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Voter involvement/apathy

Thumbs Up/Down: Here's a thumbs up for the 18,165 people in Douglas County who voted this election, either on Nov. 6 or the weeks prior to that through early voting. Voting is a precious privilege that should not be skipped with flimsy excuses, such as "My vote won't matter anyway," or "I don't have the time" or "I don't like any of the candidates." The estimated 6,673 registered voters who didn't vote get a thumbs down. Votes do matter; there have been elections right here in Douglas County that were determined by a single vote. Voting does not take a lot of time and with early voting, it's more convenient than ever to cast a ballot. Those who didn't like the choices should have at least found something to like in a candidate or two, or they could have written in a name or filed for the position themselves. Remember the simple but eloquent quote from Thomas Jefferson: "We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate."

Veterans' sacrifices

Thumbs Up: A "thumbs up" is only a small recognition of the great sacrifices our veterans made to defend the country's freedom. But it is important to always remember their bravery, the time they spent on foreign land away from their families, the emotional and physical toll they went through and the often difficult transition to civilian life after their service. Communities throughout Douglas County will observe Veterans Day services over the weekend or on Monday. A list of the ceremonies can be found in our special Veterans Day special section in today's issue. There's also a powerful story of a former Osakis man who was reunited with the doctor who saved his leg from being amputated after he was wounded by enemy fire. This Veterans Day, take the time to reflect on our veterans, thank them for their service and never forgot that freedom is never free.

Lake's legacy

Thumbs Up: Devoting 30 years of service to a job where you put yourself in harm's way while protecting the public is quite an accomplishment — one that Douglas County Chief Deputy Brad Lake delivered with professionalism and commitment during his three decades with the sheriff's office. Lake retired last month. Those of us at the newspaper who interviewed Lake countless times over the years for stories will miss him. He provided us with information and insights in a timely fashion. At Lake's retirement party, Sheriff Troy Wolbersen, who appointed Lake as chief deputy in 2007, said the two worked very well together over the years. "I'm happy for you, my friend, my partner," said Wolbersen. "I'm happy to call you my chief deputy and I am proud of you."

Helpline for farmers

Thumbs Up: Many farmers are coping with financial and emotional stress that can seem overwhelming. Here is some much-needed help: The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has a Farm and Rural Helpline that's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free and confidential. The toll free number is (833) 600-2670. "These are challenging times for growers who are facing a number of economic headwinds on the farm. And during harvest, that stress builds for a lot of farmers spending long hours in the combine," said Minnesota Corn Growers Association President Brian Thalmann. "All farmers should know this number is available when outside help is needed." The helpline connects callers to financial help, mental health counselors, legal assistance and more. It's also available to people who are worried about family or friends and aren't sure how to help.

Blocking spaces

Thumbs Down: An Alexandria resident sent us an email about lazy drivers who park illegally in areas that are designated as disability spaces. "Thumbs down to folks who are inconsiderate and park where they shouldn't just because it's convenient," she said. "Several instances have occurred where curb cuts have been blocked by vehicles hindering access to businesses for wheelchair users. Most often, if I'm lucky enough to encounter the driver, the response I get was that they were only going to be a minute. Is it really that difficult and time consuming to park where you're supposed to? Thumbs way down for repeat offenders after they've been made aware of the issue."

A payoff for the environment

Thumbs Up: OK, you didn't win the Lottery when it hit the $1.5 billion mark. But there was something good to come out of the game. According to Minnesota Lottery officials, sales during the jackpot's 26-draw run generated more than $10 million for Minnesota's beneficiaries, including $4.3 million for environmental causes and programs.

randomness