Newsmakers included leaders and achievers

by Joni Astrup and Jim Boyle

ECM Publishers

The following individuals made news in 2012 and were deemed part of our Newsmakers of the Year.

Bruce Anderson


Bruce Anderson came out of retirement to win a seat on the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners in November. He beat the incumbent, Larry Farber.

Anderson had served as Sherburne County’s sheriff for 14 years until his retirement in 2009.

Mick Stoffers


Mick Stoffers retired as the Elk River Library’s branch manager in October. She had held the position for 25 years and worked at the library since 1985.

Elk River Mayor John Dietz said her retirement was a sad day, calling her “the face of the Elk River Library.”

Jeff  Beahen


Jeff Beahen, the former police chief for the city of Elk River, has been selected as the new police chief for the city of Rogers.

Beahen was Elk River’s chief from 2003 to 2010, when he left to accept a position with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in St. Paul.

Mike Beyer

Mike Beyer became the commander of the Elk River American Legion this year and has raised the profile of the organization in the community. Most recently it has partnered with the Minnesota National Guard to create a the world’s largest thank you card for Monticello’s 257th Military Police Company, stationed in Afghanistan. The effort is expected to get noted in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Beyer has also led the effort to keep the Legion on a more solid financial footing and helped create a pub crawl between downtown bars for the benefit of the Elk River Independence Day celebration that he assists making a reality.

Anessa DeMers

Had she known how rare it was for someone to ace an ACT test, she may have felt more pressure.

As it was, Anessa DeMers was just trying to equal her sister, Mara DeMers, who got a composite score of 36 out of 36 on her ACT exams a few years ago.

Anessa did it.

The Elk River High School senior earned a perfect score and did as she set out to do.

Nationally, while the actual number of students earning a composite score of 36 varies from year to year, roughly one-tenth of 1 percent receive a top score. Among test takers in the high school graduating class of 2011, only 704 of more than 1.6 million students earned a composite score of 36.

Fanaka Ndeje

Fanaka Ndege came home with a first-place finish at the Minnesota State Fair for entertainment for the second straight year, this time as a solo act.

The ERHS senior placed first in the Teen Division of the County Fair Talent Contest (a state fair competition for county fair winners) and was also awarded second place in teen for the State Fair Amateur Talent Contest.

Ndege, showing no problems transitioning to a solo act, danced and rapped his way to top honors at the ERHS’s Starfest 2012 talent contest

As an Elk River High School junior, Ndege was the 11th-grade winner in the Minnesota Twins Father of the Year Essay Contest.

In his essay, entitled “What My Father Means to Me,”  Ndege describes how his father, an immigrant from Kenya, taught him how to live through his actions. “Education was the only answer to success,” he said, writing about his father, adding that “overcoming his struggles inspired many people.”

Cindy Lovelette

Cindy Lovelette touched a nerve in the community when she launched a District 728 Community Education course on stress, anxiety and depression.

The longtime parent liaison, who worked in the middle and high schools, shared her personal struggles with anxiety, attracting a good turnout to her classes for adults and children.

Plans are in the works to extend her work in the schools to include talks to health classes, programs and support groups within the schools and a support group in the evening for the community.

Alan Sakry

Alan Sakry, the former head of the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce Board who chaired the first Shiver Elk River, suffered a massive stroke Jan. 10.

The former mortgage broker, who had his speech and ability to walk stripped from him, has waged war on the aftereffects of the stroke.

His success has helped him win numerous awards this year for his commitment to the community and for the inspiration he has been since suffering the stroke.

Tony Sarsland

Elk River High School hockey coach Tony Sarsland resigned, short-circuiting a closed meeting to discuss the findings of an investigation into allegations made against him.

The Elk River Area School Board was scheduled to go into a closed session April 9 for preliminary consideration of allegations, and then consider possible action related to the hockey coach for the 2012–13 school year.

It would have been the School Board’s first chance to hear the findings of the district’s investigation into complaints made against the controversial coach who had 588 wins.

He won his 500th game in January 2006 at Elk River Arena amid much fanfare, and was closing in on 600. His final mark is 588-277-26 in 27 seasons. Only three coaches in the state (two retired) have won over 600.

Josh Wolf

Josh Wolf presented one of his many projects on enhanced biodiesel production from algae at the Central Minnesota Regional Science Fair held in St. Cloud and walked away with an environmental engineering award, a $500 scholarship from St. Cloud State University, and a $50 microbiology scholarship.

He presented the same project at the 75th Minnesota State Science and Engineering Fair in Blooming-ton. There, he won first place in the high school category with the 3M Innovation Award, the Gold Grand Award and many others for his presentation called “Shocking Lipid Production,” which documented his biodiesel conversion from algae.

The awards connected him to the Elk River business community and allowed him to present some of his findings at the annual Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.

Wolf told the Star News he wants to partner with corporations that could invest in expanding upon what he has discovered.