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While 2020 has been a challenging year, we’ve made great strides in our first full year of helping the people of West St. Paul know what’s going on. Here’s a recap of the year in West St. Paul news.
2020 by the Numbers
First, let’s look at a few numbers for West St. Paul Reader:
- 194 posts
- 15 interviews with community members
- 43 city council recaps & previews
- 44 posts about the 2020 election
- 7 Then & Now history posts
- 10 other stories digging into local history
- 6 questions answered
- 2 video reflections
- 1,069 tweets
- 3 free coloring pages
- 1 commissioned work of art
- 58 supporters on Patreon (and counting!)
Top 10 Posts
The clicks don’t lie. Here are the top 10 posts of 2020:
- Aftermath of George Floyd Killing Hits West St. Paul
- Granny Donuts, a West St. Paul Staple, Sells to Developer
- Name Change Coming for Henry Sibley High School
- What’s Going on With Hy-Vee and the YMCA?
- When Will the River-to-River Greenway Trail & Tunnel Open?
- When Is FoodSmith Opening?
- Who’s Running for West St. Paul City Council and Mayor in 2020?
- Proposed Apartment & Retail for Town Center One
- What’s Going in at Robert and Mendota in Front of Cub Foods?
- FoodSmith Comes to West St. Paul
It should be noted that there’s an order of magnitude in difference between the top two spots on this list and the rest. It’s also worth noting that two of these posts also made last year’s list—Hy-Vee and the Greenway—primarily because they’re both still in process.
Top 5 Stories of 2020
Here’s our take on the biggest stories in West St. Paul in 2020:
- COVID-19: It’s the biggest story globally, and I think it’s also the biggest story in West St. Paul. The city had its first ever emergency declaration (I think, it’s hard to confirm) and a lot of changes and adapting, from city meetings going virtual (and some being broadcast/recorded for the first time ever) to never before seen drive thru lines. We did a number of stories, including focusing on the wonderful signs that cropped up, how businesses adapted and coped, supporting grocery store workers and medical personnel, and creativity in quarantine.
- George Floyd aftermath: The protests and rioting in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd struck West St. Paul, resulting in the city’s second ever emergency declaration (maybe?). A number of businesses were struck by vandals and we had a few uneasy nights, but we also had peaceful protests, including a unity march with South St. Paul.
- Development: Economic development was a major theme this year with a number of projects finally coming together, including Kmart and the Town Center One project (which brought on the closure of Granny Donuts).
- Wakota City Council meeting: The meeting back in January brought the biggest crowd to city hall we’ve seen in recent years. An estimated 350 people packed city hall for debate over the expansion of the Wakota Life Care Center.
- Elections: The 2020 elections resulted in two big stories in West St. Paul. First, the historic candidacy of Kimetha “KaeJae” Johnson, the first Black person to run for office in West St. Paul. While Johnson didn’t win, she was part of the massive surge of women running for office—the city had women running in every race in the city, something that’s never happened before. The results also created a first—the first female majority on the City Council, thanks to wins from Julie Eastman, Robyn Gulley, and Lisa Eng-Sarne.
As an honorable mention: The Sibley name change is another big story this year, and will probably be a big story into 2021 as the renaming process moves forward.
And the most clicks and the biggest stories aren’t always the best. Here are some of our favorite posts from 2020:
- Guest writers: Our second paid guest post focused on Asian restaurants in West St. Paul. It’s a privilege to be able to pay a writer and talk up local restaurants.
- Historic firsts: Writing about historic firsts, whether they were a while back, such as Devona Weatherhead and Jerry Cotton, or more recent, such as Anthony Fernandez, Wendy Berry, and Kimetha “KaeJae” Johnson, these are important stories to share.
- Racial justice: While our story on the George Floyd aftermath was our biggest story of the year, what we do about racial justice continues to be an important theme. We reviewed the West St. Paul Police Department’s use of force policy, talked with former Heritage administrator Wayne Felton II about racism, and covered a massive Black Lives Matter mural that sprung up in response to stolen Black Lives Matter yard signs. It’s far from a favorite, but definitely an important topic in 2020.
- Local gifts: It was fun to do last year and it was even more fun this year—2020 West St. Paul Holiday Gift Guide.
- Local learnings: Part of the fun of job like this is learning things you didn’t know. Learning about West St. Pauls unit of the Minnesota National Guard was one of those opportunities.
- Local creativity: Sharing the creative streak in West St. Paul is also fun, whether it’s a unique Black Lives Matter yard sign, a new children’s book, an artsy look at Granny Donuts, or the new art park sculpture.
- Most unappreciated story: It’s already listed above as a favorite, but our feature diving into the story behind West St. Paul’s first woman to serve on City Council, Devona Weatherhead in 1967, is easily our most unappreciated story of the year.
As a publication, West St. Paul Reader hit several milestones in 2020:
- Breaking news: We were the first to report on several big stories in West St. Paul, including the Sibley name change, the Granny Donuts closure, the Wakota City Council meeting, and more.
- Anniversary: In May, we celebrated our one-year anniversary.
- Supporters: In September, we hit 50 members on Patreon. These are the folks who make West St. Paul Reader happen, supporting us with ongoing monthly or annual donations. In celebration, we commissioned a locally focused work of art from local artist Edgar Herrera.
- Recognized: As a regular at city hall covering City Council meetings, we were honored to see a press table installed. It’s not exclusively for our use—we have to share with other news outlets—but since we’re the only ones there on a regular basis, it’s a touching gesture from city staff.
Thanks to everyone who supports West St. Paul Reader. We couldn’t do this without you.
Stay healthy and hopeful West St. Paul.
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