Staff Directory 558007041

Brooks Johnson

Reporter | Duluth/Superior
Phone: 612-673-4229

Brooks Johnson writes about the Duluth/Superior region. He joined the Star Tribune in 2019. Sign up to receive the new North Report newsletter.


Raised in Fargo and educated at the University of Montana, Johnson worked at newspapers in Idaho and Washington state before heading to the Duluth News Tribune in 2016. He lives in Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood with his wife and son and can often be found hiking, running, reading or doing other Duluthy things.
Recent content from Brooks Johnson
Dozens of protesters stood in the rain Tuesday morning outside St. Louis County’s government services building in Virgnia, Minn.

Iron Range teacher under review after telling county he 'would not be nice to any refugees'

Keewatin Elementary School teacher later apologized for the comments.
Protesters blocked off Central Avenue and had a street party where they danced, drank and smoked marijuana during the protest in Duluth on Saturday, M

In Duluth, late-night protesters weren't outside agitators; 'That is us'

DULUTH – Rumor had it there would be busloads of protesters importing violence to Duluth this past weekend during the protests over the death of…
Around 50 vehicles drove down E. Fourth Street in Duluth on Monday, June 1, as they participated in a caravan protesting the layoffs of health care wo

Union protests in Duluth over Essentia's plan to lay off 900 employees

Hundreds of health care workers are caught up in cutbacks due to COVID-19.
Jessica Nickila, a recovering addict, now works for the Duluth Police Department to help people get drug treatment

In Duluth, ODs spike as pandemic decreases access to aid

The pandemic might be increasing the demand for dangerous drugs.
Mark Pavelich, right, of the 1980 U.S. ice hockey team talked with Jack O’Callahan during a “Relive the Miracle” reunion at Herb Brooks Arena on

Minnesota judge rules 'Miracle on Ice' player competent to stand trial in assault case

Mark Pavelich was previously found to be 'mentally ill and dangerous' and committed to the state hospital.
The Bayfront Blues Festival, which draws thousands of people to Duluth’s waterfront park, will next be held Aug. 13-15, 2021.

Duluth's Bayfront Blues Festival canceled and refunds put on hold

Ticketholders have to wait a year to request a refund.
A parkway would replace a stretch of Interstate 35 with a smaller roadway, bridging downtown Duluth and Canal Park.

Group proposes bold vision for I-35 in Duluth: Make it a parkway

Collective has unveiled a proposal to bridge Canal Park and downtown.
A skier made his way down a Spirit Mountain run at sunset on Dec. 17, 2019.

Spirit Mountain likely needs an extra cash boost from Duluth to open this winter

Closed for the summer, the public ski hill will need cash to start up in November.
FILE-Janet Kennedy, Duluth’s first African-American City Council member, introduced a measure to create an African Heritage Commission, which was un

Duluth creates an African Heritage Commission

The 90%-white city sees wide disparities among black residents.
Essentia Health is the largest healthcare center in Duluth, MN. ] ALEX KORMANN • alex.kormann@startribune.com Features around Essentia Health in Dul

Essentia Health permanently laying off 900 employees

The cuts are in addition to 850 employees still on leave.
AAR Corp. is closing its Duluth facility where it performs maintenance on commercial airliners. Hundreds of jobs will be lost.

AAR closing Duluth airline maintenance facility, costing hundreds of jobs

The company had just signed a 20-year lease last year.
The ski slopes on Spirit Mountain in Duluth, as seen from an airplane in the fall.

Duluth's Spirit Mountain won't open for the summer

The ski hill closed in March as the pandemic swept into Minnesota.
Scott Bodin administered a drive-through COVID-19 test at the Min No Aya Win clinic on the Fond du Lac Reservation on May 6.

Fond du Lac Band shelves instant COVID-19 test amid accuracy concerns

The FDA says the Abbott ID NOW test can return false negatives, but Abbott says it is accurate in its studies.
A group of friends met for food and drinks at Jonesy's Local Bar on the first day of the bar reopening in Hudson, Wis.

Safety debate continues as bars, businesses reopen in Wisconsin

Many business owners were as eager to reopen and stem financial losses as they were cautious about the virus' spread, expecting guidance and possibly restrictions from state and local officials.
"We're letting the community know we're with them and here for them," the Superior Police Department said in one Facebook post.

Finding a bright side: Superior police Facebook page filled with positive messages

A department detective has been a regular voice of hope and inspiration.
Last year's July 4th fireworks show at Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth drew thousands of revelers. The city moved the show to Labor Day this year out

Duluth postpones July 4th fireworks — to Labor Day

Fourth Fest has also been canceled.
Minnesota Power headquarters at Lake Avenue and West Superior Street in Duluth.

Pandemic knocks down Allete's strong run

CEO assures investors that the company will find its way through virus crisis.

Tiny home development planned near University of Minnesota Duluth

Each would be no larger than 540 square feet.
Tower Ave. in Superior, WI saw minimal traffic and few pedestrians in March as the town prepared to close all nonessential businesses. On Monday the s

Small-business owners say Wis. reopening order is a lifeline

On Monday Gov. Tony Evers allowed nearly all retail stores to reopen to five customers at a time as the state eases off restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
A rendering of the Soo Locks showing a new lock, on the left, that would be as large as the Poe Lock, center, at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Construction

Construction begins on $922 million Lake Superior locks project

It will be able to handle the heavy taconite 1,000-foot lakers.
Catherine Anderson sits with her dog, Ivy, as she votes in the Wisconsin primary at the Billings Park Civic Center in Superior April 7.

Vote from home: Superior to launch push for mail-in ballots

Last month's presidential primary saw 62% of ballots arrive by mail.
Cerri McKeon held her 2-month-old daughter, Eden Smith, while Dr. Arne Vainio took notes and asked about the baby’s respiratory symptoms. Eden was t

Fond du Lac band preps for a coronavirus surge

Native Americans have higher rates of health conditions that can worsen COVID-19 infections.

Cloquet plant closes after COVID-19 spreads to three employees

USG will deep clean the facility before reopening.
A coal train is idle on the tracks leading to the Sherburne County Generating Station in Becker.

Minnesota utilities bracing for COVID-19 impact

A group of large utilities is asking state regulators to track pandemic expenses for potential recovery later.
Trucks at the Hull Rust taconite mine transported some of its final loads of ore to be processed before it is temporarily idled on Sunday.

Iron Range endures yet another downturn: 'The strong survive'

Northern Minnesota's natural resource economy has begun to fall to the pandemic, with mine and paper-mill closures. Spending has slowed and small businesses have closed, some for good. The area has been through many downturns and may be better prepared than other parts of the state to deal with this one. That doesn't mean it hurts any less.
The Minntac taconite mine in Mountain Iron will lay off 260 workers for the next several months.

Minntac lays off 260 as another Iron Range mine takes pandemic hit

With Minntac, more than 1,700 mine employees will be laid off for at least several months.
A $70 million dorm and dining hall on the UMD campus has been delayed.

New University of Minnesota Duluth dorm, dining hall delayed by COVID-19

The $70 million project was scheduled to open in fall 2021.
New inmates in an observation cell block exited their cell one or two at a time and donned face masks to receive their lunch trays at St. Louis County

Arrests drop in Duluth, St. Louis County, though crime rates persist

The jail population has dropped nearly in half as law enforcement agencies are told to think twice about who needs to be incarcerated.
Tom Tusken, right, was named Denfeld High School’s principal on Tuesday.

Duluth's Denfeld High School names new principal

Tom Tusken takes over for Tonya Sconiers, who is suing the district.
Minnesota Power customers wants to cut its proposed rate increase by nearly half.

Minnesota Power rethinks rate increase: wants to lower bills, offer refunds

The utility slashed its rate increase request.
Earl Rosenwinkel

Earl Rosenwinkel, who died of COVID-19 at age 84, was a scientist and pastor

A month before the first Earth Day was celebrated 50 years ago, a young science professor named Earl Rosenwinkel went on TV to say the…
Cloquet’s Sappi paper mill has implemented rotating layoffs, while UPM Blandin in Grand Rapids has shut down as the pandemic disrupts business.

Paper mills slowing, shutting amid pandemic disruption

Some are the largest employers in their northern Minnesota towns.
Vikre Distillery sat empty with chairs stacked on tables following Gov. Tim Walz’s order to stop allowing diners at restaurants and bars in March. A

Pandemic job losses pile up in Duluth

The city's workforce center has handled more than 18,000 unemployment applications.
An artist’s rendering shows a planned 15-story apartment building along East Supeior Street in downtown Duluth.

Downtown Duluth residential high-rise delayed

The apartment complex at 333 E. Superior St. would replace the Voyageur Lakewalk Inn and several other buildings.
Construction crews worked April 1 at the Vue at BlueStone apartments, part of a new housing and retail complex near the University of Minnesota Duluth

High-end apartments near UMD cap major development

10 years in the making, $50M rental complex nears completion
Rose Crist waved down to her daughter, Deana Walkowiak-Olson, from her fourth floor window at St. Ann's Residence in Duluth, MN on Thursday.

At Duluth senior facility, deadly outbreak quickly took over

Minutes into a conversation with her mother, Deana Walkowiak-Olson could not shake the sensation that something was terribly wrong at the large Duluth senior home…
The Pike Lake golf course north of Duluth will reopen for the first time since 2016 after a long-stalled sale closed this year.

Pike Lake golf course near Duluth to reopen after long hiatus

New owners hope to have the course open mid-May.

Former Duluth school board member challenging Rep. Liz Olson

Art Johnston announced his run for the District 7B seat on Friday.
Duluth-based Essentia Health is putting more employees on leave and reducing hours and pay for physicians and executives.

Essentia Health furloughs clinical staff, adds month of leave for 500 workers

Essentia doctors and executives take pay cuts; clinical employees placed on leave.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will close until May 4.

Boundary Waters closes until May 4

Day and overnight use halted to slow spread of COVID-19.
Cirrus and Frost River are working together to turn out nearly 200 PAPR blowers and hundreds more hoods and coupler assemblies.

Cirrus Aircraft 3D-printing respirators to aid hospitals

The Duluth-based airplane manufacturer has sent PAPR prototypes to local hospitals.
UMD theater professor Kelly Grussendorf leads one of her dance classes online in April.”My immediate thought was, ‘Oh no, I have to cancel the res

Dancing alone together: Fine arts classes adapt to COVID-19

UMD dance and theater lose a personal touch, but the show must go on.
St. Ann’s Residence in Duluth confirmed three deaths from 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases among its residents.

Three die from COVID-19 at hard-hit Duluth assisted living center

There have been 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the 138 residents of St. Ann's Residence, its executive director said.
N95 masks await UV sterilization for reuse at Essentia Health St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth.

Duluth's Essentia Health begins sterilizing, reusing N95 masks, despite 3M concerns

The single-use masks can now be used up to six times as the nationwide shortage continues.
The Kathryn A. Martin Library at the University of Minnesota Duluth is looking for resident submissions to “create a community archive that will pre

100 years from now how will this pandemic be remembered? UMD wants to make it personal

Residents can submit a variety of documents, photos, videos and other media to be preserved.
Ryan Jazdzewski

Appeals court sides with Duluth murderer in child custody case

DULUTH – The Minnesota Court of Appeals has sided with a Duluth man convicted of murdering his wife in a case regarding the custody…
FILE-Isle Royale, a national park in Lake Superior, will open in June, two months later than planned.

Isle Royale National Park opening delayed two months to mid-June

The Lake Superior island will be off-limits until June 15 at the earliest.
Waxed canvas packs hang on the wall at Frost River’s Duluth store. The company has shifted production to face shields and other medical supplies to

Duluth's Frost River swaps bags for masks to fight coronavirus spread

The canvas bag maker is supplying local hospitals.
AAR Corp., which in Duluth employees about 400 people and performs routine maintenance and repairs for commercial airlines, could have its rent paymen

Duluth wants to forgive rent for major airport employer

The move could save AAR Corp. more than $111,000 through June.
Sen. Erik Simonson, shown in 2013.

Duluth's Lake Superior Zoo CEO departs for new job

State Sen. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, took a job with Lake Superior College.
FILE: The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial in 2003, in Duluth, Minn.

Duluth lynching centennial commemoration postponed due to COVID-19

A gathering planned for June 15 will now be held in 2021.
Joe Macor is running to represent the West Duluth district on the St. Louis County Board.

Joe Macor joins race for St. Louis County Board seat

He's the third candidate running for the West Duluth district.
Duluth-based Essentia provides services in more than 60 cities.

Duluth's Essentia Health cuts 500 employees as revenue dries up

The nonmedical staffers were placed on leave.
Blue Angels jets sat on the tarmac at Duluth International Airport in July 2019 ahead of the Duluth Air Show.

Pandemic pauses a high-flying year at Duluth airport

$10 billion was set aside by federal stimulus bill to aid airports.
Denis Sauve, co-owner of Twin Ports Cyclery, mounted a bike to begin repairing it on Friday afternoon in Duluth.

Minnesota bike shops deemed essential to business during pandemic

Since Gov. Walz issued the stay-at-home order, some bike shops have reported an uptick in business, especially for hybrids and kids' bikes.
Cirrus Aircraft unveiled its Vision jet in 2016. In response to coronavirus disruption, the company said it would be slowing operations and putting em

Cirrus Aircraft slows operations, furloughs employees amid coronavirus disruption

The Duluth-based company is offering employees compensation while on leave.
A rubber-gloved shopper carried paper towels and other supplies recently through the downtown Minneapolis skyway.

Skyways in Minneapolis, Duluth are cutting hours or closing altogether

Minneapolis' skyways are owned by each building, and as a result have different hours of operation.
Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove listened as Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz spoke at a news conference last week to

10,000 Minn. health care workers filed jobless claims in the past 10 days

Laid-off workers include those who do work related to minimally invasive and elective procedures and health care support workers.
St. Luke’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nick Van Deelen at a news conference last week.

Duluth hospitals begin layoffs and hiring freezes as they prep for future surge

St. Louis County had five confirmed cases as of Thursday.
FILE-Wisconsin officials are urging residents not to travel to this weekend’s Brule River steelhead fishing opener.

Stay home, steelheaders: Wisconsin DNR urges no travel for Brule opener

"We are encouraging anglers to fish water bodies in their communities."
The Victory illuminated its spotlight as it pushed the barge Maumee into the Duluth Harbor on Tuesday night as the Great Lakes shipping season begins.

Great Lakes shipping season begins in Duluth

Soo Locks open up Lake Superior for shipping on Wednesday.
The rebuilding of the Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior, seen here in October 2019, will be suspended over COVID-19 concerns.

Husky Energy halts $750 million project to rebuild Superior refinery

The refinery was damaged in a 2018 explosion and fire.
The parking lot of a Super One in Superior was full on Monday afternoon, even after the mayor advised residents to avoid shopping as newly confirmed c

As Wisconsin orders business closures, confusion, questions remain

Governor's order stirs confusion in border community.
A snowboarder jumped up on an obstacle at the Spirit Mountain terrain park in December.

Duluth taking deep dive into Spirit Mountain's finances after bailout

The mayor will put together a task force and an economic impact study.
First case of COVID-19 confirmed in Douglas County, Wis.

First case of COVID-19 confirmed in Douglas County, Wis.

The case is connected to travel, authorities said.
Duluth police Sgt. Steven Ring disinfected his squad car after his shift on Thursday. The Duluth Police Department has taken special measures to help

With no cases Up North, Duluth hospitals warn against a 'false sense of security'

First confirmed case in Bayfield County, Wis., brings virus to Twin Ports doorstep.
People line up for free lunch at CHUM Food Shelf in Duluth on Tuesday March 17, 2020. With limited space and surging demand, it is nearly impossible t

Fund established to help Duluth area charities during this 'triple threat'

Duluth nonprofits band together to help meet increased needs.
Steven Sola, the processing director at Vikre Distillery in Duluth, measured out alcohol to be mixed and denatured into sprayable sanitizer on Tuesday

Duluth distillery puts alcohol to work in fight against COVID-19

Vikre Distillery joins several distilleries nationwide that are giving away sanitizer amid crisis.
Mystic Lake Casino in 2007.

Mystic Lake to close temporarily, joining other casinos around the state

Mystic Lake limits bingo to 250 people, blackjack tables to three.
Duluth-based Essentia provides services in more than 60 cities.

Duluth tearing down housing for new $36 million Essentia parking ramp downtown

Essentia will donate $1.4 million toward an affordable housing project.
Superior and Douglas County declared emergencies on Monday ahead of a “potential” coronavirus crisis in the area.

Superior, Douglas County declare emergencies ahead of 'potential crisis'

Some offices will close, though services still available.
UMD Chancellor Lendley Black visited KUMD and host Lisa Johnson in the studio in December.

University of Minnesota Regents give initial approval to sale of Duluth's KUMD public radio station

UMD would sell the station to WDSE for $175,000.
Rachel Croson

University of Minnesota regent attempts to block new provost's installment

Regent Michael Hsu was concerned about her handling of a sexual harassment complaint against a professor in Michigan.
The University of Minnesota expects to take up to a $50 million budget hit from the coronavirus.

University of Minnesota expects up to $50 million budget hit from coronavirus, taps $5 million in reserves for now

Responses to the virus and lost revenue from canceled events could cost between $20 and $50 million.
The Temple Opera building on Superior Street in downtown Duluth will be home to Bell Bank following renovations inside and outside the building this y

As Bell Bank expands to Duluth, it's moving into historic Temple Opera building downtown

The renovation of the 130-year-old building promises to maintain historical character.