Shakopee will unveil a statue Tuesday of its namesake, Chief Sakpe, as part of a historic downtown improvement project to honor the city’s heritage.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community provided a $50,000 grant to help restore the artwork they found in storage depicting Chief Sakpe, leader of a Mdewakanton Dakota village in the mid-1800s.

In 2004, the tribe commissioned artist Danny Heskew, member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Oklahoma, to design a Chief Sakpe likeness for a display at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel. A relief of the statue was located during a recent construction project and donated to the city.

The grant paid for the statue’s transportation back to a Colorado art studio for restoration. Once unveiled, the work will remain displayed on a Kasota veneer wall behind the new Shakopee sign on Hwy. 101.

From his perch, Chief Sakpe and his horse will watch over downtown Shakopee — a bustling Twin Cities suburb that was originally settled by Dakota Indians along the banks of the Minnesota River.

“The statue physically connects people with Shakopee’s history,” said Michael Kerski, director of planning and development. “It honors where we’ve been and serves as a landmark feature for people coming into the city.”

A dedication ceremony, complete with American Indian dancers, will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday under the River City Centre. Mayor Bill Mars and SMSC General Council members will say a few words.

A group of Shakopee residents is also raising money for a bronze statue of missionary Samuel W. Pond to display at the City Centre. The estimated cost is $150,000. At the invitation of Chief Sakpe, Pond came to the prairie village in the late 1840s, where he would found First Presbyterian, Shakopee’s oldest church.

For information or to offer support for the project, contact Joy Sutton, grants and special projects coordinator, at


Inver Grove Heights

City set to name new police chief

The city of Inver Grove Heights appears to have lured Paul Schnell, previously Maplewood police chief, out of retirement by offering him the city’s top cop position at the Nov. 9 City Council meeting.

The city drew 33 applicants for the job, according to Kara Perry, a City Council member.

Staff are awaiting Schnell’s formal acceptance of the offer. The City Council will vote on the hire at its Dec. 11 meeting, said City Manager Joe Lynch.

If all goes as planned, Schnell will replace Larry Stanger, who was placed on administrative leave in the spring of 2016 after a criminal investigation into whether he alerted a suspect in a theft investigation to a planned search of his property. No criminal charges were filed against Stanger.

Schnell served as Maplewood’s police chief from 2013 until June, when to retired. Before that, he was selected as the Hastings police chief, a position he held until 2010. From 1999 to 2010, he worked for the St. Paul police, moving up from patrol officer to sergeant and eventually department spokesman.

Erin Adler

Fire chief wins two awards

Inver Grove Heights’ Fire Chief Judy Thill was honored for her work by two organizations this fall.

Thill received the Fire Officer of the Year Award from the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association Oct. 20 at the group’s annual banquet in Rochester, according to the city of Inver Grove Heights’ website.

In choosing award winners, the association looks for “leadership, innovation, professional development, integrity, service to the public and contributions to the fire service as a whole.”

The International Association of Fire Chiefs presented Thill with a Buckman Leadership Award, a national honor, on Nov. 10 for demonstrating “leadership, integrity and outstanding moral values within the fire service.” The award was presented at the association’s national leadership conference in Florida.

Thill took on the chief role in 2007, moving up from deputy chief in the Maple Grove fire department, a position she held for 11 years.

Erin Adler

Prior Lake

Shakopee tribe, city finalize water pact

Prior Lake signed a long-term water purchase agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) on Monday, striking a deal that will result in the construction of a joint water treatment facility that will double the city’s daily water supply.

The $22.5 million project will be primarily funded through the SMSC, with a $2.2 million contribution from the city. Construction on the new South Water Treatment Facility began this fall near Dakotah Sport and Fitness on the south side of County Road 82. It will be linked to the North Water Treatment Facility in Prior Lake, allowing SMSC to operate both plants on one system.

The agreement has no termination date.

“Preparing for the future needs of our community and protecting our natural resources is critical,” SMSC Chairman Charles R. Vig said in a statement. “By working together toward these shared goals, we’ll be able to provide for our communities and better protect the area’s groundwater from overuse and pollution.”

Prior Lake will be able to buy water from the SMSC in amounts up to 1.2 million gallons per day through June 30, 2019. After that, the city can increase its share to 2.2 million gallons a day. Prior Lake lacks the water supply to meet its peak demand. City Council directed staff in 2016 to work with their neighbors to build a new joint facility, saving them millions in infrastructure costs.

Mayor Kirt Briggs said the partnership will deliver “significant value” to taxpayers and is in the two communities’ best interest.

The facility is designed with growth in mind, allowing for future expansion should water volume need to increase.