Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In small town Minnesota: A public show of support for police officers July 30, 2016

Stopped at an intersection in Kenyon, I snapped this quick photo of the Kenyon Police Department office. The yellow sign in the KPD window reads "Every Life Matters."

Stopped at an intersection in Kenyon, I snapped this quick photo of the Kenyon Police Department office, right. The yellow sign in the KPD window reads “Every Life Matters.”

I’VE RAVED HERE SEVERAL TIMES about the Kenyon Police Department Facebook page. Police Chief Lee Sjolander’s become a bit of a celebrity for his honest, humorous and thoughtful writing. He cares. And people like him. Really like him.

A week ago Friday, the good folks of Kenyon, population around 1,800, honored Lee and his officers during an open house at the VFW in this small southeastern Minnesota community. Lines formed. Kind words were spoken and written. And the humble chief thanked his staff.

I love feel-good stories like this. With all the violence, chaos and unrest in today’s world, we need to be reminded of the positive. We need to thank those who care for us, whether personally or on a professional level. Life can be hard sometimes, really hard. But it’s easier when we are kind to one another, when we support and encourage. And express our gratitude.

This Sunday, July 31, my community of Faribault will thank local law enforcement and first responders during a candlelight vigil ceremony at 9:15 p.m. at the Rice County Courthouse.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Every life matters to a social media savvy small town Minnesota police chief July 13, 2016

Kenyon Police Chief Lee Sjolander. Photo from Kenyon Police Department Facebook page.

Kenyon Police Chief Lee Sjolander. Photo from Kenyon Police Department Facebook page.

HOOLIGAN BY DEFINITION means violent young troublemaker.

And although Lee Sjolander is officially a hooligan, as in the percussionist for the Goodhue County rock and country variety band The Local Hooligans, he’s not by any standards a troublemaker. That’s his part-time after hours band gig title.

Kenyon, Minnesota, welcomes visitors to its recent Rose Fest.

Downtown Kenyon, Minnesota, during the 2014 Rose Fest, always held on the third weekend in August. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Full-time, Sjolander serves as the police chief of Kenyon, a small southeastern Minnesota community of about 1,800.

But he’s more than your average small town police officer. He’s also a social media celebrity with a world-wide Facebook following that numbers in the thousands. He recently returned from an invitation only 21st Century Policing conference at the White House. And he’s appeared on a Twin Cities television station and has been referenced by Minnesota Public Radio.

Yet, despite all of the notoriety, Sjolander keeps doing what he does best—caring about the good folks and animals (yes, he picks up strays) of Kenyon and writing about his work, his community, social issues and even the personal struggles he faces.

Sjolander is refreshingly positive. If there’s a problem or need in his community, he seeks out solutions. He helps families find housing, pays for groceries, distributes donated monies to locals who are going through tough times and more. In summary, he cares.

He sports a sprawling tattoo on his upper right arm inked with the words: Every Life Matters. Those same three words are stitched onto his bullet proof vest.

Sjolander has an open book, down-home personal writing style infused with compassion and humor that resonates with the masses. If you aren’t following the Kenyon Police Department Facebook page, I’d encourage you to do so. You will be a better person for having read the chief’s words.

And if you’re interested in meeting the chief and his officers, attend a Friday, July 22, open house starting at 4 p.m. at the Kenyon VFW. It is an opportunity, say organizers, to thank and recognize the police department for its work.

That’s how things roll in small town Kenyon under the policing of Lee Sjolander.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A message from Minnesota officers: Let peace prevail July 9, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 2:53 PM
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Peace ad published in Faribault


NEARLY NINE HUNDRED MILES from Dallas, Texas, and an hour from Falcon Heights, Minnesota, a message of peace published this morning in my local newspaper, The Faribault Daily News.

The full-page ad on the back page of the front section comes from the Faribault Police Department and the Rice County Sheriff’s Department. In a succinct 13 words, these law enforcement officers deliver a powerful statement to our culturally diverse community.

It is the final three words that I find universally hopeful: Let Peace Prevail.

Let. Peace. Prevail.