Circle of Heroes Statues (copy)

Shelly and Dave Speedling approached me after a MnDOT meeting to tell me about their part in an underwater veterans memorial.

Panic. 

I was three minutes late for the St. Charles City Council meeting the other night. Three whole minutes. 

Most meetings, that might get me walking in halfway through the Pledge of Allegiance (Yes, they say the Pledge pretty much everywhere in Southeast Minnesota, except Dover, mainly because there's not a flag in the room). But they're quick enough in St. Charles, three minutes might mean I'm booting up my computer as the meeting is gaveled to a close. 

I was 10 minutes late in St. Charles once. I'd been stuck behind a tractor on the way. As I arrived, the council members filed out the door. 

Fortunately, Tuesday's meeting wasn't quite so brisk. I missed the Pledge. I missed the approval of the agenda and the meeting minutes from the previous two meetings. 

Thankfully, the agenda items that drew my attention were still to come. My heart stopped racing. The cold sweats faded. 

Mayor John Schaber rolled his eyes when I mentioned all this after the meeting. "I've been to some of these meetings," he said, meaning other governmental units. "They talk about nothing for an hour."

Welcome to my world, Mayor Schaber. Welcome to my world. 

It Pays To Loiter

Don't get me wrong, I like a brisk meeting. Get to the agenda item, say what needs to be said, and vote like you've got somewhere to be. In St. Charles, the council members come prepared as all get out, ask only what's pertinent and vote. 

Believe me, if I want someone to say more, I'll stop them afterwards for further comments. But sometimes hanging around a meeting when I'm kind of done has its benefits. 

A few weeks back, I was at a MnDOT open house in Plainview, and I'd pretty much finished all my interviews when a woman approached me and asked, "Aren't you Brian Todd?"

Yep.

Well, she told me about how she and her husband run the statue business on Minnesota Highway 42 right before Kellogg. It seems some of their statues were going to be part of the nation's first underwater veterans memorial, and they were flying to Florida for the ribbon cutting in the next few days. 

I gave her my card and took her number, asking that we touch base after the ribbon cutting so I could write a story about this unique use of their statues.

Turns out, the company, SVJ Creative Designs, had sold one of its soldier statues to the folks in Elba for their new veterans memorial built in conjunction with the playground I'd written about last year. Seems like we're all connected around here through stuff I've written. 

I'm Funny, I Swear

Last Thursday I got to use one of my favorite jokes. 

The Goodhue County Board of Commissioners conducts county board meetings at odd places during the summer. They'll do it at the Cannon Valley Fair, they'll hold one in Kenyon, and they have a meeting each year at the Goodhue County Fair in Zumbrota. 

Well, last week I was at the Zumbrota edition of the Goodhue County Board meeting when a lady spotted me packing up my computer and asked, "Are you Brian Todd?"

"Why?" I asked back. "Does he owe you money?"

Yes, I chuckle at my own jokes. 

Anyway, the lady said she was a member of some committee at the fair that named or selected the county's volunteer of the year. She was hoping I'd write a story about the winners, maybe even come to their event and take photos of the winners receiving their plaque. 

I didn't want to burst her bubble, but that's not really coverage I normally do.

Not that volunteers aren't important, because they are. But going to an awards night is not my usual thing. We might write a brief from a press release, I told her, but generally we look at issues, trends and other "big" news.

Still, I talked to her about how the Wise Woman often says, pick any organization, and it's the same eight people doing all the volunteer work.

"Or the same four people," the lady said.

True. So, it got me thinking about volunteerism. Maybe her winners might be the personal inroad for a trend or issues story. "Here's my card," I said. "Let me know about the winners."

See, I'm getting great ideas from hanging around late at meetings. 

Makes me wonder what I've missed from not showing up early in St. Charles.

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Regional Reporter

Brian Todd is a 1997 graduate of Nebraska-Omaha. He covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties and writes a weekly column about the life of a reporter.