With the end of another year we offer a look back at 2022, with the biggest stories, our favorites, and some other key moments.
2022 by the Numbers
First, let’s look at a few numbers for West St. Paul Reader in 2022:
- 221 posts (12 more than last year)
- 14 interviews with community members
- 46 city council recaps & previews
- 53 posts about the 2022 election
- 6 Then & Now history posts
- 6 other stories digging into local history
- 10 posts from paid contributors
- 2 printable voter’s guide
- 4 commissioned postcards for members
- 210 supporters on Patreon (and counting!)
Top 10 Posts
Here are the top 10 posts of 2022 based on views:
- Matt Birk Burger War Comes to West St. Paul
- 2022 Primary Election: West St. Paul Voter’s Guide
- Primary Candidate Forum: Dakota County Attorney
- History of Signal Hills Shopping Center
- Weird, Spooky Bookstore Comes to West St. Paul in Time for Halloween
- Thompson Oaks Wetland Restoration Moving Forward
- No Hy-Vee for West St. Paul
- Candidates Line up for 2022 Dakota County Races
- 2022 Dakota County Commissioner Primary Election: Top Issues
- 2022 Election: West St. Paul Voter’s Guide
Top 5 Stories of 2022
The stories that get the most clicks aren’t always the biggest stories, so here’s our roundup of what we feel are the biggest stories of the year.
1. 2022 Election
While the municipal election in West St. Paul was pretty sleepy with only one contested race, the wider election was a flurry thanks to a heated county primary and redistricting.
- Dakota County seats saw multiple retirements with County Attorney Jim Backstrom stepping down in 2021, and County Commissioner Kathleen Gaylord and County Sheriff Tim Leslie announcing they wouldn’t run for reelection. The county attorney race, contested for the first time in nearly 30 years, drew four candidates for the primary.
- The once-a-decade redistricting threw a wrench into the works, especially as West St. Paul City Council Member Robyn Gulley had planned to run for county commissioner until redistricting meant she’d be facing incumbent Joe Atkins (who went on to win with 71% of the vote). Legislative redistricting also divided West St. Paul, meaning new state House candidates for the entire city, and new state Senate candidates for half the city. Redistricting even impacted city races, pushing more than 700 voters into new wards.
2. Explore West St. Paul Days
After canceling for COVID and then the organizing nonprofit shutting down, the annual West St. Paul Days event was up in the air. But the city stepped in and brought it back in August as Explore West St. Paul Days. We had a busy three days of events, and it was a blast.
- Here’s our recap of the experience and thank yous to everyone involved.
- We also have photos of the parade and the West St. Paul Rider bike event.
- The August primary election and Explore West St. Paul Days combined to make August our highest traffic month in history.
3. Mental Health Crisis Center
One of the bigger stories this year was the proposed mental health crisis center. Neighbor pushback resulted in multiple stories in Twin Cities media, as well as a ton of well-attended community meetings. But ultimately community support prevailed as City Council unanimously approved the center.
4. Hy-Vee Redevelopment
2022 finally brought word that the proposed Hy-Vee project was dead. In its place is a proposal for housing, restaurant, and community space pushed by the city. There’s an initial offer, the actual purchase agreement with the hope of transferring it to a developer, a developer’s proposal, and the city ultimately buying the property to control ongoing development.
At this point it’s all hopes and dreams. We’ll see what becomes of the property in the years to come.
5. Renters Rights Workshop
A renters’ rights workshop organized by the Bellows Court Tenant Committee may seem like an odd selection for top story of the year. But West St. Paul’s high proportion of apartments—already nearly 50% before the recent apartment building boom—means this kind of organizing has the potential to impact residents across the city.
Paired with the work of the Residents of Color Collective (ROCC), the last few years have seen a renewed focus on West St. Paul’s rental community. Given that they account for half the city, it’s about time.
Big and popular doesn’t tell the whole story either, so here are some of our favorites from 2022:
- Art: With the art park sculpture in 2020 and now a 96-foot mural in the Charlton tunnel, West St. Paul’s art scene is growing dramatically. (What’s next? Let’s get the Moreland mural funded in 2023!) Watching the Charlton tunnel come to life over the course of several weeks this fall was an incredible community moment.
- Interviews: Some of our favorite stories to write are interviews with local personalities. This year we talked to an election judge, native designer, bookstore owner, library boosters, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, police officers, and Winter Carnival museum curator.
- Contributors: This year we had 10 total posts from paid contributors. Big thanks to Sam Amundson for his photographs of the parade, West St. Paul Rider, police vs. fire hockey game, and Santa parade. We also had Megan Noggle, Stephanie Schempp, and Ken Paulman writing guest posts. It’s fun to give students (Amundson and Noggle) a paid opportunity to explore their craft, and it’s also great to have the resources to bring folks in when we’re out of town and keep our coverage going. We’re able to make that happen thanks to member support.
- Historic: We had some fun diving into history this year, exploring local government history with lists of past mayors and City Councils, as well as deep dives on West St. Paul’s most famous citizen, Harold Stassen, our long lost but still beloved mall, Signal Hills, and the 100th anniversary of the South Robert Street Business Association.
- Unique fundraiser: How can you not get excited about Moreland’s Raise Craze fundraiser? A school fundraiser where no one has to buy junk—yes please! The kindness initiative not only raised money, it brightened days. Even in the rain. Check out their Chalk the Walk event that succeeded despite the rain.
- Most under-appreciated story: Everyone likes to complain about the condition of the roads, but no one gets excited about improving road conditions. Our story “Smoother Riding: Maintaining West St. Paul Streets” dove into the practical realities of paving roads.
As a publication, West St. Paul Reader hit several milestones in 2022:
- Member drive: At the end of the year, we held our first ever member drive. The effort resulted in 37 new or upgraded members, a massive boost in support. The drive included events, member profiles, details on how our site works, why we do City Council and election coverage, why we make postcards, and culminated in a members-only party.
- Explore West St. Paul Days: We had a blast participating in the inaugural Explore West St. Paul Days event.
- Numbers: We celebrated our three-year anniversary in May and passed the 200-member milestone in November.
It’s only right to end the year with a big thank you to our members. We couldn’t do neighborhood news without them.
You can join them, starting at just $3 per month, and help support neighborhood news. In addition to helping your neighbors stay informed, you’ll also get a locally commissioned postcard and exclusive weekly updates.