Staff Directory 386835651

Mara Klecker

Reporter | Washington County
Phone: 612-673-4440
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

Mara Klecker covers Washington County for the Star Tribune. She previously spent two years covering social services for the Omaha World-Herald. 

A native South Dakotan and a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's journalism college, Klecker has always called the Midwest home. She's worked on journalism projects in Ecuador, Nicaragua and Nepal. In her free time, she can be found reading, hiking or planning her next international trip.
Recent content from Mara Klecker

Norovirus outbreak hits Oak Park Heights senior living community

Boutwells Landing has canceled activities and implemented protocols to prevent further spread of the illness.
Director Woody Allen

Stillwater film society stirs debate with 'Woody Allen month'

After announcing screenings for "Woody Allen month," a Stillwater film group has found itself at the center of a debate about how and if art can be separated from its artist.
Rendering of redevelopment project in Forest Lake submitted by Gatehouse Capital.

Possible redevelopment coming for Forest Lake feed mill

Proposal for site includes a conference center, hotel.

The Woodbury Community Foundation aims to grow with the city

Organization is looking for rising and unmet needs.
Ariane Schaefer interpreted at the trial as Hamline freshman Maddie Thieschafer, left, and Kelly Rodgers observed.

Mock trial helps deaf, hearing-impaired students see themselves in law

Even a brief introduction to what happens in a courtroom can be beneficial for deaf students.
Bill Belanger in his state Senate office in 2000.

Former GOP state legislator William 'Bill' Belanger dies at 90

Belanger had a long career of public service in Bloomington.

Woman injured in north Minneapolis shooting; another woman arrested

A woman was taken into custody at the scene.
A holiday bough at a Wisconsin chain store shows elongate hemlock scale (EHS), appearing as brown specks, on the underside of its needles.

Invasive insect found on evergreen decorations in Minn., Wis.

Evergreen wreaths and boughs should be bagged or burned to prevent spread of pests.

Scandia group aims to reconstruct historic Tower Barn

Last known "tank house" in state could see new life as a public building.
Zach Carlsen’s goal is to wear the same outfit for a year: gray pants, black T-shirt, navy sweater, shoes and, yes, multiples of socks and boxer sho

Stillwater man is sticking to one outfit for an entire year

Zach Carlsen's decision to reboot his wardrobe was inspired by a desire to simplify his life.
A dusting of snow couldn’t deliver a white Christmas to the Twin Cities. Buck Hill’s artificial snow contrasted with a brown landscape in Burnsvil

White Christmas dreams look to come true ... a day or two late

More than 70 percent of the past 118 Christmas Days in the Twin Cities saw at least some snow accumulation. This year marks the fourth Christmas this decade sans snow — 2011, 2014 and 2015 also brought brown Christmases, according to the National Weather Service.
An Ely man has built a carousel out of the ice on Burntside Lake as a gift to friends and family. To see a video of it in motion, go to

Ice carousel near Ely spins a new tradition

With the help of an electric motor and scattered luminarias, the chunk of ice near Ely transforms into a carousel — a tranquil spinning retreat from the party's other activities.
The Olfelt House in St. Louis Park sold in April for $1.2 million after nearly two years on the market. It was designed in 1958 by Frank Lloyd Wright,

Concerns raised about changes planned for Frank Lloyd Wright home in St. Louis Park

New owners plan to update the house, much to the chagrin of fans.

Washington County OKs budget driven by public safety, state mandates

And in Anoka County, the approved 2019 budget includes the biggest tax levy hike in nine years.
Multiple agencies are responding to a fire at Church in the Maples in NYA. For now, the congregation will meet at their sister church in Arlington rep

Fire destroys church in Norwood Young America

A church in Norwood Young America that celebrated its 160th anniversary in September was destroyed in a fire on Sunday night.
Bob Bergland, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1977 to 1980.

Former U.S. ag secretary Bob Bergland dies at 90 in Roseau

Even when he was booed during speeches, the target of angry farmers in the late 1970s, Bob Bergland remained stoic — a Norwegian Minnesotan through…

Ecolab Foundation gives $5 million to U for green research

The money will fund endowed chair, scholarships and more.
Tom Insley brought his son Aaron to Granite House on Monday. “We are just really confident that he’s in a good place,” Aaron’s mom said.

In West Lakeland Township, a home is born for those with traumatic brain injury

Granite House in east metro will provide care for 4 young people in a family setting.

Woodbury man convicted of identify theft ordered to pay $772K in restitution

Former charity worker stole donors' IDs, using info to pay bills, tuition.
A MnDOT snow plow clears snow on northbound Hwy. 52 at the Marion Road Southeast exit Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, south of Rochester, Minn.

Colder temps coming on heels of season's first big snow

Now that the snow is behind us, prepare to bundle up.Roads on Sunday were still being cleared in the wake of Saturday's storm, which smacked…

Man killed by Bemidji police, officers identified

The BCA is investigating the shooting that occurred Wednesday night during a traffic stop
After cod is treated in a solution, the resulting lutefisk is ready to cut.

Forest Lake pastor pens lutefisk eulogy, then puts tradition on ice

A beloved tradition at Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake had reached its quiet end.
Best Buy customer service specialist Seth Hotchkiss waited on customers at the store in Roseville. Going for pickup rather than delivery might be wort

Cyber Monday shoppers find thieves snooping at their stoops

Those waiting for packages are encouraged to be vigilant in this peak time for theft.
A method of transforming food shelves into more welcoming places with a wider variety of healthy food choices is continuing to expand across Minnesota

Food shelf overhaul project expands across Minnesota

Eight more sites have been selected to adopt the SuperShelf model.

Revamp of Wildwood Library in Mahtomedi will offer more space

A proposed design adds public meeting spaces and outdoor seating, fireplace.
The sign on the Chipotle restaurant on Grand Avenue in St. Paul.

Chipotle may reverse firing of St. Paul manager

Chipotle is reconsidering its decision to fire a St. Paul restaurant manager for not serving five black men and asking them to prove they could pay before taking their order last week.
Lake Elmo Fire Station on Luverne Avenue

Lake Elmo's 'turnaround' results in lifting of penalties against it

The League of Minnesota Cities has been impressed with changes the city has made.
People at the Minneapolis homeless encampment tried to stay warm near an early morning fire.

Minneapolis homeless camp now confronts the cold

Plummeting temperatures have raised anxiety for those in flimsy shelters

911 transcript shows man fatally shot by Minneapolis police was suicidal

Authorities also identify police shooting victim in Shakopee.
Haley Olson, left, Hannah Kane and Emma Swift played Just Dance on the Nintendo Wii at Stillwater’s Valley Friendship Club. The eight-year-old gathe

Stillwater's Friendship Club expands social life for kids with disabilities

Club members join friends for foosball, karaoke, pool and board games in a safe, supervised space.
Joel Glaser, holding his partner Jethra, attended a memorial at Temple Israel for the injured and eleven who died over the weekend in a synagogue in P

Minn. gatherings offer healing, light after Pittsburgh shooting

People of all ages and faiths filed out of Temple Israel after an hourlong service held amid tight security in Minneapolis. It began with a moment of silence and ended with a call for harmony and healing after an anti-Semitic shooting in Pittsburgh the day before.

Marine on St. Croix buys closed elementary school building

Local charter school is considering moving in; deal called a "win-win."
The Stillwater Lift Bridge, shown in 2014.

Stillwater Lift Bridge season extended because of high water levels

Water levels will need to fall 4½ feet before crews are able to float the span — which is sitting on a barge — back to its original location.

University of St. Thomas investigates after racial slur found written on a student's door

The University of St. Thomas is investigating what it calls an “act of hate” after a racial slur was found written on a student’s door…
Jayme Closs

More than 1,000 tips checked out since Jayme Closs disappeared

Vigil, sheriff's update planned as hunt for Jayme Closs enters second week.
Debralyn Bryant, a volunteer firefighter, took notes as engineer Brian Costello packed up hoses in Inver Grove Heights. Many departments are strugglin

Stretched thin, Minnesota volunteer fire crews sound the alarm

As recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters becomes increasingly difficult, several metro area fire departments have been forced to add full-time positions.
Members of the Somali-American community arrived at the scene to look over the small pond where the bodies of Bushra Abdi and Zeynab ìHapsaî Abdalla

Teen cousins accidentally drowned in Chaska pond

Their car veered off the road into the water. Family and friends who stood vigil prepared to gather again to bury the women.
Bushra Abdi (left) and Zeynab (Hapsa) Abdalla both 19, had been missing since early Saturday.

After frantic search, bodies of 2 missing women found in Chaska

Two bodies were pulled from a murky pond in Chaska late Sunday, bringing a frantic two-day search for two 19-year-old cousins and best friends from Shakopee to a tragic end.
3M campus in Maplewood (Provided photo)

Watering ban may be in store for Lake Elmo if no relief is found for wells

City seeks to ease pressure on two remaining wells uncontaminated by PFCs.
Friday afternoon traffic fills the two blocks of Chestnut Street in Stillwater in 2017. Dwindling downtown parking options played a part in a developm

Plans for Stillwater's old armory include apartments

Owners feel the city's parking goals limit the building's redevelopment potential.

Afton's makeover almost complete

Pedestrian-friendly downtown was one goal of $22 million plan.
Carolyn Carlson along with her fellow political science students in Professor Timothy Johnson’s “Justice in America” class Thursday at the Unive

Powerful testimony at Senate hearing grabs attention around Twin Cities

The day drew hushed clusters of viewers, and later, intense and emotional reactions from supporters on each side.
Nova is helping get Buster up to speed as the Woodbury Police Department works to train its own K-9 officers.

Doggie treat: Woodbury police find benefits in bringing pup training in house

Instead of importing dogs, Woodbury is raising its next two K-9 officers.
Fourth-grader Emily Quandt, center, got some help from special education paraprofessional Lorrie Shortridge, back, and fellow pupils on new play equip

Lake Elmo Elementary adds inclusive playground

Young students with a range of abilities can now enjoy recess side-by-side.
Those who identified only as extended members of the family of Sheryl and Kenneth Carpentier, two of the victims, put up balloons and flowers on the g

Teen fleeing troopers in stolen SUV hits vehicle, kills 3 in Mpls.

A teenager speeding from state troopers in a stolen SUV hit another vehicle and killed three people early Sunday at a south Minneapolis intersection, where the wreckage came to rest outside the door of a popular neighborhood bar shortly after closing time.
Natasha Gunderson became emotional recalling her cousin Kimberly Gunderson, who died in a vehicular crash early Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018 in Minneapolis.

Family members of one victim question the policy on pursuits

In the wake of the second State Patrol pursuit this year that ended with a crash in Minneapolis, family members of one of those killed Sunday are questioning the wisdom of a dangerous chase over a stolen car.
This 90-year old former schoolhouse in Hugo has sat without purpose for more than two decades.

Hugo hoping to find new purpose for old schoolhouse

Ideas sought for giving long-vacant building in Hugo a new purpose.
These crafted vessels house beads recounting the treatment milestones of children facing serious illness.

Minnesota woodturners' boxes give sick kids a place for beads of courage

Through the Beads of Courage program, a child receives a colored bead for each treatment milestone — an overnight stay in the hospital, a blood draw, a round of chemotherapy.
Nancy Edwards lives on about $1,500 a month between Social Security and an annuity, she said. She has a reverse mortgage just to pay property taxes.

Orono prosecutes 74-year-old, saying she rented her lakeshore dock illegally

Nancy Edwards said she understands that the city doesn't want pop-up marinas, but adds that a single boat on a dock should be allowed, at least for low-income residents.

Sheriff's deputies recover body of missing boater on Lake Minnetonka

Empty craft was found circling near Big Island on Saturday.
Patrons lined up outside the Hamline Church Dining Hall at the fair.

Hamline Church Dining Hall serves up donation request to its fans

More than 120 years after first serving food at the Minnesota State Fair, the Hamline Church Dining Hall is still dishing out plates of pot…
A proposed logo for Stillwater.

Stillwater, city of many logos, looks at a rebrand

Team of Augsburg students worked over the summer to come up with a brand strategy.
Minneapolis police officers responded to a report of a shooting at 9:44 a.m. at the Emerson Food Market.

Two dead in north Mpls. grocery store shooting, one other injured

The Sunday morning killings brought the weekend homicide total in Twin Cities to five.

Gunshot victim found behind Minneapolis cafe is identified

The man found dead inside of car in the parking lot behind the Hard Times Cafe on Friday night was identified as 32-year-old Liban Mohamed Abdulahi of Burnsville.
Joseph Gomm

Stillwater prison employees' refusal to work in vocational area highlights safety dispute

The union for Minnesota correctional officers is demanding more staff and cameras.
Plastic bags and plastic straws are among items that would be restricted in Afton, if the ordinance passes.

Afton set to vote on single-use plastics ban

The draft ordinance in the scenic river town covers items from straws and utensils to plastic bags.
Before noon on Thursday, the streets were already packed as fairgoers took advantage of a perfect day of weather for the Minnesota State Fair.

All's Fair: Opening day packs them in at the Minnesota State Fair

With fine weather and big crowds, State Fair opening day served up all the classics.
Boy Scout David Doughty, 17, left, built a bell tower in front of Village Hall as part of his Eagle Scout project.

For Birchwood Village, a bell tower courtesy of a soon-to-be Eagle Scout

"This great piece of history was just hidden," said Mayor Mary Wingfield.
Josh Hague and his attorney Andrew Pieper stood in his backyard, which has had flooding.

Mahtomedi neighbors settle with city over flooding

The city will pay $750,000 to five homeowners.
Joseph Papke helped Eva Gemlo into her costume for Zephyr Theatre’s “Twelfth Night” as Randal Berger, dressed as Feste the Jester, watched.

Zephyr Theatre aims to turn Stillwater train depot into performing arts destination

Zephyr Theatre hopes to turn Stillwater hub into regional performing arts center.
Edward M. Johnson

Inmate makes court appearance in Stillwater prison officer's killing

Edward M. Johnson entered no plea to first-degree murder charges returned by a grand jury. A prosecutor says the case is strong.

Washington County mobile response unit to answer crisis calls

County social workers can intervene, find services.
Girl Scout Maddie Olafson nailed down siding on one of the tiny houses under construction at Camp Lakamaga in Marine on St. Croix on Saturday.

Tiny house project takes Girl Scouts far beyond cookie sales

Power Girls camp helps participants learn hands-on construction skills.
Lydia Soucy read a plaque on the St. Croix River bridge. She was with her son Isaac, husband, Duncan, and daughter Autumn (not visible).

A year later, bridge brings change for better, worse to St. Croix Valley

Stillwater and nearby cities still are adjusting to new bridge.
Lynne Blomstrand talked to a tour group at the Gammelgarden Museum in Scandia, Minn.

How Swede it is: Minnesota's Scandia wants to draw day trippers

As many residents of Scandia see it, the blessing and the curse of their community of 4,000 is simple: It's a beautiful place to drive…
Country singer/yodeler Darrel Johnson, 82, takes to the stage weekly for a few songs, along side the Johnny "No Cash" Band at the Red Barn VFW Post 87

Cottage Grove man keeps the fading art of yodeling alive

Even in the viral video age, there is an appreciative audience out there for the country western warble made popular in the 1930s and '40s.
The Stillwater Lift Bridge is looking different now that a span was removed Friday.

Stillwater Lift Bridge span removed

Boats on the St. Croix River can pass unimpeded while the bridge is closed for repairs and repainting.
Kylie Cattoor, an invasive species specialist with the Minnesota DNR, looked to her colleague April Londo, a DNR natural resources specialist, on the

Boat manufacturers urged to join fight against invasive species

New boat-design recommendations are aimed at curbing spread of aquatic pests.

East metro schools to boost mental health help for preteens

Grants will bring therapists to two school districts to try to head off mental health troubles.
Sharon Pfeiffer of Woodbury painted a bedroom of a six-bedroom farmhouse that is being renovated for homeless families in Washington County.

Washington County gets a second homeless shelter

It's Washington County's second; advocates say much more housing is needed
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced a $500,000 state grant to support the demolition project of the long-dormant St. Croix Meadows dog racing tr

Redevelopment of dormant Hudson dog track gets state aid

The Hudson project includes a baseball stadium, brewery, hotel and condos.

State officials warn St. Paul Park residents to limit use of contaminated water

State health officials said they found high levels of PFCs in a municipal well.
Cassie Stiles and her kids Samuel 2, Danielle 7, Isabelle 9, Gabriel 5, and there dog Toby were among a few people who gathered on the 24th Street ped

Downtown Minneapolis gets final closeups from 24th St. bridge

A photographers' favorite vantage point for the downtown skyline is being replaced.
Heidi and Dan Mouw’s son reacted to defeating his parents in a game of “Sorry.” JEFF WHEELER •

Minnesota families battle isolation and stigma when young children have mental illnesses

Families battle isolation, stigma and lack of understanding when young children have mental illnesses.
Irma, 95, and Christopher Xu, 6, reviewed items that were more common in an earlier era. For example: diaper pins.

Nursing home partnership with kids shows friendship knows no age

Sitting next to his senior citizen friend, Christopher Xu wiggled a diaper pin in front of her face. He proudly declared he knew it was…
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