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  Thursday January 29th, 2015    

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Small towns (04/18/2012)
By Frances Edstrom

My brother and his fiancée, Phyllis, are visiting from Vermont. They arrived last night after a pretty grueling trip from Burlington, Vermont, to the Minneapolis airport. However, Phyllis, who loves to shop, did muster the energy to stop at the Mall of America. I asked if they bought anything, and she showed me one of those pennies that are flattened into an elongated shape that she bought for her grandson. The Mall was just too daunting to shop in, she said. I agree.

I liked her right away, and approve of my brother’s choice. Neither one of them even remarked on how strange John and I look — two people with no head hair, no eyebrows and no eyelashes. (We look a lot like Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series, only my nose is bigger!)

At dinner, we talked briefly about the murder of a young woman they knew in the rural area of Vermont where they live. The woman received a call from a man who had done handyman work for her, telling her he needed help on the road near her house. She put her two-year-old in the car and drove off to help him, but not before telling a friend what she was going to do. She apparently arrived at the disabled car, in which were the man and his wife. They dragged her out of her car and took her away and killed her. Her two-year-old son was left in the car, and not found until two hours later. Even at his young age, he was able to tell the authorities what happened. The man and his wife were caught and charged.

The victim was a lovely woman, they said, a teacher who moonlighted at a restaurant near Phyllis’s house. Phyllis’ daughters waitressed with the young mother. That area of Vermont, called the Northeast Kingdom, has its share of characters and downright nuts, but this was way out of the ordinary for the area, which is small and close-knit, and is still reeling from the senseless murder.

I was thinking of a conversation I had with my sister a couple of days earlier when she said she thought that one of the Minnesota metro area papers devoted too much space to crime. I pointed out the Chicago Tribune website, on which are reported at least two — if not more — murders on a daily basis.

My sister is used to the Boston press. Last year, Boston experienced 62 homicides. There is other crime, of course, but the press there must not go after it as aggressively as Minnesota does. The Minneapolis-St. Paul area has between 40 and 60 murders a year. In contrast, New York City and Chicago average around 500.

When you look at those numbers, you have to wonder if people who live where there is so much violence become numb to it, and that’s why it doesn’t fill the papers day after day. A murder in Winona, or in Vermont, is much more momentous, because we are much more likely to know, or know of, the people involved. I’m glad we live here, where murder is still a terrible crime which devastates the whole community.

New City Manager, etc.

Congratulations to Judy Bodway, our new City Manager.

She is the second local government official appointed to the top job without applying or being publicly vetted, our new Dist. 861 Superintendent being the first. Maybe this is the wave of the future. But we think — not to disparage the talents of these two officials — that the public deserves a thorough search and it should include the finalist. Otherwise, government gets to be the good old boys and girls club, not an open process that involves the community. City councils and school boards owe more to their constituents.

Speaking of community, the Winona area seems to have been shut out of the process in the search for a new president of Winona State University, as well. Shouldn’t the community of Winona be included in a decision that will have a decided impact on our quality of life and the employment and education of so many of our area citizens? 


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