In a first, Amery’s Music on the River was rained out July 19. The old saying, “The show must go on” was not an option due to strong winds and heavy down pours. Two separate tornadoes touched down that evening in other parts of Polk County.

They say time flies when you are having fun. If that is the case, it seems as if 2019 must have been a blast. 

As 2020 sneaks upon us, here is a look back at the top stories of 2019.



Doerfler appointed Interim Administrator

The School District of Amery Board of Education voted during the December 17 Regular Board Meeting to appoint current Amery High School Principal, Dr. Shawn Doerfler, as the Interim District Administrator pending the resolution of the employment status of James Kuchta.

Doerfler had been the principal of Amery High School for the last thirteen years, and simultaneously continued his role as principal while fulfilling the district administrator responsibilities. 

“We feel confident that Shawn will provide the leadership and direction that our school district needs at this time,” said Chelsea Whitley, President of the Amery Board of Education. 

Doerfler was hired permanently to the position in April.

Duncanson resigns

 Amery Clerk-Treasurer Frances (Fran) Duncanson resigned from her position with the city. She read a statement at Amery’s City Council meeting Jan. 2. Duncanson said, “Tonight is my last city council meeting in Amery, as I have retired from Wisconsin and have accepted the Deputy City Clerk position in Wyoming, MN. 

“I want to thank the city council for the opportunity to serve you as City Clerk-Treasurer for the last seven and a half years. I would be remiss if I did not also thank past council members, most of which hired me here for their support as well; Mike Karuschak, Kay Erickson, David Meyers, Jack Rogers, Sharon Paulson and Diane Taxdahl.

Duncanson resigned from Wyoming and the Village of Osceola formally welcomed Fran Duncanson as the new clerk/treasurer at their monthly board meeting December 10.

Kuchta, school district, reach agreement

Amery District Administrator James Kuchta and the Amery School District reached an agreement of release and retirement, according to an announcement by the district following a closed session meeting Jan. 9.

Kuchta, who had been on paid leave since Nov. 9, 2018, remained on the district payroll until June 30. The release from the district said “We, the Amery School District Board of Education, have accepted the official retirement of Mr. Jim Kuchta from his position as district administrator effective June 30, 2019. Mr. Kuchta will be on a leave of absence until this date.

“We thank the employees and residents of our school district for their patience as this matter has been resolved. Please note that throughout this process the Amery Board of Education has been driven by a commitment to the due process rights under the law reserved for all Amery School District employees.



Wicked weather 

In Amery and surrounding areas, schools and many businesses closed due to temperatures plunging 20-40 degrees below zero. Amery Public Works Director Alan “Bones” McCarty shared that during cold spells residents should try to avoid frozen pipes by remembering to open cabinet doors to let heat in.

Brotzel reaches coaching milestone

2018/2019 marked Brotzel’s seventh season as Amery’s girls basketball varsity coach and he reached his 100th career win. He credited his old coach, Steve Wilhelm, as being the one that encouraged him to get into coaching.

It is a “No” for snowmobilers

In a In a memo sent out to Polk County Surveyor/Interim Land Information Director/Land Information Officer Steve Geiger Dec. 13, 2018, Interim County Administrator Jeffrey Fuge directed the Stower Seven Lakes Trail to be opened for snowmobile usage immediately. 

Communication from Polk County to snowmobilers Feb. 7 stated, “ All Polk County Snowmobile Trails officially OPEN today 2/7/19 at noon. This now does NOT include the Stower Seven Lakes Trail which will continue to be closed to snowmobiles.”

This came after a letter was sent to Geiger from Ben Bergey, Bureau Director of the Wisconsin State Park System, dated Feb. 6. In the letter Bergey states that the Jan. 29 Polk County submitted plan that contained plans to allow snowmobiling on the SSLT, did not meet the requirements in the existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Polk County and the DNR.



Summer projects approved by school board

“As much as I am not happy about presenting this to you, I believe getting an early jump on this is the right thing to do,” said Facilities Director George Sigsworth at the March regular meeting of the Amery Board of Education. Sigsworth appeared in front of the board to explain two deferred maintenance projects needing to be done on district buildings over the summer.

Wall flashing estimated to cost around $350,000 on Lien Elementary and Middle School roof repairs also estimated to cost $350,000 were approved by the board. “These are not fun projects, but choice of not doing them is pretty paralysis,” said Interim District Administrator Shawn Doerfler.



City welcomes Bjorklund 

Patty Bjorklund is settled in to her role as City Clerk/Treasurer. She said, “The people here have very been very welcoming to me, and it is a wonderful community! I look forward to serving the constituents of the City of Amery!”

Incumbents hold their school board seats

Current school board member Dale Johnson was the top vote recipient in the School District of Amery board race. Johnson received 1,129 votes between the nine municipalities participating in the election. Also returning to the board were Chelsea Whitley, receiving 1,012 votes and Erin Hosking, receiving 830 votes. Emilie Bremness received 724 votes and write in candidate, Darcy Lorsung claimed 187 votes.



Gould named Principal

1994 Amery High School graduate Josh Gould was been named principal of the building where he once roamed the halls as a student. A May 17 social media release by the school district shared the news and quoted Administrator Dr. Shawn Doerfler as saying, “We are delighted that Josh Gould will be leading Amery High School. He brings seasoned leadership, a strong work ethic and a passion for the education of Amery students.”

North Park swing installed

A newly installed handicap swing, made Amery’s North Park a place where there is now something for everyone. On Thursday May 23rd, the swing received its inaugural push. Visitors from Endeavors were on hand, including Annie Marie who was celebrating her 61st birthday. Annie is wheelchair bound and her push from Sharon Paulson that afternoon was the very first time she had ever gotten the chance to experience a ride on a swing.



Amery alumnus jumps to re-enact D-Day

People all around the world watched June 6 as paratroopers marked the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion with a re-enactment of the Normandy landings, which have been called the beginning of the end of WWII in Europe.

Matt Butcher, a 1985 graduate of Amery High School, took his chance to honor the paratroopers who participated in the parachute assault into occupied France in 1944.

Christopherson passes torch

to third generation

Dr. Terry Christopherson did not always know that he was meant to be an optometrist. “Dr. Jack Larsen started this practice in 1949 and I fell in love with his daughter,” he said. The rest as they say, is history. The torch that was handed to Christopherson by Larsen was passed down to a third generation. Christopherson’s son Bryce who came to work with him eight years ago, purchased the practice from his father.



Welcome Jeff Fern

The School District of Amery announced the hiring of Jeff Fern as the new Athletic Director/Dean of Students at Amery High School. His first day of duty was July 1.

Davis resigns

Rick Davis resigns after 27 ½ years on city council. Mayor Paul Isakson announced the resignation of Davis during the July 10 City Council meeting. Davis was not present, but Isakson read the letter of resignation that was written by Davis. “It is with regret that I am resigning my position of representative of the City of Amery Alderman at District One effective immediately. I am spending more time at my second residence and feel I would not provide quality representation with regards to the committees I was recently appointed to as my expertise is working with financial matters. It has been a pleasure to serve as Alderman for the past 27 ½ years.”

Storm ravages over Polk and Barron Counties

Friday July 19. A F1 tornado touched down in the White Ash Lake area, staying on the ground for several miles moving north. A second tornado, rated as an F0, touched down near Little Blake Lake and was on the ground for approximately 1 mile.

Throughout the day Friday, weather forecasters were predicting the sticky temperatures could lead into summer thunderstorms. By Friday evening, severe storm watches and warnings were coloring the counties on news weather maps. 

Once the large cell entered Polk County, it entered swiftly.  By approximately 5:10p.m., a strong storm entered the north west corner of the county. Winds were reported in excess of 84mph. Hail and heavy rainfall amounts accompanied this weather event. The storm continued across Polk County in a south east direction.  Communities included in the path of this were Cushing, Frederic, Luck, Milltown, Centuria, Balsam Lake, Clayton and Turtle Lake.  Residents sustained damage to buildings, power lines, property, and trees. Flash flooding occurred in areas throughout most of the county. 



Two loops of travel

Plans for a bicycle and pedestrian path are moving forward, providing multiple routes of navigation for users within the city.

Leonard named Amery’s newest Alderperson

Chad Leonard was appointed the City of Amery’s newest Alderperson for Wards 1 and 2 filling the seat previously held by Rick Davis. His term will expire in 2022. Leonard grew up in Morris, Minnesota, and has lived in Amery for about 14 years. 

Dick’s Fresh Market expansion

A large group gathered Monday, August 19 to witness the groundbreaking of the Dick’s Fresh Market renovation. 8,000 square feet holding an expanded deli and produce section, a walk-in beer and wine cooler, an updated center store, larger dairy and frozen sections, a Caribou popcorn and coffee kiosk topped off with a whole new front curbside façade is what customers have to look forward to.



Baldwins serve as Grand Marshals

Bill and Judi Baldwin were named Grand Marshals of the 2019 Amery Fall Festival. During the Grand Parade Saturday, September 14, you saw the couple being driven down Keller Avenue, which was a little different for them. For 35 years they walked alongside the Amery High School Marching Warriors as the band entertained the crowd.

New Royalty crowned

During the 2019 Amery Fall Festival new royalty crowned to represent the City for the upcoming year were: Little Miss Amery, Olivia Sain; Fourth Princess, Emilie Koenig; Third Princess, Madilyn Heinn; Second Princess, Kelsey Oman; First Princess and Miss Congeniality, Ella Williamson and Miss Amery, Ally De La Cruz.

Amery Dog Park opens

Friday, September 7, the gates opened for canines and owners to exercise and socialize. Gregg Rochester, Chairperson of the dog park committee said, “The Dog Park Steering Committee is pleased to see the project advanced to this stage. We hope to continue to guide future projects and events. We wish to thank the community and city for their generosity and support.” 



D.O.T. delays project

Amery’s Keller Avenue “Project Street Construction and Utilities” will be slightly paused due to the insistence of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Amery’s City Clerk-Treasurer, Patty Bjorklund, said the city received word the DOT is urging the City of Amery to delay construction of the project.  She said, “Because this project is located in the downtown section of Amery, the goal of the construction phase is to have the shortest time frame as possible so as to minimize the impact on downtown businesses as much as possible.”

Stower Trail open house held in Amery

An open house for the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail (SSLST) held at Amery’s Community Center Oct. 21, not only provided the opportunity for people on both sides of the controversy to state opinions, but it also provided information to those who are still unsure where they stand in the debate of motorization or not.

Toole Design, a company brought in by Polk County, presented the SSLST Master Plan Open House. Participants were first presented what has taken place to date in regards to the trail planning and what upcoming plans are in store.

City severs ties with Moore

Almost two years to the day that she began work for the City of Amery, Kim Moore was let go as the administrator.

The City Council voted 5-1, with Alderperson Julie Riemenschnieder casting the lone dissenting vote, to terminate Moore’s employment, effective Oct. 31. The vote took place after a closed session Oct. 23 at the end of a scheduled budget session. 


New weekly summer concert series

Woody McBride spoke to attendees of the November city council meeting and announced that in 2020 with partnership from The City of Amery, an exciting new weekly Summer Concert Series at Michael Park Pavilion will be starting called “Summer Wednesdays.”

Outdoor Classroom

A mini grant, Lien Elementary committee and parent volunteers attributed to the creation of a new outdoor classroom space behind the school.

Lisa Bensen, coordinator for the PBIS Tier One team at Lien Elementary said, “the health benefits green spaces provide is one of the main reasons for including this project in our 2019-2020 goals. Creating, improving, and maintaining a positive school climate is part of our overall mission. We hope to see additional benefits by incorporating “green” spaces that are calming and part of a healthy sensory diet as well as designated areas for peacemaking and problem-solving.”



Tape complaints lead to new restraints

for Amery Police

New restraints to restrain out of control juveniles have been ordered by the Amery Police after an investigation by the city’s law firm into allegations of improper use of force involving two incidents with students. In both incidents, minors were restrained using duct tape. 

Records obtained by the Amery Free Press under Wisconsin’s open records law show Amery police officer John Carlson was involved in both incidents. Carlson responded on his own to one call and was assisted by Police Chief Tom Marson on a second incident. One incident occurred in Dec. 2018 and the second in Feb. 2019.

Vierkandt hired in Barron

Amery’s Assistant Chief of Police, Joseph Vierkandt, has signed a contract to become Barron’s new Chief of Police. 

Liz Jacobson, Barron City Administrator confirmed Vierkandt would replace retiring Chief Byron Miller. She said, “He will start sometime in January. A specific start date has not yet been determined.”

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