5-year-old mayor loses third term in city election

Robert "Bobby" Tufts, age 5, lost his bid for a third term as mayor this past week. Instead, voters at the Taste of Dorset festival threw their support behind a candidate three times his age — 16-year-old Eric Mueller.

Despite losing the office he'd held for almost half his life, Tufts accepted his first electoral defeat with grace.

"It was fun, but it's time to pass on the vote," Bobby told the Associated Press. That next generation? His little brother. "I'm gonna let James do it. He's 2."

Bobby leaves behind a record of mayoral accomplishments that include tossing candy at parades and moving ice cream to the top of the food pyramid, the AP reports. He also leveraged the publicity his election generated to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley in Fargo.

Dorset, with a population of around 25, has no formal government and its mayoral elections are a decidedly informal affair. Taste of Dorset festivalgoers pay $1 per ballot and can vote as often as they like, with all the proceeds going to support the festival.

Mayor Bobby worked the crowds, glad-handing in a tiny tie and fedora, but Mueller's name was pulled out of the hat. The high school junior from Mendota Heights told the AP that the idea to run for higher office came after eating five fried ice creams in a row.



Owner charged with arson

The owner of the K & M Liquor Store in Lake Lillian set the fire that destroyed the building in September 2013, investigators say.

Mary Sue Whitcomb, 51, of rural Atwater, was charged Monday in Kandiyohi County District Court with second-degree arson and insurance fraud, both felonies. The charges allege that the liquor store was losing money and attempts to sell it had failed.

Whitcomb told investigators that she locked up at 9 p.m. on the night of the fire. "The fire was detected within 15 minutes of Whitcomb's exit," the charges say. Experts determined that the fire started in the bathroom with a match or a lighter.



New home for county fair?

Plans for an ambitious agricultural campus near Mankato include a new home for the Blue Earth County Fair.

The campus, which will be created through public/private partnerships, was already in the works when the fair came looking for a bigger, better location, said Bryan Stading, executive director of the Riverbend Center for Entrepreneurial Facilitation. "It's an ag campus — with the flair of a fair."

He declined to name the campus' other partners, as the Mankato-based center works with businesses confidentially. Cost and location "are all in discussion," he said. "It's a large project, so we're not expecting all the components to be built simultaneously."

The fair's buildings might be among the simplest, he said, but it's unclear when they'd be ready.

In January, more than two-thirds of the fair's shareholders voted to sell its fairgrounds in Garden City — its home for more than 150 years — for a spot closer to Mankato. The fair's board argued that to survive, the agricultural showcase must be closer to the city.

JENNA Ross @ByJenna


City gets first 'parklet'

A parallel parking space in downtown Duluth was transformed into a temporary park, complete with angled cedar seating, tables and brightly painted planters.

Such "parklets" have become a trend across the country in a push to create more public outdoor gathering spaces.

"Everyone was so excited about having some people space on Superior Street," said Lisa Luokkala, director of the nonprofit Healthy Duluth Area Coalition, which piloted the project with the city. "It's been alive with energy."

The $5,000 parklet, funded through donations and grants, opened August 1 in front of 102 W. Superior St. It will move to a new location next month. Luokkala said the group hopes the parklet will help bring vision to a project to redesign Superior Street.

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie