Shakopee Public Schools Director of Finance Suzanne Johnson will resign effective Jan. 31, after only seven months with the district.

Johnson announced that she will return to her previous job as controller for Hopkins Public Schools, where she worked for four years, to regain a better "home work-life balance."

She came to Shakopee at a time of uncertainty for the district, which was roiled by scandal following allegations that former Superintendent Rod Thompson had bilked the taxpayers of thousands of dollars by misusing his school credit card. After his June resignation, Johnson led efforts to revamp purchase card policies and helped form the Citizens' Financial Advisory Committee to oversee the district's finances.

"Having the ability to see the whole picture with two lenses from both the district perspective and auditor perspective has proven to be invaluable during my time in the Shakopee school district," she said. "I will miss everyone, but especially my staff in the finance department. With their help, we have revised policies and manuals for the district, implemented new systems and learned a lot in the process."

After graduating from the University of St. Thomas with an accounting degree, Johnson held positions in auditing, accounting and finance in the education and not-for-profit industries. She is also a certified public accountant.

"Her departure will leave a void in the district office, but we understand and support her decision," said Acting Interim Superintendent Jon McBroom. "We wish her the best as she makes a decision that's in the best interest of herself and her family."

The school board has not yet chosen Johnson's replacement.

Liz Sawyer

Administration sets State of the City address

City Administrator Bill Reynolds will deliver Shakopee's annual State of the City address at noon Thursday.

The speech, discussing 2017 highlights and upcoming city projects, will be aired live on Shakopee Government TV and live-streamed on the city's Facebook page ( A Q&A session will follow the presentation.

Questions may be submitted on the Facebook live post or in advance by e-mailing


Scott County

Board of Commissioners elects new leaders

The Scott County Board has elected commissioners Tom Wolf and Barbara Weckman Brekke to chair and vice chair, respectively.

Both candidates were unanimously approved by the five-member body. Commissioner Michael Beard completed his term as board chairman on Jan. 2.

The 2018 budget included a 4.5 percent pay raise for the commissioners, who now earn an annual salary of $62,627. Weckman Brekke will make an extra $75 a month as vice chair and Wolf will get an extra $150 a month as chair.

Most other county employees also received a 2 percent pay raise on Jan. 1 and remain eligible for merit pay. All salary changes are based on comparable market rate salaries in the metro area, excluding Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

Liz Sawyer

Apple Valley

Minn. Zoo welcomes baby Malayan tapir calf

The Minnesota Zoo has announced the arrival of its newest resident, a 16-pound endangered Malayan tapir calf.

The yet-to-be-named female was born Jan. 6 after a roughly 400-day gestation period by her mother, Bertie. She is the third tapir calf born in six years at the Apple Valley zoo, which houses the calf's parents on the Tropics Trail.

At this stage, the calf resembles a furry watermelon with legs. Distinctive markings on their dark fur help make tapirs almost invisible in the wild — even when they grow to 800 pounds. The nocturnal mammals' contrasting colors help hide its body outline in the dense forest vegetation.

Tropics Trail curator Tom Ness called the birth "a significant conservation achievement" because it's estimated that fewer than 1,500 Malayan tapirs exist in the wild. "The recent success we've had with tapir births over the past six years is an example of the incredible care our zookeeper and veterinary teams provides our animals," Ness said.

Among the most endangered animals in Southeast Asia, Malayan tapirs have battled declining population rates due to road mortality, habitat loss and illegal trade. Scientists estimate that there are fewer tapirs in the wild than tigers.

Zoologists say people can help preserve the animals' habitat by shopping for sustainably grown palm oil.

Minnesota's newest tapir can be seen on the zoo's social media pages and on a special webcam at:

Liz Sawyer


City closes Lehrkes' bar for violations

Citing fire code and occupancy violations, Newport officials have closed a bar owned by former Washington County Commissioner Autumn Lehrke and her husband, former Cottage Grove City Council Member Derrick Lehrke.

Opinion Brewery lost its liquor license on Dec. 31, according to a city letter issued to the Lehrkes. The city fire marshal posted a "building unsafe" notice at the business and no public use will be allowed there until the owners correct the violations, said City Administrator Deb Hill.

The letter said the couple had been notified last July that the building lacked a fire suppression and alarm system and that they needed a permit to remodel the building.

Autumn Lehrke said last week that she and her husband had spent "tens of thousands" making improvements and meeting the city's conditions. She said they had applied three times for an occupancy certificate, "but the city denied or rejected it without even reviewing it."

The Lehrkes bought the former Red Rock Saloon, a few blocks from a new transit station, while Autumn Lehrke was the County Board chairwoman in 2013. Both lost re-election bids in 2014.