2011 Year in Review


It was another busy news year in Hudson with a number of stories impacting citizens. Among them were: recall elections, Super Bowl, ice dams, embezzlements, dog track up for sale, business openings, business closings, teacher walk-out and much more.

Here are some of the weekly highlights from the 2011 Star-Observer. Read many more in the Dec. 29 print edition.


  • December's record snowfall stretched the winter maintenance budgets of St. Croix County and Hudson area municipalities. Tim Ramberg, commissioner of the St. Croix County Highway Department, said the Dec. 10-11 storm that dropped about 18 inches of snow on the county cost taxpayers about $42,000.
  • An early morning crash in northern Wisconsin on Jan. 12 claimed the life of a 20-year-old Hudson woman. Anna Shoemaker died Thursday, Jan. 13, at about 1 p.m. at a Duluth hospital as a result of injuries suffered in an accident near Ashland. Shoemaker was a passenger in a car driven by her friend Elizabeth Burns, also of Hudson.
  • Gov. Scott Walker visited Hudson Jan. 18 to introduce a new sign stating "Open For Business." The sign is one of 23 to be placed along different entry points into Wisconsin, including on Interstate 94 at the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.
  • A man who shot up his Hudson house and fired at police while his son and three other teenagers were forced to flee was convicted of felony charges following a plea bargain. Daniel Craig Christenson, 44, pleaded no contest to two felony counts of reckless endangerment and a misdemeanor charge of possession of a firearm while intoxicated.
  • The now-national "Hang Up and Drive" campaign was started by Hudson High School students including Mark Hayes and Brooke Brokaw and draws attention to the dangers of talking and texting on cell phones while driving.


  • Ramsey County, Minn., authorities don't know why 21-year-old Kalen R. Pohjonen shot his young wife (19-year-old Katherine M. (Quam) Pohjonen) and then himself. The two were former Hudson High School students. Authorities classified the deaths as a murder-suicide.
  • Hudson native Jim Rouleau was quoted in the New York Times and the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth on Monday because he was one of the 1,250 people who found that even though they had legitimate tickets, they did not have seats for Super Bowl XLV. It turned out that temporary bleachers in the stadium were deemed unsafe by the fire marshal.
  • Jeremiah Pike, 24, died Thursday, Feb. 10, at Gillette Children's Hospital in St. Paul after a brief illness. Pike suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was 15 as the result of a car accident in Stillwater on Valentine's Day 2002. Pike was a freshman at Hudson High School at the time of his accident.
  • A former long-time manager at Chicone's Liquor Mart in Hudson was charged with two counts of felony theft for allegedly pilfering cash from the till for nearly six years. Nathan M. Dusek, 37, Knapp, posted a $2,000 signature bond Thursday (Feb. 17) on charges of theft in a business setting and theft by false representation. The money allegedly stolen from Chicone's could total close to $400,000 according to information from the Hudson Police Department.
  • A Willow River Elementary Parent Group web page reported that $34,605.76 remained "unaccounted for" during the time frame of the past 18 months. The discrepancy was apparently discovered after hours of volunteer time from the group's interim treasurer Anne Kalsow.


  • Hudson teachers staged a rally in Lakefront Park and announced that they are willing to make financial concessions and encouraged Gov. Scott Walker and Republican politicians to make concessions on the collective bargaining portion of the budget repair bill.
  • The Raider wrestling team's first ever trip to the WIAA State Team Tournament proved to be a huge success with a quarterfinal win over Holmen last Friday night (32-29). That win made Hudson one of the top four teams in the state.
  • It was announced at St. Patrick Church that Father Dan Dahlberg is leaving the parish after allegedly taking about $10,800 from the parish charity account for his own use. In a letter distributed at church Sunday, it stated that "It is very likely that this misconduct is the result of a serious gambling addiction which has lead to personal financial issues and impaired Father Dan's judgment."
  • Dibbo's Cafe closed its door for good on Saturday, March 19. Dibbo's Hotel manager Chuck McGee said Monday that the cafe's business had declined in recent years and the owners could no longer sustain the financial loss of keeping it open. The bar and hotel remains open.


  • The St. Croix County District Attorney's office was reviewing the investigation against a Hudson mother accused of stealing more than $34,000 from the Willow River Elementary Parent Group. Nichole R. Haugen, 28, 1115 Seventh St., was later charged with four felony counts of theft.
  • A recount of votes in the District 5 race for Hudson City Council gave challenger John Hoggatt an even narrower victory over incumbent Scot O'Malley than reported on election night, April 5. Hoggatt was officially declared the winner by two votes, 181 to 179 instead of the three-vote margin reported previously.
  • Organizers of the effort to recall state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf announced at a rally at the Government Center on April 18 that they had collected 22,300 signatures, far more than the 15, 744 necessary to force a recall election.
  • Another Hudson mother is facing criminal charges in connection with a theft from a school parent group. Brenda Lutovsky, 42, 1906 Stone Creek, is accused of stealing in excess of $16,000 from the Hudson Middle School Parent Advisory Council. She is also accused of the fraudulent use of a credit card from a Hudson business. That theft is estimated at $8,000.


  • Ellsworth teacher Shelly Moore announced she would run on the Democratic ticket against Republican State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf in the summer's 10th District recall election. The announcement was made in Lakefront Park on May 3.
  • Hudson High School was named to 2011 National Advanced Placement Achievement List, one of only 388 public schools nationwide and one of 20 in Wisconsin on the list .
  • A town of Hudson house sustained major fire damage after it was struck by lightning on the morning of May 9. Owner Christine Nielsen said she heard a bang and saw cupboard doors shake open. She smelled smoke and left the house. Seven fire departments assisted in the fighting the fire.
  • HHS sophomore Bryan Aumann, 16, died April 26 of a self-inflicted gunshot. At a gathering at the school on May 19, Aumann's father, Larry, described the suffering Bryan endured while being treated for cancer and how it led to his son's death.
  • More than 150 cancer survivors, caregivers, sponsors and supporters attended the Hudson Relay For Life Survivors' Dinner on May 12 at Bethel Highlands. It was the largest crowd to ever attend the annual dinner.


  • Final plans for a Walgreens pharmacy and retail store on Carmichael Road just south of Culver's restaurant were approved by the Hudson City Council. Construction on the 14,490-square-foot building was scheduled to begin in the fall.
  • The first cancer patients began receiving radiation treatment at the newly opened Cancer Center of Western Wisconsin in New Richmond. Attached to Westfields Hospital, the center is a joint venture among six area hospitals including Hudson Hospital & Clinics.
  • Hudson's Christian Community Home celebrated 30 years of service along with WinterGreen which also marked its 25 anniversary.
  • The Hudson High School Class of 2011 included 311 graduates at the 130th annual commencement ceremony. Of that number, 262 have been students in Hudson since they were in kindergarten.
  • Teams came from all over the world came to Hudson to participate in the Pee Wee International Friendship Hockey Tournament.
  • Uline Inc., a privately-held Wisconsin-based company that sells packaging equipment and supplies to businesses, plans to construct a 640,000-square-foot building in the St. Croix Business Park. The plan calls for 150 jobs at the company's Eagan, Minn. distribution center to be moved to Hudson. Construction is expected to begin in 2012.


  • Miss Hudson Pageant royalty met the public at the Hudson High School auditorium June 30. Members of the royal entourage included Miss Hudson, Kelsey Robertson and Princesses Aaliyah Burgess, Audrey Oglesby and Kelsey Simms.
  • Father Dan Dahlberg of St. Patrick Church was convicted of theft July 7. He pleaded no contest to one count of misdemeanor theft and one count of felony theft. Judgment on the felony charge was deferred under a plea agreement.
  • Hudson's Octagon House and the St. Croix County Historical Society teamed up to create an exhibit of Civil War items and memorabilia in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War in 1862.
  • Hudson artist Renee Engebretson suffered her third bout with Lyme disease after a tiny deer tick had infected her. There were some 2, 510 confirmed cases of the disease reported in 2010.


  • The honorable Thomas James O'Brien died in Regions Hospital in St. Paul July 28. He was 87. O'Brien was a life-long Hudson resident, 1941 graduate of Hudson High School and appointed county judge in 1957 by Gov. Vernon W. Thompson. He retired from the post in 1970.
  • Republican Sheila Harsdorf maintained her seat in the Wisconsin Senate by winning the 10th District recall election on Aug. 9, 37,099 to 27,250. Harsdorf said the election, "reaffirms people really want us to get our fiscal house in order.
  • Paul Rode was selected Pepper Fest Good Neighbor for the 2011 event. Rode, a Roberts native, is owner of Agave Kitchen in downtown Hudson and a seven-year resident of North Hudson.
  • Pepper Fest royalty crowned Aug. 22 included King Lucas Prause, Queen Taylor Haslup and Princesses Nicole Stagg and Anna Johnson.
  • A fire gutted a rented two-story house in Houlton Aug. 18. A passerby noticed smoke coming out of the house at the corner of County E and Hwy. 35 at about 6:30 a.m. The listed owner of the home was Christopher Bauer.


  • The St. Joseph Town Chairman Daniel Gavin filed a petition in St. Croix County Civil Court asking that Clerk-Treasurer Mary E. Stanley of Houlton be removed from office. Gavin alleged Stanley used the town credit card for an unauthorized purchase and other dereliction of her duties.
  • Hudson native Marie Salzman, who lived in Manhattan near the World Trade Center on 9/11, reflected on the terrorist attack 10 years earlier. Salzman, a 1995 Hudson High School graduate, continues to live in New York City.
  • Thomas Barnett, 42, a UW-River Falls music professor, was charged with sex assault of a 13-year-old girl in St. Croix County Circuit Court. The charges stemmed from an incident in a Hudson movie theater where Barnett allegedly impersonated a member of the theater security department.
  • Jerry Gilbert, Class of 1966, and Martha Richards, Class of 1988, were added to Hudson High School's Wall of Fame Sept. 14.
  • Corie Erickson, 23, a 2007 Hudson High School graduate, was seriously injured in a car crash Sept. 9 in Stillwater. Ericson was a passenger in the car that was struck head-on by a driver who crossed the center line on the south end of Main St.
  • Shea Van Gelder was selected 2011 Hudson High School Homecoming queen. Maddie Drewiske was first princess and Casey Fall second princess.
  • Ryan W. Vadnais, 28, was arrested and booked on attempted homicide and aggravated battery charges following the investigation of an altercation with Scott M. Germain, 48, who was hospitalized with a knife wound.
  • Supporters of a new bridge across the St. Croix River near Stillwater traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby for speedy passage of a bill to clear the way for construction. A new bridge in the area to replace the Stillwater lift bridge built in 1931 has been the topic of debate for decades.
  • The Wisconsin Department of Transportation opened bidding on the 16-acre property where the tourism information center stands. The property on the south side of I-94 was opened in 1972. It was closed on April 1, 2009.


  • The Hudson Board of Education voted unanimously to buy the former St. Croix Meadows dog track for $8.25 million. The purchase has to be approved by voters in a referendum to go forward.
  • Hudson Ford used car sales manager Dan Anderson died in a one-vehicle crash on Interstate 94 at milepost 4 on Sept. 28. The popular 42-year-old was well-liked by co-workers and customers. He had been with the dealership for 11 years.
  • The RiverBank was closed by the Minnesota Department of Commerce because of what the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. estimated as $71.4 million in bad debt. The North Hudson office opened the next day as a branch of Central Bank.
  • Authorities identified Andrew M. Heimstad, 43, of Hudson, as the man who walked into the path of a semi-truck on Interstate 94 east of Hudson on Oct. 4. Heimstad had been a bass guitar player in a number of area bands. His death was later ruled a suicide.
  • Johnson Controls Inc. announced that it would be closing its seat assembly plant in Hudson. The closing was tied to the shutdown of the Ford assembly plant in St. Paul. The Johnson Controls plant, which opened in 1997, was the first business to locate in Hudson's St. Croix Business Park.
  • Wisconsin's new law making it legal to carry a concealed handgun was set to go into effect at the start of November. Wisconsin had been one of just two states that prohibited the carrying of concealed weapons.


  • Hudson Golf Club owner Chris Hanson offered to donate about 65 acres of the golf course to the school district as a school site. His offer was contingent upon the city agreeing to extend Ward Avenue through the south end of golf course to Carmichael Road, and rezoning the property along the street for commercial use.
  • Anita Penman, owner of the Vine Street Florist shop, died of illness on Oct. 30. The 64-year-old Hudson native had worked at the shop at 537 Vine Street for 35 years, and owned it for the last 18 years. Long-time assistant Gabby Joseph said the shop would close.
  • Scot O'Malley announced his candidacy for mayor of Hudson. O'Malley represented District 5 on the City Council for 10 years before losing the April 2011 election to John Hoggatt by two votes. O'Malley said his time away from the council had allowed him to reflect on ways to make Hudson "look better" and be more "user-friendly."
  • The Hudson Police Department said the death of Brett Simpson, 23, at a residence on Spruce Drive was the result of a drug overdose. Police said it was the city's third drug-overdose death of the year. The first two deaths were the result of heroin overdoses.
  • Fiesta Loca, a new Mexican restaurant, was getting ready to open in the Carmichael Centre building north of the Target store. Owner German Duran said Fiesta Loca's menu would feature family recipes he has enjoyed since his boyhood.


  • Hundreds of people welcomed Santa Claus to downtown Hudson the Friday night after Thanksgiving Day. A balmy temperature and lack of snow contributed to the big turnout.
  • Alan Burchill announced that he would seek a full term as mayor of Hudson in the April 3, 2012, election. Burchill was appointed to the mayor's office at the end of November 2010 on a 4-2 vote by the City Council. He replaced former mayor Dean Knudson, who was elected to the District 30 seat in the Wisconsin Assembly. Burchill said he wants to help keep the city headed in the right direction.
  • The staff of Hudson High School's True Blue Annual received Gold Medalist and All-American awards from regional and national press associations. The annual received marks of distinction for concept, design, writing and photography.
  • Hudson attorney William Radosevich filed a claim against the village of North Hudson for what he said was an illegal arrest by a village police officer. Radosevich said he was pulled over by Officer Robert Moody on July 8, handcuffed and arrested for impaired driving even though a breath test indicated that he hadn't been drinking. Radosevich demanded $50,000 in damages from the village.
  • Hudson's public school teachers voted 243-14 to recertify their union. A state law adopted last spring by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker requires annual votes of support by public employee unions for them to continue to operate.
  • Chris Hanson, owner of the Hudson Golf Club, withdrew his offer to donate 65 acres of golf course property to the school district as the site for a new secondary school. An evaluation of the property had indicated that it wasn't a suitable school site.