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In this 2019 file photo, members of the Owatonna Aces amateur baseball team watch from the dugout at Dartts Park as Matt Simon takes the plate. As of Friday night, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz had not yet made his decision as to allow amateur baseball games this summer, forcing teams like the Aces to make some tough financial decisions. (Jon Weisbrod/People’s Press)

Director of patient care retiring after 34 years with Owatonna Hospital

A familiar face at Owatonna Hospital for over 30 years, Anne Draeger is retiring as director of patient care at the end of this month.

Before moving into her first leadership role in 2000 — serving as patient care manager for the emergency and surgery departments — Draeger worked as a staff nurse since arriving at the hospital in 1986. During the first half of her career, she recalled working alone in the emergency department Monday through Thursday. When she needed a physician, she would phone the on-call doctor at home.

In this role, Draeger had the advantage of knowing many of the patients coming through the doors — and immediately having common ground even with strangers, as a longtime Owatonna resident herself.

“My husband and I both graduated from high school here. I was raised almost my whole life in Owatonna, and grew up just a block from the hospital,” she added. “We really wanted to move home to raise our kids. He got a job in Waseca. I started looking, and found the job at Owatonna Hospital in the emergency department.”

After attending college in the Twin Cities and then living for a time in Rochester, Draeger said it was an interesting experience returning home and seeing old acquaintances again for the first time at the hospital.

“For me, it was caring for people that I cared deeply about,” added Draeger. “Professionally, I did it quite a bit and found it really rewarding.”

Transitioning into her first leadership role in the new millennium, Draeger headed up patient care not only for her familiar emergency department, but also for the hospital’s quickly-growing surgery department. It was at this time that longtime colleague Kris Johnson came on board as a staff nurse in the operating room, with Draeger as her supervisor.

“She’s always someone who wants to learn and understand your role. While she may have been new to understanding the operating room, she always asked questions and tried to find out about our work,” said Johnson. “My first impression — and something that’s been true for as long as I’ve known her — is how much she cares for the patients and her staff.”

Another perk, added Johnson, was the secret stash of candy that Draeger would always have on hand in her office.

Creating a float pool of nurses

In addition to overseeing two rapidly-growing areas of the hospital, one of Draeger’s main initiatives at that time was starting a float pool of nurses to help accommodate this growth. This group was cross-trained to the entire building, and could be assigned anywhere to help busier departments on a flexible basis.

“At the beginning, we hired a core group of six nurses and we modeled it after another program called the resource nurse — that was a highly skilled nurse that could basically go in and perform patient care in any department,” said Draeger.

Leigh Magana, who was hired by Draeger in the emergency room around the same time, got to see this change take place. While she didn’t serve as a float nurse herself, she said it was a huge asset to be able to rely on that support while in her department. Even when Magana started, there was still often only one scheduled nurse in the emergency room.

“We still have that float pool today and it’s great. We wouldn’t be able to run without it,” she added. “Things have really changed — even in the 16 years I’ve been at the hospital — and Anne has done a lot of that change for us for the good.”

‘Where culture transects care’

In 2010, Draeger stepped into her current role as interim director of patient care. At the same time, she was continuing to oversee the emergency department and was finishing up a master’s degree in transcultural nursing from Augsburg University in Minneapolis.

“It’s kind of that place where culture transects care. There’s a lot of connectivity between health, wellness and the culture that we grew up in,” said Draeger, of the field. “It can be cultures from various ethnic groups, but it can also just be the culture of health care, wellness and sickness in different geographical regions.”

Managing the emergency department, Draeger said she had wanted to understand the barriers many had to accessing health care, and also wanted to make the hospital a welcoming place for all patients.

“I also started working with some of the staff from Centro Campesino and went into the education system, as part of my schooling. I started working with some of the social workers there, and that afforded me time to spend with Somali and Latino members of our community,” she added. “They really taught me how to create that welcoming space — how to be approachable, how to be an understanding nurse.”

Founding of the Free Clinic

This work also helped influence other staff at the hospital and ultimately tied into the creation of the Free Clinic of Steele County, which was initially started as a joint effort in part by nurses and staff at Centro Campesino.

“We found some physicians who were willing to volunteer, so we thought we would try doing just a few clinics over the summer months to see how it would work. We wanted to focus on helping people manage chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes,” Draeger said. “Summer ran into the fall and the fall turned into several years later, where we were still running the clinic a couple times a month.”

The group created a board and gained formal nonprofit status, and now continues to operate out of a space on Southview Lane. Within the last two weeks, Draeger added, volunteers have been working to set up virtual health visits with their clients during the ongoing pandemic. Going forward, Draeger said she would like to spend more time volunteering as a nurse and continuing her work on the Free Clinic board.

Plans for retirement

Initially, she had planned in January to retire May 15, but after the pandemic hit she agreed to stay on another month and a half to help with the necessary changes to patient care.

“It’s just been a tremendous amount of planning and adaptability to the changing models and the needs of our community,” she added. “Every patient flow, every type of care that we deliver has been influenced by COVID-19. Primarily it’s about making sure our staff is safe, as well as the patients who are getting the care they need.”

Starting in July, she said she also hopes to be able to spend more time with family — especially her young grandson, Paul, who she said is eagerly awaiting her retirement. Draeger also thanked her family, along with coworkers past and present, for all of their support over the years.

“She has been probably one of the best leaders we’ve ever had,” added Magana. “She’s going to be missed.”

Downtown history slowly uncovered as Foremost Brew Pub marches forward

It has been almost a year since the Foremost Brewing Cooperative secured a building in downtown Owatonna, and as the journey toward the community’s first brew pub continues to take twists and turns, board members are excited by each new discovery.

On the march to transform 131 W Broadway St. — the former location of Spurgeon’s department store — into Owatonna's first cooperative brew pub, the building investors applied for historic tax credits that would bring a 40% return on their tax credits over the next five years. Because the building is located in a historic district, the project qualified for the historic tax credit to long as they bring the building back to what it looked like in the era that it was first building, contributing to the nature of the district.

“The tricky part is that we haven’t really uncovered a lot,” said Kristin Warehime, a Foremost board members and one of the building investors. “We’ve discovered that if you’re not a store on a corner of the building, not a lot of pictures get taken of you.”

Warehime said that the project committee sought out resources at the Steele County History Center, the public library, and by reaching out to individuals who may lead to information for what the building century-old building may have looked like when originally built.

aharman / By ANNIE GRANLUND agranlund@owatonna.com 

One of the exciting discoveries made inside the building was original hardwood floors. Through months of research, the Foremost Brew Pub planning committee was able to determine that the building was once a Rosebrock furniture store, which the state has instructed them to move forward with as their design plan. (Submitted photo)

“The furthest back we could uncover is that it was once Rosebrock Furniture, which is what the state has said we need to go with and that it should look like what a furniture story would have looked like at that time,” Warehime said.

While it was good to have some direction, Warehime admitted that the group was at first a little disappointed as it would no longer allow them as much free-range in the interior of the building as they had hoped. For example, most breweries lean towards an industrial-style décor and the plans originally included exposed brick. Because the state has determined that would be inappropriate for a furniture store, Warehime said that will have to cover the brick and have a finished wall.

After quickly adjusting to the new and unique look the brew up will have to take on, Warehime said the group was instantly excited about what they continued to uncover as they moved forward with their building and design plans.

“We did discover a really nice wood floor that had been hiding under the tile and linoleum,” Warehime said. “It was nice to have that surprise.”

aharman / By ANNIE GRANLUND agranlund@owatonna.com 

Steal columns were uncovered inside of the building that will house the Foremost Brew Pub. Similar columns were found inside Owatonna Shoe in downtown Owatonna during renovations years ago. (Submitted photo)

Warehime said that they also discovered several steal columns on both the south and north side of the building, something similar to what Tom Brick, of Owatonna Shoe, said he uncovered during his own downtown building renovations years ago.

“So those weren’t completely unique to find in the downtown area,” Warehime said. “We’ll be keeping those for sure, now we just have to find a way to accommodate them.”

On Friday, the Foremost board received official confirmation that the project plan has been conditionally approved for the historic tax credit, giving the group an extra ounce of confidence that they will be heading in the right direction. If all continues to go well, Warehime said that they hope to open the doors in early October.

aharman / By ANNIE GRANLUND agranlund@owatonna.com 

The Foremost Brew Pub will include a kitchen that will serve locally-sourced food. (Submitted photo)

“All this will definitely make the brew pub unique,” Warehime said. “The industrial look is a style that is cool and trendy in a lot of breweries and brew pubs, but we going to make as much as we can playing off the historic aspect of this building. We really want to play up the idea of this being local and bringing back that part of local history. Time moves on and things change a bit, but it is nice to bring some of that back.”

Warehime said that they are also actively looking into acquiring old Rosebrock memorabilia to incorporate throughout the facility. Currently, she said they have a lead on an old Rosebrock safe that could be used as décor somewhere in the first floor.

“This is only phase one,” Warehime said. “Right now we can’t afford to do anything with the upstairs — there isn’t even a staircase to the second floor. There will be an elevator that will go up there, though, so that we can eventually utilize that space.”

Though the investment memberships for the Foremost Brewing Cooperative closed in the fall, Warehime said that people can become members at any time, even after the doors open. Those who become members prior to the grand opening, however, will be considered founding members and have their names including on the founder’s wall inside the brew pub.

The board is also currently looking for a general manager of the brew pub.

More information on the Foremost Brewing Cooperative, how to become a member, or how to apply for the general manager position can be found at foremost.coop.

Three-county interstate pursuit ends near Hope

A vehicle pursuit that began in Scott County ended on Interstate 35, just outside of Hope in Steele County, on Wednesday, according to the Owatonna Police Department.

Shortly after 2 p.m., several law enforcement agencies were able to apprehend the suspect who allegedly stole a water tanker truck in Scott County. According to the criminal complaint, the pursuit began after the suspect driver sideswiped multiple vehicles and had been involved in several hit and run crashes in the south metro area. The vehicle had already sustained some damage to multiple areas, including the wheels.

By the time the truck reached Owatonna city limits, the pursuit was slow speed as the truck had run over tire deflation devices along the way. The criminal complaint notes that at this time, the truck no longer had front tires, causing sparks to fly. Law enforcement vehicles created a buffer zone around the tanker as it continued southbound, eventually striking the cable median barrier near the Hope exit and coming to a stop.

Ryan John Patzer, 29, of Center City, Minnesota, was arrested and has since been charged with theft of a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property, and fleeing a peace officer — all felony charges. He has also been charged with operating a motor vehicle under influence of alcohol, or DWI, which is a gross misdemeanor offense. The case is currently being processed in the 3rd Judicial District in Steele County.

Patzer did not comply with commands to exit the vehicle, according to the complaint. A Steele County deputy entered into the cab of the truck from the passenger side and grabbed hold of the driver’s right arm and attempted to physically pull him out of the driver’s compartment, but Patzer had a grip on the wheel with his left hand or had anchored himself into the driver’s compartment, according to the complaint.

Responding officials noted an overwhelming odor of alcohol from Patzer and inside the vehicle, and they reportedl located a spoon that is often used for heroin use and an empty bottle of whiskey inside the vehicle, according to the state patrol. At the time of his arrest, troopers noted that Patzer had bloodshot and watery eyes and had slurred and unintelligible speech. Pazter was transported to the Owatonna Hospital.

According to the Minnesota State Patrol, the tanker Patzer drove was stolen from A-1 Excavating in Pine County and had “IRS.GOV” spray painted on the passenger side of the tank. The company estimated the tanker’s value at $48,000 to $50,000.

Patzer previously had his license revoked in May for a DWI-related test refusal for an incident that occurred in March.

Responding agencies included the Steele County Sheriff’s Office, Rice County Sheriff’s Office, Owatonna Police Department, Scott County Sheriff’s Office, Faribault Police Department, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and Minnesota State Patrol.