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2012: A year of change

Following are the final five in a series of 10 stories highlighting major Emmet County events for 2012.

December 28, 2012
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

Change in leadership

Someone who came to Emmet County at the end of 2012 would have seen a drastic change in leadership from the beginning of the year.

One of the biggest changes came at the legislative level where, after major redistricting, Emmet County saw a change in party in its elected legislative representatives.

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The final five top 10 stories of 2012

Iowa Senate President Jack Kibbie of Emmetsburg announced his retirement, leaving the door open for Dennis Guth of Klemme to take his seat, despite a challenge from Democrat Bob Jennings of Algona.

Democrat Iowa Rep. John Wittneben of Estherville, who had won his seat in a narrow contest two years before, lost by an equally narrow margin to Tedd Gassman of rural Scarville.

The City of Estherville also saw more changes in its personnel during the past year than it had for a long time.

At the beginning of 2012, Estherville had its first new mayor in 26 years as Kenny Billings defeated Lyle Hevern in the November 2011 election. Long-time councilman Harold Sawyer decided not to seek reelection after his 36-year career in local politics came to an end.

Estherville Public Library Director Carolyn Walz retired from the library after a remarkable 50-year career, replaced by Tena Hanson.

Marie Park left her position as city deputy clerk in January, after working for the city for 40 years.

Also leaving was parks and recreation director Dave Spurgin who retired after 33 years with the department.

In June, Vaughn Brua, city clerk and finance director, retired after more than 26 years with the city.

Bill Olesen also retired after 33 years with the city, working at both the wastewater treatment plant and the power plant.

Area schools also saw their share of change at top levels.

Kris Schlievert retired as ELC elementary principal. Replacing her was Justin Bouse.

Armstrong-Ringsted superintendent Randy Collins left his position to take another in western Iowa. He was replaced by Matt Berninghaus, former principal, who is now doing double duty in both positions.

The drought of 2012

It could have been a heck of a lot worse.

That was the overall assessment of the drought of 2012.

Good early spring moisture, particularly May, proved essential as the rains dried up through most of the rest of the growing season. As the drought raged throughout much of the Great Plains and on to the Iowa prairies, Emmet County managed to hold out and, for the most part, produce a crop that defied the bone-dry summer.

Drought-resistant hybrids were credited for making a good corn crop, along with rains at key times, and with excellent prices buoyed by the ethanol industry, it was a good year for farmers.

Riverview bridge completed

If you were a farmer living south of Estherville, you were more than a little glad to see the Riverview bridge completed late this fall.

So named for the Riverview Golf Course which closed in 2011, the bridge is a key farm-to-market link for farmers and industry.

Like other county markets, the bridge will likely continue to be known as the Riverview bridge.

New chamber director

Emmet County Native Steph Neppl signed on with the Estherville Area Chamber of Commerce as the new executive director, replacing Renee Stowell, who worked tirelessly as she followed in the footsteps of Dusty Embree, her immediate predecessor.

Neppl brings a wealth of experience after having worked in promotions and marketing in New Zealand, with a focus in online and social media marketing.

Iowa Lakes named STEM hub

Iowa Lakes Community College was named one of the STEM hubs for Gov. Terry Branstad's initiative to foster the emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math in Iowa schools.

Highlights of the college's STEM initiative included the STEM camp last summer and the FIRST LEGO League regional competition in December, hosting youth from throughout the state who participated in a robotics competition.



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