The Free Press
— As the year closes, it’s beneficial to look back at the local events that helped define us as a community and became part of our shared history.
Over the past week, The Free Press has run stories highlighting the top 10 local news stories of the year.
As is always the case when creating lists of top news events, crime and court cases take prominent spots. This past year saw the conclusion to a long, tragic case when Jennifer Nibbe admitted she had murdered her husband, James Nibbe, in their Lake Crystal home in 2010.
It was the year another high profile case began as a rural North Mankato couple was charged with starving and mistreating their son. The case is scheduled for trial in the coming months.
And it was a year in which justice came slowly, as a bizarre, high-profile case unfolded involving Minnesota State University head football coach Todd Hoffner. After being charged with possessing child pornography for having short videos of his nude children on his phone, Hoffner proclaimed his innocence. Late in the year, a judge agreed, taking the unusual step of throwing out all charges prior to a trial, saying the images did not constitute pornography. Hoffner still has not got his job back as MSU investigates an unspecified complaint against him.
Other, decidedly more upbeat stories included a highly anticipated, sold-out concert by one of the legends of entertainment — Elton John. Long-time North Mankato City Administrator Wendell Sande traded the grind of running a city for the peace of retirement. And the region received news it had been hoping to hear for decades when Gov. Mark Dayton announced a four-lane highway would be built between North Mankato and Nicollet — a stretch of highway that has claimed far too many lives.
Other top stories were of statewide and local importance: The surprising election results that gave control of all branches of government to the DFL and the defeat of constitutional amendments that would have banned gay marriage and brought new restrictions to voting.
Top 10 lists always leave out a host of other important, interesting and compelling stories that help shape our communities. The area has seen solid economic growth in the past year, saw students excel in academics and extra curriculars, witnessed people giving generously and saw residents enjoying a high quality life in a safe environment.
All-in-all, a year to be proud of.