Area briefs: Wildlife refuge names volunteer of the year

·3 min read

Nov. 26—WINONA — Despite the limited opportunities available to volunteers in 2021, Lori Packer stepped up to be named the 2021 Volunteer of the Year for the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

The Winona resident volunteered her time to shovel snow from walkways and kiosk areas at refuge boat landings last winter. This fall, she spent nearly two-weeks and used eight gallons of stain refreshing all the wood structures at the Verchota Boat Landing, making the landing look new again.

In total, 40 volunteers contributed more than 400 hours of their time, representing nearly $12,000 in service value to the refuge in 2021. Other volunteer activities this year included assisting with Refuge biological surveys, planting trees, maintenance activities, and invasive species monitoring and control.

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The volunteer program is an excellent way to gain experience, help wildlife, meet interesting people and is open to all ages and abilities. If you would like to enjoy a productive and rewarding experience as a Refuge Volunteer, please call (507) 454-7351.

Prairie Island Indian Community elects new council

PRAIRIE ISLAND — The new Tribal Council for the Prairie Island Indian Community was elected with many of the council's leaders returning, and one new member.

During the recent election, the top five vote-getters earned a spot on the Tribal Council to serve two-year terms. The winners are Shelley Buck, Michael Childs Jr., Johnny Johnson, Valentina Mgeni and Cody Whitebear. Johnson was elected to his 13th term on Tribal Council. Buck, the council president, earned her sixth term. This will be the second term for Mgeni and Childs. Whitebear, who leads the tribe's federal government affairs work, was elected to his first term.

The election results were certified by the Tribe's Election Board and are now final. The newly elected Tribal Council will be sworn into office on Dec. 5. After taking office, the Tribal Council members will vote on the individual roles of president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and assistant secretary-treasurer for the new term.

The Prairie Island Indian Community is a federally recognized Indian Nation located along the banks of the Mississippi River, approximately 30 miles from the Twin Cities. Visit the PIIC online at

Winners named for Winona Fine Arts Commission grants

WINONA — The Winona Fine Arts Commission's has awarded grants for seven projects through its 2021 grants program.

The FAC's $500 grants are intended to assist creatives and arts organizations in continuing their practice and operations impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

After discussing each of the very strong submissions, the Commission is pleased to announce the following winners included individual artist: Robert Armstrong, Mike Munson and Joy Davis Ripley. Organizations earning grants were ArtFarm, Our Voice and LaShara Morgan, Polish Cultural Institute and the Winona Art Center.

Austin middle school principal earns award

AUSTIN — Jessica Cabeen, principal at Ellis Middle School in Austin, was named the 2021 K-12 Dive Principal of the Year.

Cabeen, who has been principal at Ellis since 2018, was selected from a small pool of finalists thanks to glowing recommendations from teachers, community members, and former Austin superintendent David Krenz.

"She looks at ... that dynamic between family, between students, between teachers and how she can create an environment that everyone is going to be successful," says Krenz.

Krenz said Cabeen is a "source of confidence that we're not going to leave your children behind."

For more information on the award, go to

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