping for days at a time.
ND: I was terrified, and I kept thinking to myself, “How am I legally responsible enough to take care of a child? How can the state allow me to be a father?” I could barely take care of myself. And I was brand new at Mayo Clinic when I started raising Adrian on my own. In fact, I was only there about six months, and I was absolutely terrified of losing my job. I will tell you that Mayo Clinic’s higher-up senior leadership to my team was absolutely nothing but 100-percent supportive. I honestly couldn’t have done it without them. They were incredible.
RM: Then you met Bri.
ND: My dating profile said something like, “Hey! Single dad, raising special needs child on his own! Has minivan!” People flocked to that.
RM: Yes. I can only imagine.
ND: But I met Bri. And now we have son Charlie and daughter Irelynd as well. They’ve been amazing.
RM: You were doing some amazing things in tech, but you had a hard time getting into Mayo.
ND: I had no college degree, and I think I applied at Mayo probably 40, 50 times. I was working in the dot-com startup world, and things were very volatile and I wanted some stability after we had Adrian. I was a CIO of an up-and-coming dot-com and I finally got a job at Mayo doing entry-level database management. Some people say their careers will move back to move forward, and I think that was kind of one of those moments.
RM: You’ve since gone through plenty of schooling and degrees and you’re now Manager of CyberSecurity Engineering. What do you do?
ND: Our group works closely with the Mayo Clinic security operation center. Our role is essentially setting up the tin cans around the campfire. So when those cans ring it lets our security operation center know, and then they do what they need to do.
RM: That’s just figurative, right?
ND: Mostly. Yes.
RM: Well, I think I’ve gotten through your agenda. You probably have to adjourn this meeting.
ND: No. It’s fine. I left “Open Forum” as the final agenda item with no time parameters. So we can finish eating.
Cylance is golden
How Ryan Permeh turned a startup into a $1.4 billion—yes, billion—biz
For most people, the term “unicorn” is not something you’d want to put on your résumé.
But when it comes to résumés, Ryan Permeh is not most people.
The Rochester area native and 1995 Kasson-Mantorville High grad is the founder and chief scientist of the artificial intelligence and cybersecurity company Cylance, which recently sold to BlackBerry for $1.4 billion.
Yes, that BlackBerry. Yes, billion.
The figure cements Cylance within the realm of startup “unicorns”—privately held companies valued at more than $1 billion.
“One thing that’s helped me as an entrepreneur is not theorizing all the time, but actually doing,” Permeh says. “That practicality definitely comes from growing up in the Upper Midwest. There are exceptionally talented people that come out of there.”
That “actually doing” started back as a kid, when he and his friends—including Nick Dibble, the manager of CyberSecurity Engineering at Mayo Clinic—were obsessed with tech. They read computer manuals. Got their first version of Linux when they were young teens.
“Rochester has always been a technology-forward area,” says Permeh. “I grew up in an IBM family, with my mom working there about 35 years before she retired. Many of the families in Kasson were IBM or Mayo Clinic families, and both made for easier access to technology in schools and home than a lot of other areas of our size at
Founding Cylance, fighting cyberthreats
Permeh left the Midwest in 2000 with sights on the digital promised land, Southern California, and a career working with information security startups. After a few stops, he landed at McAfee, where he rose to be its chief scientist.
“My business partner [CEO and Cylance co-founder Stephen McClure] was global CTO of McAfee at the time the company was acquired by Intel for more than $8 billion,” says Permeh.
They spent a couple years at Intel focused on bringing cybersecurity to the chip level, but Permeh grew concerned that they weren’t moving fast enough to combat looming cyberthreats.
“These larger companies can tend to be slow-moving, so McClure and I left to start Cylance.”
Permeh says this freed him up to reimagine the best ways to design cybersecurity with the newest technologies available. Some of those ideas—like focusing on preventing and predicting hacks, as opposed to simply trying to detect them after the fact—weren’t popular at the time Cylance was founded in 2012. And their method—described as applying “artificial intelligence, algorithms, and machine learning to cybersecurity”—was considered cutting-edge. They were applying AI to teach computers to detect hacks.
Investors bought into the idea. Cylance raised a reported $15 million in start-up fees in 2013.
In 2014, Cylance was the first to reveal that Iranian hackers were tapping into airport networks and accessing information to print out security badges.
In 2015, hackers had been running a months-long attack on the United States Office of Personnel Management. They had stolen the personal info of more than 21 million federal employees. Then the U.S. Government—facing the worst data break in its history—called in Cylance.
That was April 16. On April 17, Cylance software discovered—and disabled—the hack.
“The significance of the cutting-edge preventative technology offered by Cylance in responding to the data breach cannot be understated,” read the report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “[Cylance] immediately found malware and set about cleaning OPM’s enterprise.”
By 2016, with the word out on their innovative approaches, Cylance was a contender for Inc. Magazine’s coveted Company of the Year (though they lost out to Riot Games, the video game developer behind titles like “League of Legends”).
By the end of 2016, Cylance was protecting more than three million computer networks. Dell had announced that Cylance software would be installed on all computers sold to corporate customers.
By 2018, Cylance could list one hundred Fortune 500 companies as clients. Their revenue—which had been growing at 90 percent year over year—was a reported $130 million.
In February of this year, BlackBerry finalized that $1.4 billion deal.
And Permeh’s tone when discussing this decision was that of a man with 1.4 billion reasons to be confident in his approach.
“Cloud computing, which is now very prevalent, was not at all prevalent back then,” he says. “But we had no technical debt. As a startup, you can tackle more moonshot-type issues—things that you can fundamentally believe will change the game.” [Editor’s note: Technical debt is defined as ‘the trade-off between the short-term benefit of rapid delivery and long-term value,’ meaning companies without technical debt can focus on more long-term projects.]
Permeh also alludes to the risks and challenges startups have versus those large corporate entities that do have technical debt. Startups, he says, often attempt to innovate by reconceptualizing existing technologies with no clear path to revenue.
“Some only innovate through acquisition,” he says. “Contrary to the risks, we live in a world where funding for startups is at all-time highs.”
During Cylance’s six-year run, it raised roughly $250 million. The company quickly grew to more than 900 employees. Throughout its run, Permeh and his growing team continued to add cutting-edge technology to its cybersecurity approach, replacing concepts such as automation with artificial intelligence.
He describes cybersecurity threats as a continuously rising tide of viruses and bad data files that attackers send out. The larger security companies like McAfee began having trouble keeping up, because they were using a network of employees actively working on defending against attacks. Permeh says a great deal of threats were unable to be addressed simply by volume alone.
“The attackers understood they could overwhelm defenders simply by being faster,” he says.
Cylance spent a lot of time on data collection and building a pipeline to understand how to approach the issues. Implementing AI and machine learning allowed Cylance’s technology to figure out for itself whether a file was good or bad, meaning there was no need for any employee to be responsible for detecting problems anymore. And Cylance’s products can be used in various computers or devices, new or old.
“You can buy the cheapest laptop out there and use our tech, and it won’t affect its performance,” Permeh says.
Another factor is the attackers themselves, and their approach to infiltrating a system.
“The major threats we’ve seen in the last five to seven years, we’ve been able to predict well in advance because they are previously used tactics,” he says. “The bad guys change frequently, but they don’t change their approach frequently.”
BlackBerry and the Internet of Things
The sale of Cylance technically removes the company from that vaunted unicorn list, but its impact will only grow by working with BlackBerry, which Permeh says has done a great job of innovating itself. After Cylance’s acquisition, in fact, Permeh accepted a role at BlackBerry to stay on as its chief security architect.
BlackBerry has transitioned almost entirely from its era of selling mobile phones into the Internet of Things, the universe of connected devices around the world that research firm Gartner has projected could rise to more than 20 billion devices by 2020.
“For every personal computer you see out there, there are 40 to 50 non-PC connected devices nearby. In modern cars, there are dozens of computer-type devices running inside them. This is the Internet of Things,” Permeh says.
And it all needs a strong network of cybersecurity.
“These days, technology is alight with machine learning and AI,” says Permeh. “In 2012, that wasn’t true. People are less skeptical now than they were. Many applications incorporate mahine learning, everything from Netflix showing you what you want to watch to Google Maps and its dynamic routing.”
He says BlackBerry’s embedded software is now its biggest revenue stream. Its software can be found in all types of industries that now utilize connected devices to conduct business. The software can be found in more than 120 million cars on the road right now.
What keeps Permeh engaged in the industry, even after reaching the end of that startup rainbow?
“I’m staying with BlackBerry because the Internet of Things needs security. It’s always been my personal mission to ensure the security and privacy of real people, and that’s BlackBerry’s mission as well. So we align.”
Today, Permeh lives in Laguna Hills, Calif.—about halfway between L.A. and San Diego—with his wife Holly, daughter Sophia (9), and son Adam (8).
And does he miss the Midwest, versus the sunny Southern California life?
“I do miss it. It holds a special place in my heart. My family moved to Sioux Falls, so I go there more than Rochester these days,” he says. “The winters, I don’t miss so much.”
A Toolkit for Survival
Krista Ryan survived the Vegas mass shooting.
And now this life coach is using that experience to help her clients overcome their own challenges.
As 10 p.m. approached on the night of October 1, 2017, the Route 91 Harvest Festival party was closing in on its grand finale.
Byron residents Krista Ryan and her husband Chris swayed among a sea of 22,000 other country music fans. They sang “God Bless America” in unison, cell phones held high to light an inky desert sky already glowing with the unrelenting neon of the Las Vegas strip.
As headliner Jason Aldean took the stage, Krista felt alive, electrified, utterly at peace. Five minutes later, briefly separated from Chris and the two other couples they’d traveled with, her phone died.
Five minutes after that, the shooting started.
“Some people thought it was fireworks but I immediately thought, ‘Something is not right here,’” says Krista, in her first interview since the tragedy. “We went from that pure bliss moment to complete chaos. It turned the night so dark that it felt like all the lights went out.”
The shooting—that “rapid-fire barrage of bullets”—felt like it lasted for hours, says Krista.
Later, she’d learn it lasted 10 minutes.
But during those 10 minutes, her body took over: She clasped the hand of a hysterical stranger—a woman who only spoke broken English—and those two sprinted through the makeshift battlefield. “Just keep running,” Krista kept telling her. “No matter what happens to me, just keep running.”
The two of them climbed a metal fence that had been set up for concert security. A fence that had been set up to keep people out. “I had no idea how I did it,” says Krista. “The next thing I knew we were both over it.”
Krista pictured her three children—then ages 11, 9 and 7—waiting back home with her in-laws. She imagined her husband, with no way to reach her, still in harm’s way looking for her—or worse. She feared for the two other couples they had gone to the concert with. She thought of her loved ones, including her work family at First Security Bank, the Byron business where she and her husband had worked for over 13 years.
She and the stranger kept running.
Today, when she looks back at the scene, Krista describes a slow-motion, black-and-white horror movie, a festival-turned-war zone, silent save for the gunfire. But that’s not what has stayed with her.
“What sticks out in my mind is there were people everywhere, just complete strangers, helping each other out,” she says.
Later, after she’d been home for a few days, she’d find an entry in her calendar on October 1: “Life changed.”
She doesn’t remember writing it, only that it has become truer than she ever could have anticipated.
Now, it seems serendipitous: At the same time she was processing what happened in Vegas, she was also working on her year-long certification program to become a life and business coach. Two weeks before this fateful night, she’d completed her first training session at the Newfield Network school in Colorado.
“I was given this opportunity. I don’t want to use the word gift, because it wasn’t a gift,” she says. “But it was a toolkit for survival, in essence.”
In her role as marketing and human resources director at First Security Bank, where her husband is CEO and president, Ryan had informally coached their employees for years, both individually and as a group.
She loved it so much that she decided to make it official and enrolled in Newfield Network, a year-long certification program grounded in ontological distinctions, a branch of metaphysics that focuses on emotions and body language. She was all charged up, reveling in the lessons and the opportunity to receive coaching herself as part of the program’s mentorship component—until the shooting.
“I came home and called my coach and said, ‘I think I’m going to drop out of the program,’” says Ryan. “And he was very understanding. He’s ex-military and coaches a lot of veterans and he said, ‘Yes, you’re probably in shock, and you’re going to need some time to process and I’m here to support you.’ And so he was an instrumental part of this.”
That is when Krista’s real education began. As she, her husband, and their friends processed their respective experiences, she began to realize that everyone experiences trauma—not necessarily a mass shooting, but death, divorce, job loss—and that unaddressed past experiences hinder future progress.
“Part of coaching is asking tough questions and really listening to what they’re not saying,” she says. “My coach was really transparent with me and helped me process things slowly. I started listening to the way my body was processing things, and instead of staying quiet and internalizing, I started to speak about it. And I think through telling the story, I started to heal.”
Krista stresses that she is not a therapist, and regularly refers clients to psychologists and psychiatrists. But she knows what it’s like to feel scared, trapped, and victimized—how those feelings manifest in the body, and how freeing it is to face them.
She began to feel empowered by what she’d been through and the idea that she could help others. She recommitted to the program and completed her certification.
“I started to understand that I now had to make a choice. Am I going to be a victim? Or am I going to take what happened and own it and accept it and utilize it for my future? I think that was the turning point,” she says. “That’s really where I stand today, helping people see that we have choices, and it’s all about accountability for your life.”
In June 2018, she opened KFG Coaching. As a “mindset coach,” she works with personal and business clients individually and facilitates staff trainings.
Despite the emphasis on addressing past trauma, Ryan insists her coaching is forward-focused. If clients can recognize what is holding them back, she can help them move forward.
“I don’t see myself as a tough coach, but as a transparent coach who’s not afraid to ask the tough questions,” she says. “I think that comes from what I went through.”
On that October night, Krista and that stranger made their way to a gas station, where the woman called her daughter to pick her up. When the daughter arrived, she begged Krista to come with them. To drive to safety.
But Krista Ryan started running back toward the concert, trying to find her husband and their friends.
She didn’t get far. A group of people stopped her, pulled her behind a ground-level billboard advertising some Vegas magic show or cabaret.
“I’ve got to find my husband, I’ve got to go back,” she told them. “My phone is dead.”
One of the women in the group called Chris. No answer. She kept trying. Finally, Chris answered. They dropped a pin on the phone to mark Krista’s location. Chris and friends started running toward her.
They had, obviously, been through their own ordeal. “We’ve all got our own stories,” Krista says. Chris and their friends had helped others find a way out of the venue, applied pressure to others’ wounds, crafted makeshift tourniquets. Looked for Krista. None of them was injured.
When they finally got to Krista it was “no movie-like reunion,” she says. Instead, they all ran to the MGM Grand Casino for shelter. There, in the bathrooms, they cleaned off blood. Wondered whose it was.
On the one-year anniversary of the shooting, the Ryans flew back to Vegas. As their taxi rolled down the Strip, they passed the 1,500-acre Las Vegas Village concert field, saw the fateful Mandalay Bay windows where the shooter had fired 1,100 rounds in those ten minutes. In the end, 851 people were injured.
Fifty-eight were killed.
Krista Ryan and her husband and friends had survived the deadliest mass shooting committed by a single individual in modern U.S. history.
Krista saw the sign she’d crouched behind with the woman whose cell phone she borrowed to call Chris. Chris pointed out the spot where they’d finally been reunited.
“The flood of memories came flying back, but it wasn’t scary,” she says. When the cabbie shared his own stories of driving injured victims to the hospital, he said he’d never really lived his life until that night. “And I said, that’s exactly how we feel. Like we were living life before, but now it just tastes sweeter.”
The Ryans visited the remembrance wall at the new Las Vegas Community Healing Garden, and had lunch with the woman who’d helped Krista phone Chris. She’s never found that stranger she ran with. But she hopes she is healing.
“This one gentleman [the shooter] made this horrific decision to try to end lives, but I think so many lives started. So many people were helping each other and there was so much good in such a bad moment,” she says.
“Everyone has a story and no one should be afraid to tell it, because it makes them who they are.”
10 or so Questions with...Tom Overlie
KTTC-TV anchor Tom Overlie
Rochester Magazine: Is that Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille cologne I smell?
Tom Overlie: That is one of my favorite colognes, but I can’t always afford it. So I don’t have it on now.
RM: That must be the residual I’m smelling. Do I also smell some Vitamin E skin oil?
TO: I’m 47, I think. I’m going to be 48 in June. I think. I stopped counting after age 40. But people ask me how I get my skin so youthful looking, and Vitamin E is one thing I have used since I started in TV 26 years ago.
RM: That’s a good segue because I just found out today that you and I are the same age, which seems impossible, since you look about 12 years younger than me.
TO: Bless you.
RM: I would have liked you to dispute that.
TO: It’s Vitamin E and my Norwegian genes, I don’t know.
RM: When you were 12, as a snack, you once told us you’d catch these things, pull their wings off, and then toss them into a boiling vat of oil. You said, “They are crunchy, light and airy to eat.” Were you talking about: A) Bats, B) Woodpeckers, or C) Ostriches?
TO: None of the above. It was flying ants. This was in West Africa. I was in junior high and my friend Ivan and I would capture these ants—they are big and bulky—pluck off their wings and fry them in hot oil.
RM: It was Nigeria, right?
TO: Yes. My parents were there in the 1960s as teachers. My sisters were born there. The joke in my family is that all of my sisters were born in mud huts in Africa, and I was born in this fancy hospital in Minneapolis. My parents went back in 1980 as publishers of a Lutheran magazine. I spent three years there, from age 11 through 13.
RM: That must have been a defining experience.
TO: It was probably the most important period in my life. I attended an international school where my best friends were from Lebanon, India, the Soviet Union, all over the world. That gave me a global perspective at an early age to appreciate and be open minded to other people and cultures.
RM: You do a lot of work in the community. Any moments that stand out?
TO: I remember one of the first times I sang with Jane Belau at the Gonda, many years ago. I said let’s sing “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” I saw an older lady standing off to the side. She was listening, getting choked up. This lady pulled me aside and said, “I just got word I have an eye disease and will go blind. It’s news that has rocked my world. I just got out of my appointment and here you are singing my favorite song, ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow.’” Sometimes when I’m getting pouty I think about people going through that kind of stuff.
RM: You’ve been doing a lot of writing.
TO: I’ve been writing YA [young adult] books. I take it very seriously. I put in four or five hours a day. I have a bunch of things simmering. Completed books. Almost completed books. I’m happiest when I’m in that world. I love the characters. They become like friends of mine. I worry about them. I think about whether I should kill off this person or that.
RM: Just like you would with regular friends. ...
TO: Exactly. Or colleagues.
RM: Something about you I don’t know?
TO: Back in the day my name was Dag. My real name is Dag-Thomas Karmoy Overlie. My whole family went to Karmoy [Norway] in June to the island where my great grandparents farmed. In North Dakota and Iowa, I went by Tom. In Africa I went by Dag.
RM: Hey, Dag, I’ve seen annoyingly cool photos of your gorgeous farmhouse. I can’t put into words how phenomenal it is.
TO: That’s been my other job. Kevin [Larson], my partner of 20 years, and I do a lot of the stuff ourselves, though we hire some stuff out, too.
RM: You guys are really good at it.
TO: This house wasn’t just a step away from the grave, it had two legs in the grave. When it started out it looked like a haunted house, lost in the shrubs. You couldn’t see it from the road. It was a mess. But it reminded me of my grandfather’s house. So much of my past, the structures and spaces where I grew up, were full of happiness and joy. I felt this deep calling to save it. It’s been more work than we imagined. On the flip side, the reward has been more than we could have imagined.
RM: When you came here you were planning to go into the pharmaceutical business.
TO: I had done TV for 10 years. A friend, a reporter, had moved into the pharmaceutical business. I was looking into that, interviewing. We flew to Minneapolis on Y2K. We went down to Decorah [Iowa] to visit my sister. She said, “Jeff Oelrich is leaving KTTC; you should apply for the job in Rochester.” I decided I’d send in a tape, and the rest is history.
RM: What’s your preferred outfit when mudding drywall?
TO: I have this old pair of jeans…
RM: That’s not what I heard.
TO: Okay, when we mud and tape in the summer I’ve got this old ratty Speedo. When you are mudding and taping, you get messy. It’s hot. I’m a swimmer. You just don’t want your neighbors to suddenly show up and knock on the door.
RM: Good to know. Usually, I ask people to tell me something they wouldn’t want me to know, but you’ve already told me your name is Dag and you ate ants and you wear a Speedo when plastering your house. So …
TO: That’s probably plenty for now. Maybe next time.