Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
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A Somerset man made his first court appearance last week on allegations he struck and seriously injured a pedestrian in St. Croix County before driving away from the scene. Prosecutors charged Jon B. McConaughey with one count felony hit and run following a Jan. 8 crash in the town of Star Prairie that court records state left Charles Henkel with multiple injuries. Witnesses' statements and evidence collected at the scene led to a description of the vehicle that the St. Croix County Sheriff's Office posted to Facebook the same night as the incident.
SOMERSET — Patty Schachtner took her oath of office last week with a nod to history and her hometown roots. Friday's swearing-in ceremony represented the first time a Somerset resident was ever elected to the Wisconsin Senate. "Today, Somerset, you put yourself on the state map," Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling told an assembled group of students and community members inside the Somerset High School gymnasium.
A Monday blizzard socked western Wisconsin, dropping as much as a foot of snow in areas. The snowstorm that closed schools and made for some harrowing afternoon commutes wrapped late Monday, Jan. 22. Somerset reported 12 inches of snow, with 11 inches recorded in Hudson and about 7 inches in both River Falls and Ellsworth, according to National Weather Service totals. Baldwin reported 12.5 inches. Southern Minnesota saw the biggest totals, with Owatonna recording 17 inches of snow.
Forces outside St. Croix County were at play last week when Patty Schachtner became the first Democrat to win a 10th Senate District seat since the 1990s. In the weeks leading up to the election, piles of money surged into the campaigns of both Schachtner and her GOP challenger, Rep. Adam Jarchow.
River Falls claimed a top 5 finish in last weekend's St. Croix Falls Wrestling Classic. The Wildcats finished fifth in the 20-team event with 121 points. Hudson won the Saturday, Jan. 20, event, with St. Croix Falls, Cumberland and Totino Grace rounding out the top 5. River Falls saw three wrestlers reach first-place matches, all placing second in their respective weight classes.
A truck driver who had apparently gotten off the freeway to avoid a blizzard was found dead Tuesday in Hudson. Authorities said the man, a Quebec, Canada, resident, was discovered Jan. 23 in the Hudson Walmart parking lot. Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen identified the man as 72-year-old Roger M. Fournier. The death did not appear suspicious, according to the chief, who said "Mr. Fournier had some medical issues that we believe were responsible for his death."
NEW RICHMOND — Education is central to Tony Evers, a gubernatorial candidate who last week touted his ability to win statewide elections. The thrice-elected state superintendent of public instruction called on St. Croix County Democrats to back him during a Thursday, Jan. 11 visit to New Richmond. “I believe my experience as state superintendent … that differentiates me,” he said.
HUDSON — St. Croix County law enforcement leaders shared the struggle surrounding emergency mental detentions last week with Wisconsin's top legal authority. The lengthy process can tie up officers for hours, wrack up overtime costs and exacerbate the already difficult experience for those at the center of the ordeals, officials from different agencies told Attorney General Brad Schimel.
Two Minneapolis men were killed and a third was hospitalized with serious injuries after a crash Saturday in rural St. Croix County. The St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office identified the victims as the driver, 32-year-old Eduardo F. Salvidar, and a passenger, 24-year-old Milton E. Valenzuela Favela.
NEW RICHMOND — Matt Flynn said he'll be a fighter for Wisconsin against Scott Walker, casting the Republican governor as one who's left the state awash in corruption. "We need an aggressive candidate against that guy," he said, arguing the two previous Democrats to challenge Walker hadn't gone on the offensive enough to win.