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Jennifer Brooks

Columnist | Local
Phone: 612-673-4008

Jennifer Brooks is a local columnist for the Star Tribune. She travels across Minnesota, writing thoughtful and surprising stories about residents and issues.

Previously as a Star Tribune reporter, Brooks covered the State Capitol and the Minnesota congressional delegation in Washington.
Recent content from Jennifer Brooks
After "47 years on a job I love," Melanie Benson, Metro Transit's longest-serving bus driver, is retiring.

Brooks: The end of the line for Minneapolis' longest-serving bus driver and the start of a new adventure

Veteran Metro Transit bus driver Melanie Benson bids a fond farewell to the job she loved.
Commuters wait in line to board a bus Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024 at the Mall of America Transit Station in Bloomington.

Brooks: If Uber and Lyft let Minnesota down, maybe Metro Transit will pick us up

Minneapolis' hottest new rideshare: The bus.
Daniel Brody listened as Debbie Moore played her violin near the Mary Tyler Moore statue on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis on June 13, 2023.

Brooks: During Doors Open Minneapolis, you could play DJ along Nicollet Mall

Roller skating, chess, therapy dogs, festivals and more fun events are aimed at bringing folks downtown.
The Minnetonka Police Department is proud to announce its newest K9 recruit, Winston. The wee weenie stands ready to "take a bite out of crime...or ma

Brooks: Beware these (innocent) April Fools' Day jokes

Maybe the dogs are all getting promotions today. Or maybe it's the first day of April.
Still not sure if we're supposed to drink it or play cornhole with it.

Brooks: Kwest for Kwik Trip's bagged milk ends with moo-ving realization

The end of a squishy era, as Kwik Trip prepares to discontinue beloved bagged beverage.
FILE - In this May 24, 2018, file photo, Chair of the Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel appears on the "Fox & friends" television program i

Brooks: NBC's fast-moving Ronna McDaniel flap shows defending U.S. democracy worth the hassle

Faced with petitions, withering criticism and a near-revolt in the news division, network quickly changed course on its decision to hire former RNC chair.
General Mills Cheerios. Looking at the long history of General Mills lobbying the FDA on behalf of Cheerios, with the company pushing for more health

Brooks: Billionaire pees in Duluth's Cheerios

In which Kathy Cargill tries to buy up Park Point, insults the neighbors, ignores questions and withholds pickleball from Duluth.
Sandra Johnson explores the State Capitol rotunda before heading to a meeting to listen to Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, on Wednesday. Minnesota

Brooks: Once a year, the homeless speak and the politicians listen

At Homeless Day on the Hill, a chance to hear stories like Sandra Johnson's.
Abby Spangler and her daughter Eleanor Spangler Neuchterlein, 16, hold hands as they participate in a "lie-in" during a protest in favor of gun contro

Brooks: Poll finds America more eager to protect kids from TikTok than school shootings

Where "won't someone think of the children?" meets "thoughts and prayers."
Vice President Kamala Harris greeted Gov. Tim Walz at Planned Parenthood on Thursday in St. Paul.

Brooks: Why Kamala Harris' visit to a Minnesota abortion clinic is so important

Everyday rights we have taken for granted are being stripped or attacked.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks at the George R. Brown Convention Center, May 27, 2022, in Houston.

Brooks: The tooth, and nothing but the tooth: S.D. Gov. Noem posts ad for out-of-state dentist

In a stunning setback to the SoDak dentalverse, governor brags about outsourcing her veneers.
Traffic in the theater district was light as the marquee message above Brave New Workshop on Hennepin Avenue offers a light message in the face of the

Coronaversary: Life and death in Minnesota, four years ago

When did the pandemic start for you?
Mollie Thiet continues stuffing her trash bag with styrofoam remains along the Mississippi River during her volunteer time with the Minnesota Departme

Brooks: What would Goodhue County do? Pick up trash along the Mississippi River. And so can you.

This year's Mighty Mississippi Cleanup Challenge runs from April 15 to May 15.
A screen at the U.S. Capitol shows Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala., delivering the Republican Party’s official response to President Joe Biden's State of t

Brooks: Sen. Katie Britt's State of the Union performance Makes America Uncomfortable Again

Writing this from the kitchen where I, a woman, apparently belong?
Screenshot of a Chisago County Sheriff's video showing the rescue of Honey the collie.

Minnesota deputy paddles to the rescue after dog crashes through lake ice

Chisago County Sheriff's video shows dramatic kayak rescue of Honey the collie.
This screen shot from cell phone video provided by Eric Hovde’s campaign shows the candidate for U.S. Senate shirtless in the cold waters of Lake Me

Brooks: Shirtless politician plunges into icy lake to prove to Wisconsin he's got what it takes

Nobody said running for a U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin would be easy.
Mourners pay their respects after a livestream at a church in Burnsville of the memorial service Wednesday.

Brooks: As Burnsville grieves shooting victims, its neighbors stand watch

Police officers and firefighters from across the metro area volunteered to patrol as a community mourns.
Minneapolis Environmental Health reminds you to wash your Big Ten Fingers before sharing a bowl of chips during the Big Ten Tournament so you don't sh

Brooks: Wash your Big Ten fingers before you share a bowl of chips on game day

Minneapolis PSA: Beware the norovirus.
Laurena Carrizales Guerrero Celeste with Mamas. The chef turned to the Minneapolis Animal Safety Net program when she and Mamas were facing homelessne

Brooks: After homelessness and heartache, Minneapolis Animal Control reunites a family

Here's a tail with a happy ending.
Members of the Eden Prairie Police Department paid their respects on three memorials in front of the Burnsville Police Department on Monday.

Brooks: Three Burnsville first responders join toll of domestic violence

We lose so many to domestic violence — police and paramedics included.
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark celebrates after making a 3-point basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan, Sunday, F

Caitlin Clark, the pride of Iowa, is the buzz of social media

Everyone's talking about Caitlin Clark, who will be playing in Minneapolis at the end of the month and again in March.
1600 hockey players on 300 teams braved the cold weather and took to the rinks during last year's Pond Hockey Championships at Lake Nokomis.

New frostbite drug could save Minnesota lives and limbs

Days like this remind us all of winter's bite.
Valentine day composition with gift box and red hearts, photo template on pink background. istock

Brooks: Land of 10,000 Valentine pitches

A peek inside the Star Tribune mail bag on Valentine's Day.
A wooden pole sits in the middle of the sidewalk at the intersection of Lake and Lyndale. Pedestrians will be sidestepping dozens of the temporary pos

Brooks: Poles from Lake Street upgrades turn sidewalks into Uptown obstacle course

Welcome to Uptown! Look out for the poles.
A young barred owl at the Raptor Center.

Who are you rooting for on this Superb Owl Sunday? Who? Who?

The University of Minnesota's Raptor Center comes to the rescue of threatened birds.
Fond Minnesota memories went up in smoke when Lutsen Lodge burned

Fond Minnesota memories went up in smoke when Lutsen Lodge burned

Minnesotans with their own Lutsen memories mourn the North Shore getaway after a devastating fire.
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith waited in the back of the room until she was introduced at the 2015 Minnesota Association of County Veterans Services Officers Fal

Brooks: Need some Minnesota Nice for that burn? Sen. Tina Smith roasts Dean Phillips

The congressman's longshot presidential bid is drawing scorn from one-time allies in the Democratic Party.
Elmo and Karli on "Sesame Street." In May, the show's creators introduced Karli, a Muppet in foster care, and in October they revealed the reason for

Desperately seeking Elmo: Internet searches spike for the little Muppet who was 'just checking in'

Elmo got a little more than he bargained for from X users after a mental health check.
Gov. Tim Walz rode in the MnDOT snowplow named Barbie’s Dream Plow at the Cedar Truck Station in Richfield on Tuesday.

Brooks: From Taylor Drift to Beyonsleigh, here are MnDOT's new snowplow names

It's me. Hi. I'm the snowplow, it's me.
Election judge Carol Johnson tied a balloon to a chair before the polls opened Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, at the Arlington Hills Community Center in St. P

Brooks: Minnesota braces for election year misinformation

Minnesota voters expect the best. As AI-generated disinformation spreads, election officials prepare for the worst.
At the prison in Lino Lakes, a new program offers training to become peer counselors for people with firsthand experience in recovery and incarceratio

Brooks: Incarcerated counselors draw on their own experiences to help others through recovery

"It took coming to prison to learn about integrity, empathy," said one graduate of the peer support program.
The Vang family of St. Paul. Four of their six children were killed in a house fire on Jan. 3, 2024.

Brooks: Grieving firefighters give to the St. Paul family they worked to save

A devastating house fire broke hearts around the world.
Maybe you loved a flag that didn’t make it to the end of the year. The North Star. The Starflake. That flag that was just a photo of somebody’s do

Brooks: Grab some fabric and let's felt our feelings about 2023

Maybe the real 2023 was the laser loons we met along the way.

Brooks: Good things come to those who shop downtown Minneapolis

In a year without a Holidazzle, downtown's biggest boosters work to give shoppers a reason to visit.

Brooks: Community welcomes formerly homeless home to south Minneapolis

Church members provide housewarming, heartwarming gifts for neighbors transitioning out of homelessness
Fred Brathwaite, who owns Mama Sheila’s House of Soul restaurant with his wife Sheila, laid out his vision for a Black cultural center on the site o

Brooks: Minneapolis neighbors want to determine the Third Precinct's second act

The neighborhoods around the charred and abandoned police station want a say in what comes next.
When Minnesota State Fair officials questioned whether yellow mustard is a true Minnesota crop — and thus eligible to be used in crop art at the fai

Brooks: Minnesota crop artists may be able to put a little mustard on it

The Minnesota Crop Improvement Association is improving the state's crops and maybe its crop art.
William Pittner gives a pitch during the Fowler Business Concept Challenge, hosted by the Schulze School of Entreprenuership, in the Anderson Student

Brooks: One Minnesotan's quest to stop food waste and help hungry neighbors

A St. Thomas student saw food going to waste and set out to do something about it.
Loons and laser eyes on the new Minnesota flag?

Brooks: Land of 10,000 flags (and loons with laser eyes)

Minnesota offers 2,123 answers to the question: How hard can it be to design a new state flag?
A prized caramel apple from Abdallah Candies.

Brooks: Sweet sorrow as a tight labor market hits Minnesota right in the caramel apple

Two family businesses, Abdallah Candies and Pine Tree Apple Orchard, adapt to an economy that keeps trying to upset the apple cart.
First-time pheasant hunters don’t have to go it alone. Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and other relative newcomers to the sport headed out on Sat

Brooks: Line of women in blaze orange highlights push to diversify sport

Eager to encourage new hunters, the Minnesota DNR rolls out the welcome mat.
When Ellen Hock weighed in on her local school board election on Tik Tok, she found herself on the receiving end of internet harassment like this phot

Brooks: Election season pits Minnesota mom against TikTok attacks

As more Minnesotans get their election information from social media, opponents target not just the message, but the messenger.
Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak joined other current and former elected officials as they took sledgehammers to a piece of drywall to symbolically

Brooks: Minneapolis takes the first swing at the worst Kmart

Living the Minneapolis dream, current and former city officials take a ceremonial swing at the big box that blocks Nicollet.
Smile! This big brown bat, being nursed back to health at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota, wishes you and yours a very happy Bat Week

Brooks: Bats are more than spooky Halloween decor at this weekend's Minnesota Bat Festival

The tooth, and nothing but the tooth, about the Minnesotans who help bats — including the ones in need of a good bat dentist.
A member of Carnavaleros de Puebla made his way to the rest of the group past a large mural during an annual Cinco de Mayo celebration on Lake Street.

Brooks: Meet the folks who are 'part of the solution' to keep Lake Street vibrant

Three years ago, suburban Rotary clubs came to help small businesses recover. They're still here.
Deaunteze Bobo (left) and Jermaine Ferguson, both serving life sentences, volunteered at a resource fair at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Rus

Brooks: Minnesota prison resource fairs pave the way for what comes next

At a prison resource fair, life after prison starts with support and connections inside
Rosemary Nally of Methodist Hospital held babies adorned with Homer Hankies on Oct. 11, 1987. From left were Karen Aderhold, Joseph Parpart and Ryan K

Happy Homer Hankyversary: The scrap of fabric that holds all our hopes and dreams turns 36

How a newspaper promotion became a tradition
Rebecca Crooks-Stratton, secretary/treasurer of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, wanted the story of Indian Country told in present tense.

Brooks: New campaign encourages schools to teach about Minnesota tribes with their own stories

When the Understand Native Minnesota campaign offered teachers a free collection of Dakota tales, the first 10,000 copies were snapped up in a matter of hours.
This photo of a smiling Annalee Wright was taken days before a driver ran a red light, killed her and injured two of her children. A relative added th

Brooks: Family mourns another life lost on the mean streets of Minnesota

As Annalee Wright fought for her life in the hospital, her family found the presents she'd wrapped and the cake she'd ordered for her son's 11th birthday.
Alvina Hammer Rutzen picked flowers with students in the garden of the Hammer School in Wayzata. A century after she founded her first school for chil

She paved the way for disabled children. Now Hammer School founder finally has a gravestone

Alvina Hammer Rutzen believed everyone had a right to a real home and a full life, surrounded by people who care.

Brooks: One last party signals the end of an era for Open Streets Minneapolis

Minneapolis is parting ways with the group that opened the streets for a decade of summertime fun.
Loving Earth Memorial Garden in Carlton County is caught in a two-year state moratorium on new green cemeteries.

Brooks: In Carlton County, a battle over green cemeteries spirals to affect the whole state

Plans for a cemetery where Minnesotans could be buried without coffins and chemicals sparks a bitter NIMBY fight and a statewide moratorium on new green cemeteries.
Mishael Emilio Hernandez and future Minnesota Gov. Al Quie shared a smile while Gretchen Quie poured coffee at the Quie home in this 1956 photo.

Brooks: Al Quie, the Hernandez family and the lasting legacy of kindness

Decades before diversity, equity or inclusion were the norm, a young Al Quie invited a Mexican American pastor to tiny Nerstrand, Minn.
Mike Gallagher, left, and Paul Schlaefer, right, water young trees near Lake Harriet. City arborists work to water recently planted park and boulevard

Brooks: The two-man bucket brigade working to save Lake Harriet's trees

Drought is killing newly planted trees in Minneapolis. For years, two neighbors stepped up with buckets to help.

Minnesota's crop art community rocked by upcoming ban on popular seed at State Fair

Brooks: Minnesota's crop art community rocked by upcoming ban on popular seed at State Fair

Seeds of controversy as yellow mustard is banned from future crop art competitions.

Fish tales: How the DNR lures the crowds to its well-stocked fish pond at the Minnesota State Fair

Brooks: How the DNR lures the crowds to its well-stocked fish pond at the Minnesota State Fair

Meet the stars and gars of the Minnesota DNR's State Fair fish pond
Bob Dehn of Dehn’s Garden talked in May with customers at the Minneapolis farmers market.

Brooks: Summer is sweet at the Minneapolis Farmers Market

Under the overpass, the Minneapolis Farmers Market blooms where it was planted.
Fairgoers played the Whopper Water game on the Mighty Midway during the 2017 Minnesota State Fair.

Brooks: Minnesota State Fair works to make Mighty Midway mighty fun for visitors with autism

The Great Minnesota Get-Together gets even greater with accommodations for visitors with special needs.
An aeriel view of the Grow and Give garden at Every Meal headquarters. Some community gardens donate their summer harvests to Every Meal to feed the h

Brooks: A northeast Minneapolis plot puts the community back in community gardens

In community gardens or their own back yards, Minnesotans are growing produce to give away.
Larry Houston, a formerly homeless veteran, smiles on the couch in his new apartment. Hennepin County social worker Jeanetta Lindo, who specializes in

Brooks: A homeless veteran finds his place, thanks to Hennepin County

Hennepin County wanted all its residents to have residences. Here's what it took to move hundreds out of homelessness.
While Miz Diagnosis, a drag queen from Chaska, read children’s books to parents and kids inside Little Roos clothing store in Chaska, supporters mai

Brooks: The Pride of Minnesota are communities that beat the bigots

Businesses and institutions across the state stood up for drag queens, kindness and joy — and hate groups backed down

Readers sent us their designs for new Minnesota, Hennepin County flags

Columnist Jennifer Brooks asked readers to come up with new flag designs for Minnesota and Hennepin County. She'll stitch some into reality.
Louise Karluah with son Teddy, 9, and daughter Lucelia, 11 months. Her son Barway Collins was killed at age 10 in 2015 by his father. Crystal will put

Brooks: A statue on a Crystal playground will celebrate a young murder victim's life and legacy

The fact that so many of us still remember Barway Collins is a source of joy to his mother, Louise Karluah
Luke Keller surrounded by dragons, monkeys and the other handmade creations of the Teddy Bear Project. For years, the men incarcerated at the federal

Brooks: Project Teddy Bear is a thread of kindness from Sandstone federal prison to sick kids

Donated yarn has allowed the inmates to crochet hundreds of toys for the Ronald McDonald House.
The temporary flag of Hennepin County flew at a Twins game on June 12, 2023. The county has been using this placeholder flag since last year, replacin

Brooks: Hennepin County sets out to redesign the flag we didn't know we had

A salute, this July 4th, to the people making bad flags better.
Someone stole a trailer that held everything the Minneapolis City Soccer Club needs to set up its games. The nonprofit amateur soccer team hopes to pl

Brooks: Fans to the rescue as thieves strike Minneapolis City soccer club

The stolen trailer held everything an amateur soccer club needed for its games. They hope to play Wednesday night, with help from their fans.

A good death for a Minnesota woman who championed the right to die with dignity

Brooks: A good death for a Minnesota woman who championed the right to die with dignity

Cheryl Hauser showed us how to face the one part of life no one wants to talk about — the end.

Brooks: At home on the pickleball court, Afghan women explore the joys of Minnesota

Once isolated, families who fled Afghanistan for Minnesota find fun and community on a Brooklyn Park pickleball court.

At home on the pickleball court: Afghan women explore the joys of Minnesota

The Minnesota State flag flies at half staff near The Quadriga at the State Capitol Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in St. Paul, MN. Governor Tim Walz today an

Brooks: Minnesota needs your help to redesign a dreadful state flag

In the coming months, Minnesotans can submit ideas for a better state flag.

Brooks: Students at St. Paul's Newman School send a capsule of their history into the future

Students spent a year learning about the history of their school and planning a time capsule message for future students

Students at St. Paul's Newman School send a capsule of their history into the future