I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.
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WILLMAR — Two men face felony and misdemeanor charges in connection with the alleged theft of a Pepsi pop machine in April from the front of the Drex Mart General Store in Lake Lillian. Dale Gary Greiner, 51, of Cosmos, and Justin Lamoine Hacker, 36, of Waite Park, each face felony charges of theft and first-degree criminal damage to property, plus misdemeanor theft charges. The investigation involved deputies from three area sheriff's offices and was aided by a search warrant that had allowed placement of a tracking device on Greiner's vehicle.
WILLMAR — Believe it or not, Cheryl Randleman is going to miss working on Black Friday. The general manager of the JCPenney store in Willmar's Kandi Mall retired at the end of June after 42 years with the company. Randleman, 59, of Spicer, started working at her hometown store in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1975 as a high school senior. She worked for the company part-time while in college and entered its management program after graduation.
WILLMAR — A New London man pleaded not guilty Thursday to five felony drug charges in connection with a May search of his home. Jeremy Shane Rudolph, 39, is charged with two counts of first-degree drug possession, two counts of first-degree drug sale and one count of fifth-degree drug possession. Amber Dawn Gandrud, 33, who also lived in the home, is charged with one count each of first-degree drug possession, first-degree drug sale and fifth-degree drug possession. She pleaded not guilty to the charges a week ago.
WILLMAR — A block party for Somali Independence Day is planned from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday on Litchfield Avenue between Fourth and Sixth streets in downtown Willmar. The celebration will continue from 7 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday at Willmar Community Center, 624 Highway 71 N. Entertainment will be provided by Dalmar Yare, a Somali singer from St. Cloud, and Somali teen dancers from Willmar Senior High.
WILLMAR — After new seats have been installed in the auditorium at Willmar Senior High School, it will reopen in the fall as the Brau Performing Arts Center. The Willmar School Board approved the new name at its recent meeting. A grand opening and open house for the school's refurbished auditorium will be held in the fall.
WILLMAR — A Willmar woman is facing felony drug charges for allegedly stealing opioid painkillers at the pharmacy where she worked. Amber Rae Morton, 26, of Willmar, made her first appearance Wednesday in Kandiyohi County District Court on two felony charges of third-degree drug possession and one charge of felony theft. Morton was released on her own recognizance with orders to remain law-abiding and to stay in contact with probation and to not possess alcohol or drugs. Her next court date is Sept. 11.
WILLMAR — A Willmar man pleaded guilty Wednesday to kidnapping an 8-month-old baby in February. Angel Esparza-Mendez, 23, also known as Angel Esparza and Pedro Xavier Rivera-Lopez, was charged in late February with kidnapping with the intent to terrorize, a felony. He was also charged with felony fifth-degree drug possession, but that charge was dismissed in a plea agreement. Esparza-Mendez has been held in the Kandiyohi County Jail in Willmar on $250,000 bail since his arrest Feb. 24.
WILLMAR — Imagine living in a one- or two-room house made of mud bricks. The bricks are a terra cotta color, as is the dust that rises from the dirt path outside your door. Your closest neighbor probably lives only feet away in a community of a half million people, smashed into an area originally intended for 90,000. There's never enough to eat, and, sometimes, the little basic food you have is the currency used to obtain "luxuries" like tea, or underwear. You'd like to have a job but that isn't allowed.
WILLMAR — The city and schools of Willmar are featured players in "Warehoused," a documentary about refugees to premiere around the world Tuesday, which is World Refugee Day. The movie will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center auditorium. Admission is free, and the community is invited to attend. The film is 80 minutes long and is expected to end at dusk, when Muslims observing Ramadan will break their daily fast.
WILLMAR — The 2017-18 budget approved this week by the Willmar School Board reflects the many changes coming for the district this year in both increased revenue and expenses. The School Board adopted the 2017-18 budget at its meeting this week.