Michael Stoll: Mike Stoll has left the building

Published 8:05 pm Friday, October 22, 2021

I hate long goodbyes… yet this will probably be one of the longest I’ve made. 

If not, it’s unquestionably one of the hardest.

As I type this, Gheorghe Zamfir’s “The Lonely Shepherd” plays softly in my ears. It helps me think, each note from Zamfir’s nai making more clear what I want to say. It also appropriately captures the mood of this column.

For those unaware, this will be my last paper with the Austin Daily Herald. My official last day was yesterday, and I have to admit that this is the hardest it has been to say goodbye to any job. It’s not just saying goodbye to my coworkers, but to the readers and all of the wonderful people I’ve met along the way, some of whom I consider friends.

The song has now switched to “Varúð” by Sigur Rós, another appropriate song.

That’s not to say this job didn’t have its fair share of headaches and stress. It’s not easy when you have a small staff, especially during a pandemic. Then there is the matter of crime reporting, which was one of my main beats during my time here. The level of cruelty of which some people are capable astounds me; several of the crime articles I wrote did not include the graphic details. It takes a toll, and I can only imagine what first responders must go through.

The song just changed to “Gor-Gor” by Gwar. Not sure if a heavy metal song about a Godzilla-esque monster sets the right tone for this column, but let’s see where it takes us.

Gor-Gor comes and sirens wail … nope.

Let’s go with the Paul Young classic “Everytime You Go Away.”

As I prepare to go away, I will take a piece of Austin with me in the form of lessons I’ve learned along the way. “What are they?” you ask, no doubt with a tear streaming down your face. They would be:

• Driving in snow up here is easier and safer than in the South. Up here, you have the plows and the salt/sand mixture to clear the roads. While there is the occasional spin out or accident, you eventually get used to it. Down south, where I grew up, the threat of snow shuts everything down and sends people flocking to the grocery store for milk, eggs, and bread. Then they all drive into a ditch when that quarter-inch of snow makes its annual/biannual appearance.

• Lutefisk should have been left in the old country. I’m sure that comment has turned your tears of sadness to rage, but for Pete’s sake it’s poison-soaked fish! 

• I’m still not entirely sure what constitutes a “hot dish.” I have heard it’s just another term for “casserole” from some, but I have also heard from others that it’s not a hot dish without tater tots. Which is it people?

• You’re lucky to live in a community that values the arts. Art, music, literature, theatre and everything in between provokes thought, encourages discussion, promotes creativity, and inspires on multiple levels. Never lose that, Austin!

• You’re also lucky to live in a welcoming community. It’s not always easy to try to break down barriers and step out of your comfort zone by embracing someone from another culture. While some work still needs to be done, Austin is setting the example in what steps diverse communities should take to be proactive in trying to make sure everyone has a voice. I hope more communities across the country adopt the same policies.

• You have good city leaders and a dynamic city staff. I can vouch for this in having covered the Austin City Council meetings over the past 4 ½ years. They are approachable and willing to help, even if it means just pointing you in the right direction. It’s easy to criticize when a vote doesn’t go your way or when an unpopular decision is made, but occasionally having to make a tough decision comes with the territory and is never taken lightly. It’s also important to remember that being an elected official does not mean unlimited power or the ability to immediately change things. There are many voices in the mix.

• The Austin Police Department and Mower County Sheriff’s Office are efficient law enforcement entities. Some readers have expressed frustration at the number of crime stories they see, with some even saying it makes them frightened. That should have the opposite effect as each crime story means one less bad guy on the streets.

• The residents of Austin should never take for granted organizations like The Hormel Foundation, Impact Austin, Austin Aspires, and all of the other organizations that play a proactive role in making Austin a better place to live.

But the most important lesson here is that I will miss Austin terribly. It’s where my wife and I bought our first house, it was where I became a father, and it was where for the first time in my life I truly felt like part of a community through the connections I made at the Herald. 

To all of the wonderful people of Austin and Mower County, thank you for the memories.

This column was completed at 2:09 p.m. on Friday, Oct, 22, 2021, a date nine days shy of five years since I first came to Austin (and Minnesota for that matter). Now I await the coming of 5 p.m.

Time to play Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”