In what seemed to be one of the strangest, (and perhaps one of the deadliest) years in recent modern memory, the year 2020 will be remembered, discussed and written about for generations to come.

With a global pandemic in the midst of one of the most contentious Presidential elections in history - all combined with social distancing rules, face masks and various quarantines and lockdowns, it felt to many that the world had been turned upside-down.

Here in Bellevue (and Iowa in general), it was perhaps a bit more normal than many of the other giant metropolitan areas on the east and west coasts, as Bellevue’s two K-12 schools reopened in the fall after being closed in the spring, even though the pandemic continued with rising and falling case numbers depending on the week or month.

In the meantime, there were socially-distanced graduation ceremonies, teacher parades and fire truck birthday drive-bys.

Starting in mid-March, most restaurants had temporarily closed, as did local government buildings, including Bellevue City Hall and the Bellevue Public Library.

Major events and fundraisers large and small were canceled or postponed, including the Jackson County Pro-Rodeo and Bellevue Heritage Days. Fish frys were also taboo, and folks started going to church on their phones and laptops instead of in-person.

In the beginning, mask wearing was not encouraged or even mandated. Then, in the fall, it was.

Politics during the 2020 election also weaved its way into the pandemic, as social media was filled with rumors and disinformation, while cable news channels (depending on what channel one was watching) were polar opposites when it came to news of both the pandemic and the presidential election..

At times, it seemed as folks were living in a non-stop episode of the Twilight Zone.

The first few months of 2020 were fairly normal, however, as the pandemic panic didn’t hit the local community until March. Fast forward to the present, and the pandemic continues. New vaccines, however, are being distributed and experts hope the whole mess will be over by the summer of 2021.

The following is a brief rundown of the top stories in Bellevue and eastern Jackson County over the past 12 months.

JANUARY

Paquita Ditzler has lived and worked here in Bellevue for nearly two decades, but she had never voted in an election before 2020.

But that’s not because she didn’t want to, it was because she wasn’t officially a U.S. citizen.

Ditzler, who was born and raised in Ecuador, officially became a U.S. citizen after passing her naturalization test in Des Moines. During a special ceremony, she and a few dozen others were inducted as U.S. citizens.

Ditlzer, who teaches youngsters in Bellevue Elementary’s Little Stars Preschool program, has actually been living in America since 1978 when she was just 17 years old, graduating from the Iowa Mennonite School near Kalona in 1979.

Effective Jan. 1, 2020, Nemmers Realty of Bellevue and Kennedy-Gilmore Realty of Maquoketa joined to form Nemmers Realty Maquoketa.

The alliance was intended to help grow the Nemmers Realty brand by adding two highly experienced individuals to the team, officials wrote in a press release about the merger.

Owner-broker Steve Nemmers and agents Mike Steines and Bailey Kloft have served clients in Bellevue and surrounding areas under Nemmers Realty since 2010. Together the team offers 50-plus years of combined real estate experience to its clients. Norm Kennedy and Heather Hafner of Kennedy-Gilmore Realty added an additional 60-plus years of combined experience to this new alliance.

 The Miles Mini-Mart was robbed at knifepoint in January 2020. Police arrested a neighbor, Garry Evilsizer, about 24 hours after the incident.

Evilsizer was charged with second-degree robbery, a Class C felony, as well as driving without a license. He was eventually convicted of the crime later in the year.

According to reports, at about 8:04 p.m. on a Saturday night, a man walked into the gas station and demanded cash from the clerk, while holding her at knifepoint.

On Sunday at about 8:58 p.m., four officers stopped a red Kia at the intersection of Adams Street and Section Road in Miles. Its headlight and taillight were out, and the driver failed to dim the headlights.

According to a press release from the sheriff’s office, driver Evilsizer was “noticeably nervous.” On the car’s backseat were clothes that looked like those shown in surveillance video of the robbery, including a grey hoodie and brown work boots three sizes too big for Evilsizer.

When asked, Evilsizer gave cops a knife that he had in the car that appeared to match the robbery weapon. It was wrapped in paper towels..

In an ensuing search warrant of the vehicle and the apartment at 545 Washington St., Apt. 6, Miles, police seized Evilsizer’s phone and found drugs and drug paraphernalia, according to the sheriff’s department.

Before there was radio, television, the internet and social media, there was the local newspaper – and it’s still here in Bellevue today – stronger than ever with more readers than ever.

The Bellevue Herald-Leader marked 150 years of publishing local news and coverage of local government in 2020, making the newspaper the oldest continuing business in town bar none.

That distinction was once held by the venerable Lucke Bros. Shoe Store, which may very well have been Iowa’s oldest, continuously operated, family-owned retail store.

Through the years, the Bellevue Herald-Leader has gone through many editors, publishers and owners. However, over the past seven years, the Herald-Leader has been honored by the Iowa Newspaper Association for a total of 15 awards for design, photography and news. Those honors included four first place awards for Best Front Page, Best Feature Page, Best Photo Essay and Community Service.

FEBRUARY

Dimensional Brewing Company in Dubuque and Flatted Fifth Blues & BBQ at Potter’s Mill of Bellevue, have announced a new collaborative venture in February 2020; Flatted Fifth at Dimensional Brewing. The BBQ and southern food restaurant was supposed to open a second location at the Dubuque brewery in the spring of 2020 before the pandemic hit the following month. It was hoped that this collaboration of regional businesses will continue to develop the community culture of Lower Main Street in Dubuque, provide the customers of Dimensional Brewing integrated food and beverage options while increasing Flatted Fifth’s brand awareness in Dubuque. Flatted Fifth Blues & BBQ at Potter’s Mill opened in August 2014 in Bellevue, Iowa and has grown into a regional destination for cajun and BBQ foodies and blues lovers. The internationally known blues venue, welcomes award-winning blues and jazz artists from around the world to their stage on a regular basis.

Bellevue’s Donny Michels was up to his old tricks again in early 2020.

This time, he scrounged up a unique old device called a “Propeloar” and sold it to one of the guys from the American Pickers TV show, Dave Ohrt.

The ‘Propeloar’ was a device made by Production Engineering of Berkely, California that could be attached to small boats with the propeller being powered like pedals on a bike. A limited number of them were made around 1950, but their popularity never really took off.

“I found this one after Jimmy Anton passed away and they had it stored down at the trailer court,” said Michels. “The family called me and asked if I wanted it.”

After a while, Michels said his wife wanted him to get rid of the thing, as it was ugly and taking up too much room in the garage.

So Michels called up Dave Ohrt, an appraiser who appears on the History Channel’s American Pickers, to pitch his rare contraption.

“I watch the American Pickers all the time, so I am familiar with what they are looking for,” said Michels. “I had run into this Dave Ohrt guy before and he gave me his card one time, so I called him up.”

MARCH

Bellevue, along with the rural areas and other cities in Jackson County were looking at using Dittmer Recycling of Dubuque to drop off recycling in the future. This, after an announcement in early March that Imagine the Possibilities, Inc., of Maquoketa would be getting out of the recycling business after several years in the red. It ended those services on June 30. Bellevue switched to Dittmer a few months later.

Lilliana Tracy, age 11 of Bellevue, was named one of Iowa's top two youth volunteers of 2020 in March by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. As a State Honoree, Tracy receives $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.

In a Class 1A Regional Final play at Pleasant Valley High School, the Marquette girls basketball team once again advanced to state tournament play with a 57-49 victory over a good Burlington Notre Dame team that went 20-5 on the year. The win moved the second seeded Mohawks into a quarter-final match-up with seventh seeded Lemars-Gehlen in March, which Marquette defeated.

The Iowa Tourism Office and the Travel Federation of Iowa presented 26 awards recognizing excellence in the tourism industry across the state at a ceremony last March in Des Moines during the 2020 Conference. Flatted Fifth Blues and BBQ at Potter’s Mill received the Outstanding Dining Business Award in the rural category. The Bellevue business, which opened under the ownership and management of Mark and Rachel Herman in 2014, has grown into a regional destination for cajun and BBQ foodies and blues lovers. The internationally-known blues venue, also features professional blues and jazz artists from around the world to the old wooden stage in Bellevue on a regular basis.

The community of Bellevue was at a virtual standstill as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continued worldwide last March, and local folks were warned to avoid large gatherings and engage in ‘social distancing. Both Bellevue and Marquette school districts cancelled classes and dozens of local events and fundraisers were postponed. The Riverview Hotel was closed until further notice. 2nd Street Station was still open, but for pick-up orders only, with the same situation Spruce Harbor and Subway. Potter’s Mill was also taking orders for curbside pickup. Richman’s Café is closed. The Baymont Hotel shuttered its doors as well.

Hachmann Funeral Home still held, but the number of  people allowed inside during visitation was limited via a special rotating system and waiting outside.

One place that seemed to be extremely busy, however, was Bender’s Food, whose owner Randy Bender kept the shelves stocked the best he could, as people stocked up on food and supplies in case they needed to shelter at home in the coming weeks and days.

APRIL

The Bellevue School Board last April to approve a resolution to pay all school employees (including administration, teachers, custodial staff, bus drivers and all those employed) during the time the school was to be closed due to the pandemic. The measure, entitled ‘Pandemic Pay Resolution,’ states that if the Bellevue School District is closed beyond the spring, the board would reconvene to determine what authority, if any, the school board has to continue paying hourly and non-exempt employees.

If you’re interested in some good fishing fun without putting a boat in the water, head on down to Mill Creek at Bellevue’s Felderman Park. Last April, Iowa Department of Natural Resources experts were stocking the local creek with coldwater trout for recreational fishing. The first round of stocking took place with 100 fish being released in the water. Stocking continued each week during April in the area between the trail bridge and the soccer fields. It all started last fall, when DNR officials presented a proposal to the Bellevue City Council to stock Mill Creek with coldwater trout for expanded fishing opportunities. Since then, it has become a reality with many taking advantage of the opportunity.

The person identified as Jackson County’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was recovering well three weeks after her diagnosis last April. Kendra Driscoll, 31, was born and raised in Preston, where she still lives with her husband, Corey, and daughters, Kendyl and Kenzley. Driscoll said she was feeling better after what she calls a “mild” case of COVID-19, which is caused by the coronavirus, and she cautions the public to take the situation seriously. Driscoll works as a medical assistant for Medical Associates of Maquoketa in both the Preston and Maquoketa offices.

Driscoll had already been battling symptoms of chronic sinusitis, an annual problem for her that presents with sinus pressure, congestion and drainage. She took antibiotics for it.

However, by March 26, she felt more fatigued, her cough more pronounced.

“I felt like I had a lot of phlegm in my throat,” she explained during an online interview. “I ended up feeling very achy through the night and feverish, although I never had a true fever.” She had also lost her sense of taste and smell two days earlier.

All those symptoms suggested COVID-19. She tested positive a few days later and was fully recover a few weeks after.

A Jackson County native took his place on the front lines in the scientific battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Mark Ackermann, a 1979 graduate of Preston High School, who currently works for the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University. His wife Shelly was born and raised in Bellevue; and his mother, Fern Ackermann, also currently lives in Bellevue as does his brother Gary Ackermann.

He and his staff teamed up with the private Willamette Valley Technologies (WVT) Laboratory in nearby city of Corvallis to increase novel coronavirus testing for medical providers in Oregon and other west coast states last April.

This new collaboration was able to run at least 500 to 800 tests per day, said Dr. Ackermann, who is the director of OVDL and a professor and board-certified pathologist in OSU’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Our veterinary diagnostic laboratories have rigorous regulatory and validation requirements and large capacity to test for outbreaks of agents such as avian influenza in large numbers of animals. We also test for numerous other pathogens such as West Nile Virus, rabies, equine encephalitis and are prepared for foreign disease outbreaks such as African Swine Fever and Foot and Mouth Disease, for examples,” said Ackermann. “Because of this, physicians and physician groups approached us to test human samples as we can process 100 samples per hour and probably more.  Veterinary Diagnostic laboratories in four other states gained approvals for testing human samples and Oregon was the fifth veterinary lab.

MAY

While most bar and restaurant owners in Bellevue have decided to continue to offer curbside pick-up and remain closed to the public for the next few weeks at least, one of the most popular destinations in town, Potter’s Mill, re-opened for dining in early May. Mark Herman, owner of Flatted Fifth Blues & Barbecue at Potter’s Mill, said he would also continue to offer curbside pick-up for to go orders for those who still feel uncomfortable eating inside the iconic venue. “We are just kind of noodling our way through this,” said Herman, who added that he was pleasantly surprised at an announcement last spring by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds allowing for a partial reopening of restaurants.

For the first time in nearly six decades, it was announced in May there will be no parade, no ski show, no live bands and beers at Cole Park and no fireworks display on the river. This, after the Bellevue City Council made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Heritage Days celebration, which has been held on the Independence Day holiday weekend for the past 58 years. The decision, of course, was made for the safety of the community during theuncertain times, as the Covid-19 pandemic continued to impact the country and the state of Iowa as well. With the fact that thousands of people flock to Bellevue for the annual Heritage Days celebration, social distancing measures would be hard to manage. It is by far the largest July 4 celebration in Jackson County.

There wouldn’t be packed gymnasiums and churches filled with parents, relatives and friends -- but there will still be plenty of pomp and circumstance, as well as unique recognitions for those graduating with the Class of 2020 amid the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.

Both Bellevue Community Schools and Marquette Catholic Schools held ‘social distancing graduations.’ Bellevue’s took place on Saturday May 23 beginning at 2 p.m., while Marquette’s took place Sunday, May 24 during Mass at 10:15 a.m.

At Bellevue, students and their families signed-up for a short period of time to come into the west gymnasium. The graduating senior walked to the east side of the gym, while family members walked toward the center of the gym toward the stage to take photographs and watch.

Marquette Catholic Schools conducted a similar scenario at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church with social distancing being practiced.

Bellevue and Marquette also joined together for a ‘senior parade’ on the streets of Bellevue on Sunday of graduation, starting at 3:15 p.m.

In addition to graduations parades and videos, the Bellevue Herald-Leader also published its annual Graduation Souvenir edition, featuring all graduating seniors from both schools, as has been done for decades and decades.

The torch was passed on at a longtime Bellevue business last spring, as Dale and Marilyn Junk, owners of Tri-State Buildings Corp., sold their company to longtime employee and company foreman Frank Reisen.

 Reisen, who is originally from Zwingle, graduated from Maquoketa High School in 2006 and from Kirkwood Community College in 2008. He has been working for the business since 2010, starting out as a general laborer and working his way up to foreman in 2012.

“Dale and Marilyn have really built a great business, and I’m proud to take over the reigns,” said Riesen, who currently has his Tri-State headquarters located near Cottonville on the Bellevue-Cascade Road.

As well as Wick buildings, Tri-States takes on roofing projects, as well as metal roof, new construction and complete remodels.

JUNE

 While Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds extended the Covid-19 state of emergency that was set to expire on June 25, there was one new development that is bringing a sense of normalcy back in Bellevue.

The Bellevue City Council during a special meeting voted to open the ball fields at Cole Park so the Bellevue Braves could host amateur baseball tournaments again. This also means that Bellevue and Marquette High Schools could also play baseball and softball games. However no middle school or youth sports were allowed last summer, only high school sports.

The Bellevue Braves had requested that the city allow the annual baseball tournament to begin, instead of waiting for the Governor’s new guidelines in June. Chet Knake and Isaac Sturm of the Braves, who called into the special meeting, lobbied for the games to be played, and after a detailed discussion the city council agreed to.

The city’s park area along the riverfront in Bellevue got a bit larger in June, as the Medinger family donated a parcel of land near their property which connects to what is now known as “Ice Harvest Park.” Donna Medinger, wife of the late Bernie (Jr.) Medinger, along with son John Long, and Joe and Lisa Theisen were present by phone last June to address city council members on the land donation.

 The property is located to the South of the Donna Medinger residence at 1009 N. Riverview Street and connects to Riverview Park. Council members agreed to accept the land and pay for surveying and closing costs. Public works employees will maintain the land and the council will also consider constructing a gazebo or some similar attraction for public use in the future.

In a letter read aloud from the Medinger family, who owned the Riverview Hotel for many years, Donna said she has always been proud to live in Bellevue and felt the need to ‘pay it forward.’

“The Bellevue community, friends, family and employees (of the Riverview Hotel) gathered around and supported me years ago when I started a business as a single mother with young children. I will never forget the support and kindness shown and feel it's appropriate to pay it forward,” said Medinger. “Acts of kindness can build in a community exponentially.  I believe it starts in our home and communities and should be passed along to make the world a better place.”

Steve Schroeder and Brent Kilburg prevailed in the 2020 June Primary race for Jackson County sheriff. Schroeder, of Bellevue, received 1,580 votes, 372 more votes than Brendan Zeimet of Maquoketa to win the Democratic nomination for sheriff, according to unofficial election results posted online by the county auditor’s office. Zeimet received 1,208 votes.

On the Republican side, Kilburg, of Donahue received 1,689 votes compared to the 417 votes cast for Joseph Veach Jr. of rural Maquoketa. Schroeder and Kilburg squared off in the Nov. 3 general election, with Kilburg defeating Schroeder.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Foundation of Jackson County was providing help where it was most needed last year.  The Foundation board activated the Jackson County Disaster Recovery Fund, which provides an opportunity for the public to give with the reassurance their donations will be used to quickly move resources to where they are most urgently needed in their own community, particularly toward needs not being met by existing nonprofit, local, state and federal programs.

The Community Foundation of Jackson County, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, made an immediate $10,000 gift to start the fund. Thanks to the generosity of many people and organizations, over $41,000 was raised.

Bellevue native Mark Ernst, who now lives in Texas, made a $10,000 gift to help initiate the fund.

Jay Homan and his wife Diane had one of the most unique homes in Bellevue last summer.

The retired couple live in the old Texaco gas station that was once owned and operated by Art Achen.

Not only did they remodel the old station for a dandy living space – completed with an original 1950s-era pinball machine and a spectacular view of Lock and Dam 12 -- they also decorated the outside with rustic sculptures of fish, frogs, turtles, ballroom dancers and even flying pigs.

“It was Jay’s vision, said wife Diane, who explained that most of the outside sculptures are the creation of Clyde Wynia, who is well known in Marshfield, Wisconsin as the man who created ‘Jurustic Park,’ which features hundreds of similar sculptures. “We really liked the sculptures and Clyde is a friend and a real neat guy to talk to.”

The Homans came to Bellevue from Mineral Point Wisconsin, where they have another home. Prior to retiring, Jay worked for the Chicago Board of Trade for 40 years.

JULY

Bellevue High School softball team's season was officially ended last summer after a player tested positive for Covid-19. Bellevue Community School District Superintendent Tom Meyer said that the decision was for the safety of the entire community.

"The district appreciates the work of the entire softball team this year, players and coaches and looks forward to a great season in 2021," said Meyer. "While this is not how we planned to end the softball season, the district is working to keep our students healthy and ready to return to school and other activities in August."

In the past, Brittany Moore would have been washing and walking her sibling’s cattle, then later, her own. She would have been printing and matting her photos and caring for her sheep — all in preparation for 4-H indoor and outdoor exhibits at the Jackson County Fair.

This year, the 22-year-old from Bellevue for the first time coordinated all the action behind the scenes as the new Jackson County 4-H youth coordinator, a role made even more challenging because of changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health concerns stemming from the pandemic forced the Jackson County Fair Board to cancel most of the fair, however, the 4-H and FFA livestock shows and indoor exhibits continued, challenging Moore with the task of organizing her first set of shows and programs while trying to keep hundreds of 4-H’ers, families and supporters safe and healthy.

The trial of a Dubuque man who pleaded not guilty to killing a Bellevue woman and her unborn child while allegedly driving while drunk in 2019 was delayed for a third time.

This time, it is a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Ruggeberg family of Bellevue, the trial for John Hoffman, age 70, who was charged in the District Court of Dubuque County with homicide by vehicle, nonconsensual termination of a human pregnancy and serious injury by vehicle in relation to the crash that killed Hannah Ruggeberg, who was 28 weeks pregnant at the time, had been moved to January 5, 2021.

The fatal accident happened in late 2019 when police said an intoxicated Hoffman was driving north in the wrong lane on U.S. 52 near Bradel Cove Road when he struck Ruggeberg’s vehicle Nov. 9.

Hoffman appeared for his hearing and entered the not guilty plea via closed-circuit TV from the Dubuque County Jail a few months after the crash and was released later on $250,000 cash bond. He also waived his right to a speedy trial.

“He’s been out walking around now for nearly a year and we have to face the first anniversary of our family’s loss this fall, it just doesn’t seem fair,” said family patriarch John Ruggeberg of Bellevue.

AUGUST

What started with a bout of boredom and isolation turned into something fun and meaningful for a Bellevue woman last summer, as well as a whole lot of other people.

Karen Jess, who had to start working from home when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in the spring, said she needed an outlet.

She found it in a pile of rocks and a paint brush.

“I was at home and needed something to do, so I thought I would paint a couple of rocks to go with my landscaping in my yard,” said Jess, who works for CPA firm. “All of a sudden I had a big collection of painted rocks that I wasn’t sure what to do with.”

Jess eventually started sharing photos of her rocks on social media and soon had several requests for the artwork. That led to another trend where she started placing the rocks around town for folks to find. The ‘rock hunters’ in turn, would then take a photo of the rocks they found to post on the official ‘bellevueiowarocks’ facebook page and then hide it in a new spot for someone else to find.

“It really took off like I never would have imagined,” said Jess, who created her own work shop in her family garage just for the rock project. “It’s really neat to see all the happy people out there with their rocks.”

Soon, friends and family joined in the rock painting project, including Shelly (Michels) Meyer, who helped in the cause.

“It’s so neat to see the photos of the children with smiles on their faces, holding up the rocks they found,” said Meyer. “It’s really given them something fun to do.”

Word was received in August that Bellevue Pharmacy will sell and transition its community pharmacy practice to Hartig Drug Company of Dubuque. Hartig’s acquisition of Bellevue Pharmacy was completed by mid-October. The companies worked closely together to ensure the transition was seamless for customers and their access to pharmacy care is not interrupted.

Kevin McClimon stayed on as the pharmacy manager.

“Bellevue is a strong and proud community and Bellevue Pharmacy has been providing trusted pharmacy care in Bellevue for decades, so I am excited Hartig Drug can be part of that story,” said Charlie Hartig, CEO of Hartig Drug Company – a family-owned and operated pharmacy based in Dubuque. “We are looking forward to continuing to provide unique local offerings and implement our industry-leading, Hartig Drug Rewards Program in Bellevue. We pride ourselves in serving local Iowa communities and are excited to carry on the legacy and values of Kevin and Patty.”

Students in the Bellevue Community School District were required to wear face masks in some, but not all situations when they returned to school in late August of 2020.

This, after Bellevue School Board members to require face masks in certain situations in which students cannot maintain social distancing.

The requirement mostly applied to areas such as school buses, hallways and when students are standing in line. Students were not required to mask-up in classrooms, however.

Masks were also required for spectators at home volleyball games in the gym.

Similar face mask guidelines were also followed at Marquette Catholic Schools.

Bellevue Police Chief Lynn Schwager, who has served with the Bellevue Police Department for over three decades, announced in late August that he would retire at the end of the year.

Schwager began his career with the Bellevue Police Department in October, 1987 and became Police Chief in January, 1993, succeeding former Chief Gary Tubbs in the position.

In his letter to the council, Schwager said he is ‘looking forward to a new chapter in his life,’ but after 33 years, he said he will ‘miss much of what he is leaving behind.’

“Over the years, I have had the privilege to work with and for some of the best people Bellevue and the State of Iowa has to offer,” said Schwager. “From the people like yourselves who run for office to serve the community to the amazing volunteers who give continuously to the Fire and EMS services, I could not ask for a better experience.”

“The citizens of Bellevue have been mostly supportive through the years and I feel I have always been given a fair chance to serve them,” he continued. “Our business community could not be more beneficial to the Police Department and I am deeply grateful to those who went out of their way to stand behind us in all of our endeavors.”

SEPTEMBER

Jack Grutz has seen a lot of high school football games in his life. And as a referee for the past five decades, he has certainly seen them up close. The 2020 fall football season marked 50 years of refereeing for the retired Bellevue school teacher.

A referee or simply ‘ref’ is the person of authority in a variety of sports who is responsible for presiding over the game from a neutral point of view and making on-the-fly decisions that enforce the rules of the sport, including sportsmanship decisions, such as ejection.

Grutz always wears the white hat, which means he is in charge of the rest of the officiating team. He also makes all the final calls.

“I’m usually far enough away from the line of scrimmage during the plays,” said Grutz when asked if he’s ever been injured at a game over the past five decades.

“My umpire, Dennis (Bud) Schroeder is in the middle of the action and he’s the one who usually gets hurt,” Grutz added jokingly.

The sale of the Baymont Hotel, the RV campgrounds, as well as the Off-Shore Restaurant and Events Centre on the north edge of Bellevue was pending last fall.

This, according to developer A.J. Spiegel, who built, owned and operated the unique riverfront businesses over the past decade.

Spiegel told the Herald-Leader in a phone call in September, that this is “exciting news for Bellevue,” and that the future owners “have a wealth of successful experience running similar businesses and resorts.”

Spiegel said the new owners are “a group of five entrepreneurs who plan to expand the offerings of the business.”

He said they are the same group of investors who own and operate the Dubuque Marina and Coconut Cove Resort in Wisconsin, including Steve Launspach, A.J. Becker, Ryan Becker, Pete Ludwig, as well as Jason Germaine of Germaine Electric.

While the hotel, events center and campgrounds have remained in operation since 2013, Spiegel closed the restaurant last summer due to difficulty finding employees and difficultly getting regular customers.

“The new owners will change all that,” said Spiegel, who said that with all his other business ventures, he just didn’t have the time to grow the business properly. “I was just one person, and now there will be five people overseeing and working the operation.”

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Dennis (Bud) Schroeder was appointed Bellevue Police Chief in September. He will succeed 33-year veteran Chief Lynn Schwager who retired at the end of the year. Schroeder will also serve as interim chief while Schwager is on paid leave.

A veteran of local law enforcement for 30 years, beginning his career as an officer in 1990, Schroeder is a 1983 graduate of Bellevue High School and went on to earn a degree in criminal justice from Kirkwood Community College in 1985.

He is a certified firearms instructor and has taught a Drug Abuse Resistance Education course in Bellevue for 28 years.

Schroeder is a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Bellevue and a member of several local associations, including the Jackson County Cattlemen, Whitetails Unlimited, and Ducks Unlimited.

He and his wife, Jeanette, who is principal of Bellevue Elementary School, have three children, Ronald, Robert and Rebecca.

OCTOBER

Municipal leaders last October were looking to recruit local citizens to serve on a new steering committee that will help develop a new comprehensive plan for the City of Bellevue.

The proposed comprehensive plan would provide the community with a solid framework to lay out future goals and to establish a vision that all can work toward.

Some of the elements of the plan would be establishing goals for community characteristics, use of land, housing, community infrastructure, economic development and use of natural resources.

The last time Bellevue completed a comprehensive plan was in 1977, which is over four decades ago. In 1977, things were somewhat different in Bellevue, as the population was a bit larger at about 2,600 people, and there were a few more businesses downtown. Today, the population has dropped to 2,100, but the community remains strong with a core of successful local businesses, two high performing school districts and a lot of new housing and construction over the past decade or so. However, the community at times seems to lack a cohesive strategy.

“Having a comprehensive plan is important to the city’s future as it becomes the roadmap and provides valuable guidance for years to come,” said City Administrator Abbey Skrivseth.  “Having individuals from the community is critical as the city looks to gauge the public interest in this roadmap on the vision for the city.”

A group of investors who may soon be the next owners of the Baymont Hotel and Off-Shore Events Center complex on the north end of Bellevue met with city leaders last week during a special joint session of the Bellevue City Council and the Bellevue Utility Board at the Bellevue Community Center.

Members of the group, simply called ‘Offshore Enterprises, LLC,’ outlined a proposed $5 million to $6 million plan to expand the current Off-Shore facilities and add over 100 campsites, renovate the restaurant, expand the events center and construct a 6,000 square-foot swimming pool. The new ‘aquatics center’ would also feature a swim pond, playground, snack bar, poolside bar and resort store.

The overall purchase will include the campground, Baymont Inn, restaurant, event center and undeveloped ground. Current owner and developer A.J. Spiegel has accepted the group’s offer to purchase the facilities, and the sale was expected to close in November.

Offshore Enterprises LLC is owned by an investor group comprised of Steve Launspach, Peter Ludwig, Jason Germaine, A.J. Becker and Ryan Becker – all residents of the greater Dubuque area. Members of this group also own Coconut Cove Resort near Kieler Wisconsin, Whitetail Bluff Campground near Cassville Wisconsin, Dubuque Marina and Yardarm Riverfront Bar and Grille, Hawkeye Boat and Camper Sales in Dubuque, and Jason owns Germaine Electric. The new Offshore Enterprises group was formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the Bellevue Offshore property from Spiegel.

The proposed plans for the site include increasing recreational amenities. By May 2021, the campground will be expanded east to provide up to an additional 110 camping sites and the restaurant will be renovated with many enhanced features. In 2021-2022 an aquatics center will be completed to include a new 6,000 square-foot swimming pool, deck, one acre swim pond with a beach and floating aqua park, jump pad, playground and a building for shower house, snack bar, poolside bar and resort store. After 2021 development could begin to expand the event center to hold closer to 450 guests along with adding a catering kitchen.

Seeking government permits for a future transient dock with boat fuel pumps will begin as well. Additional amenities and improvements are also anticipated in further years.

Details were provided on the group’s current businesses including a similar destination resort like Coconut Cove in Hazel Green, WI. The group anticipates drawing over 700 plus visitors for each summer weekend. Other businesses in the area should see an increase in tourism too.

David Heiar of Jackson County Economic Alliance shared various options on how a private/public partnership can be formed to help get the project done. First, the group would like to transfer the existing development agreement that the City has with Spiegel,, which consists of a 15-year TIF agreement with a maximum of $2 million set to expire in 2027. Next, the city needs to update and amend the City’s current Urban Renewal Plan to extend the current development agreement by five years to $3 million and then form a new development agreement for the aquatic center. The new agreement could be a 20-year agreement and could have a few different options, based on the future of the City’s nearly 60-year-old pool with possible discounts to Bellevue citizens.

The Community Foundation of Jackson County announced the hiring of Bellevue native Lori Loch as its new executive director last October. Loch began working with long-time director Mary Jo Gothard as she transitioned into retirement at year end.

“Lori has a strong work ethic. She is professional and respects confidentiality. She has a broad range of work experience, including investment services and retirement planning,” said Gothard. “Our Jackson County leaders will appreciate her experience, her friendly smile and her ‘can do’ attitude.”

Loch comes to the Foundation from an executive assistant position for the president and CEO of Sedgwick. She has spent her career building relationships through customer service in an investment setting, as a client consultant at Cigna/Prudential, an account consultant with Diversified Investments and at American Trust and Savings Bank.

NOVEMBER

Bellevue High School senior Brady Griebel captured the Comets first state Individual Cross Country Championship in school history last fall. Griebel ran the  Kennedy Park course in 15:52 to capture his first title in his four years running at state. His time was the fifth fastest time in all four classes, (two were in 4A, two in 3A) in the 2020 state field, the fastest  time  was in 3A at 15:28.   

 Griebel won his title by nearly 30-seconds. His work ethic in the off-season really was answered. The time he spent running in National AAU meets made him stronger, great results from AAU meets  added to his determination  to win  a state title.  

 

It’s been the topic of several discussions in recent years – and this past fall, members of the Bellevue City Council finally approved the third and final reading of an ordinance allowing the use of ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles) on all city streets, with the exception of Riverview and State Streets, which are considered state highways.

Council members also set the hours for ATV operation from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m., which is the same as the Jackson County ATV ordinance. They also made the decision not to charge a registration fee for ATV operators.

The previous city ordinance allowed ATV use on a restricted number of streets across town, connected by alleyways and side streets for access to a few businesses and bars along the route.

The topic of allowing ATVs city-wide came up again last summer in Bellevue after the Jackson County Board of Supervisors considered and approved a permanent ordinance allowing ATVs on all county roads.

The new county and city ATV ordinances do not include golf carts, as had been brought up in the past.

The view of the Mississippi River on Bellevue’s Front Street got a little bigger last November.

Jay Homan and his wife Diane of Bellevue, who bought and refurbished the old Texaco Station next to Subway, also purchased the adjacent property to the south from Cheryl Miller. The home on the property, once known as the ‘Green Parrot Bed and Breakfast,’ was razed in November by Travis Kemp of TW Excavating, opening up a new view of the river over Lock and Dam 12.

The Homans say it will stay that way.

“We wanted to make a green space for the public to view the river,” said Diane Homan. “It’s good for us and it’s good for Bellevue.”

The now retired couple said they may put up a fence or deck in the future, but for now, they are glad to see the view on Riverview open up even more.

“It’s such a beautiful view and we want people to be able to see it,” said the Homans, who have their own incredible view from their unique living quarters.

DECEMBER

According to a report filed with the state in December, Collins Aerospace announced it would lay off a total of 65 workers at both its Decorah and Bellevue locations, which was the second round of employment cuts for the company in Iowa over the past four months.

According to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification filed with Iowa Workforce Development, the company will cut 36 positions in Bellevue, effective January 2.

Collins Aerospace in Bellevue currently employs upwards of 200 workers. The local plant, which has been a major employer in Bellevue since 1989, manufactures flight control computers, low range altimeters, Airbus Ethernet switches and various other graphics process and controls for Boeing airplanes.

According to the Register article, Collins Aerospace spokesperson Pam Tvrdy-Cleary wrote in an email that the company has scaled back production of commercial airliner parts due to a drop in orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The volume of daily U.S. airline passengers is still less than half of what it was in 2019, and Collins Aerospace's primary customers are reporting billion-dollar quarterly losses.

In the latest public financial disclosure from Collins Aerospace's parent company, Raytheon Technologies Corp., executives wrote on Oct. 27 that airlines continue to cancel orders for parts. The pandemic caused Raytheon to temporarily close "a limited number" of factories, as was the case for some of its suppliers.

The sale of the Baymont Hotel, Off-Shore and campgrounds north of Bellevue closed in early December, with the new owners meeting with the current staff at the hotel.

The buyers of the property, known as ‘Offshore Enterprises LLC’ include Steve Launspach, Peter Ludwig, Jason Germaine, A.J. Becker and Ryan Becker – all residents of the greater Dubuque area. Members of this group also own Coconut Cove Resort near Kieler Wisconsin, Whitetail Bluff Campground near Cassville Wisconsin, Dubuque Marina and Yardarm Riverfront Bar and Grille, Hawkeye Boat and Camper Sales in Dubuque, and Jason owns Germaine Electric.

The investor group was formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the Bellevue Offshore property from former owner and developer A.J. Spiegel, who built the facilities and opened them to the public in 2013.

“We are excited to be here and to get things started,” said A.J. Becker of Off Shore Enterprises, who along with his fellow investors were looking at the progress at the campground site, which is being expanded. “We are looking forward to working with the community and its people.”

Lampe True Value in Bellevue has been a staple of the community for many decades, not only for hardware supplies and equipment, but for support of local schools, local events and local causes.

Owned by the Lampe family of Bellevue since the early 1970s, the store has officially been sold to Jesse and Jackie Kueter, who took over the longtime business on Dec. 31. The business is now ‘Kueter True Value.’

Kueter is a graduate of Marquette High School and Loras College, and worked for E91 in Dubuque prior to purchasing the local hardware store. The couple has four young children.

Chris and Kathie Lampe, who have owned the business since 1995, said they are pleased about the change in ownership, and look forward to helping the Kueters during the transition.

Lampe True Value came to be when Larry and Maryetta Lampe purchased Mootz Hardware from Ben Mootz on January 1, 1973.  Chris and Kathie Lampe, purchased the store in January 1, 1995. Lampe True Value was originally located at 122 south Riverview for the first five years.  It moved to its current location at 220 south Riverview in late December, 1977.

“I want to thank all my customers over the past 26 years and also those who supported my parents, Larry and Maryetta, for 22 years before that,” said Chris. “Our loyal customer base has been the reason we have been able to keep expanding and making our store better for the people of Bellevue and those who visit our beautiful town.  I encourage everyone to support Kueter True Value.”