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New school resource officer eager for new role

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Brian Flug is upbeat about his new job as school resource officer in the Chippewa Falls school district. He officially began his duties on Tuesday.

“There’s a lot of interaction with the kids, and just helping out,” Flug said. “You’re building that bond, that you are more than police officer when you are at the school.”

Flug, 39, applied for the SRO position when it was last open in 2016 but wasn’t selected. He didn’t hesitate to apply this year when the position became vacant again. He believes he can bring a lot to the school. Flug is a Chippewa Falls native, and he graduated from the high school in 1998.

“I wanted more interactions with the future of our community, and I was interested because it’s the school I went to,” he said.

He added that it is a bit strange to roam the halls again, but he added that it is also bringing back some good memories of his time in school.

Police Lt. Brian Micolichek – who served as SRO more than a decade ago — praised Flug, saying he was the right candidate for the post.

“He’s shown over the years he’s committed to working with the school district and the students” Micolichek said. “He’s easy to talk to. He has children. It’s a natural spot for him to communicate effectively with students. He’s got the right attitude for the job.”

Flug replaces SRO Joe Nelson, who left the Police Department to become a full-time school district employee, with the title of dean of students.

This is the 19th year that the Police Department and the school district have shared the cost of placing a full-time officer in the schools. A three-year, $125,000 federal grant created the position in 2000. Since the grant ended, the district and city have split the cost of the officer.

Micolichek said is simply makes sense to have an officer working at the high school and nearby middle school on a full-time basis.

“There are 3,000 people up there between the two schools,” Micolichek said. “It benefits us and the school having someone up there. It’s a large population of people in close proximity.”

Schools Superintendent Heidi Taylor-Eliopoulos said it has been a great collaboration.

“I appreciate the relationship we have with the Police Department that allows us to staff critical positions like these,” she said. “Officer Flug is a great fit for the role. We are excited to have him joining us.”

Flug estimates he will spend perhaps 20 percent of his day at the middle school, as he wants to be visible in both buildings.

“The staff here is very supportive,” Flug said.

Flug earned a two-year marketing degree at Chippewa Valley Technical College and went back in 2003 to earn his associate degree in criminal justice. He briefly worked for the Colfax Police Department and served as a Chippewa County jailer for just over a year in 2006-2007. He joined the Chippewa Falls Police Department in spring 2007.

Like others, Flug said he became a police officer because he wanted to serve his community and uphold the laws.

“The best thing is the people we work with,” he said. “The overall community support is very good.”

Dorian grazes Carolina coast, aims for Outer Banks

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Hurricane Dorian sideswiped the Carolinas with shrieking winds, tornadoes and sideways rain Thursday as it closed in for a possible direct hit on the dangerously exposed Outer Banks. At least four deaths in the Southeast were blamed on the storm.

Twisters spun off by Dorian peeled away roofs and flipped trailers, and more than 250,000 homes and businesses were left without power as the hurricane pushed north along the coastline, its winds weakening after sunset to 100 mph. Trees and power lines littered flooded streets in Charleston’s historic downtown. Gusts had topped 80 mph in some areas.

North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a thin line of islands that stick out from the U.S. coast like a boxer’s chin, braced for a hit late Thursday or early Friday. To the north, Virginia was also in harm’s way, and a round of evacuations was ordered there.

The damage from the same storm that mauled the Bahamas was mercifully light in many parts of South Carolina and Georgia as well, and by midafternoon many of the 1.5 million people who had been told to evacuate in three states were allowed to return.

But overnight winds will cause trees and branches to fall on power lines, and debris could block repair crews from accessing damaged lines, said Mike Burnette senior vice president of Electric Cooperatives, a North Carolina utility provider. Customers should prepare for prolonged power outages, he said.

“We have a long night ahead of us. Everyone needs to stay in a safe place and off the roads until the storm passes,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

About 150 evacuees were camped out at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, speedway spokesman Scott Cooper said.

After leaving at least 20 people dead when it slammed the Bahamas with 185 mph winds, Dorian swept past Florida at a relatively safe distance, grazed Georgia, and then hugged the South Carolina-North Carolina coastline.

“I think we’re in for a great big mess,” said 61-year-old Leslie Lanier, who decided to stay behind and boarded up her home and bookstore on Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks, making sure to move the volumes 5 to 6 feet off the ground.

The National Hurricane Center forecast as much as 15 inches of rain for the coastal Carolinas, with flash-flooding likely.

In Charleston, a historic port city of handsome antebellum homes on a peninsula that is prone to flooding even from ordinary storms, Dorian toppled some 150 trees, swamped roads and brought down power lines, officials said, but the flooding and wind weren’t nearly as bad as feared.

Walking along Charleston’s stone battery, college student Zachary Johnson sounded almost disappointed that Dorian hadn’t done more.

“I mean, it’d be terrible if it did, don’t get me wrong. I don’t know — I’m just waiting for something crazy to happen, I guess,” said Johnson, 24.

Dorian apparently spawned at least one tornado in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., damaging several homes, and another twister touched down in the beach town of Emerald Isle, N.C., mangling and overturning several trailer homes in a jumble of sheet metal. No immediate injuries were reported.

In coastal Wilmington, N.C., just above the South Carolina line, heavy rain fell horizontally, trees bent in the wind and traffic lights swayed as the hurricane drew near.

The four deaths attributed to the storm took place in Florida and North Carolina. All of them involved men who died in falls or by electrocution while trimming trees, putting up storm shutters or otherwise getting ready for the hurricane.

At 8 p.m. EDT, Dorian was centered about 30 miles south of Cape Fear, N.C., near the state’s border with South Carolina. The Category 2 storm had maximum sustained winds of 100 mph and was moving northeast at 10 mph.

As it closed in on the Eastern Seaboard, Navy ships were ordered to ride out the storm at sea, and military aircraft were moved inland. More than 700 airline flights scheduled for Thursday and Friday were canceled. And hundreds of shelter animals were airlifted from coastal South Carolina to Delaware.

Tybee Island, Ga., population 3,000, came through the storm without flooding. “If the worst that comes out of this is people blame others for calling evacuations, then that’s wonderful,” Mayor Jason Buelterman said.

By midday Thursday, coastal residents in Georgia and some South Carolina counties were allowed to go home.

Still, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster warned of new dangers ahead.

“Don’t be surprised if there was water in your home. You might have animals, snakes. You don’t know what might be in there, so be very careful as you return,” he said.

Republicans eye running in 'crucial' Wisconsin district

MADISON (AP) — Potential Republican candidates began to jockey for position Thursday ahead of a likely stampede to run for an open Wisconsin congressional seat in a district that’s a conservative hotbed and key to President Donald Trump’s re-election hopes.

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner announced Wednesday that he won’t run for a 22nd term representing the suburban Milwaukee area, long the heart of Wisconsin’s conservative base. Running up the numbers there has long been the lynchpin for successful statewide Republican candidates.

Trump underperformed there in 2016, particularly with suburban women, while winning Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes thanks largely to strong support in more rural areas.

Part of his strategy to win Wisconsin in 2020 relies on performing better with the voters in Sensenbrenner’s district who turned out more strongly for former Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election bid in 2018 than they did for Trump in 2016.

The district held by Sensenbrenner for 42 years has also been home to some of Wisconsin’s most prominent conservatives and has served as a launching pad for the political careers of many, including Walker.

“There are a lot of important areas of the state, but this area ... is a crucial building block,” said Republican strategist Brian Reisinger.

The list of potential candidates to replace Sensenbrenner is long.

Former state senator and 2018 Republican U.S. Senate nominee Leah Vukmir, along with current state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, both said they were seriously considering getting in the race.

Both are Trump loyalists, which could be a boon for the president’s re-election hopes in the district. Vukmir ran statewide just last year, winning the GOP Senate primary but losing to Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin by 10 points. Trump endorsed Vukmir and came to Wisconsin to campaign for her.

Fitzgerald was one of Trump’s earliest and most vocal supporters in the state and on Thursday he pitched himself as someone who would be a strong ally to the president.

“Everybody knows that D.C. is a mess and in need of more Wisconsin-style common sense,” Fitzgerald said.

He has never run for office outside of his state Senate seat, which he’s held since 1995. Fitzgerald and Vukmir worked closely together while they were both in the Senate, including leading the way to enact Walker’s anti-union and other conservative laws.

If Vukmir gets in, she would immediately be the front-runner but Fitzgerald would also be “great,” said Paul Farrow, the Waukesha County executive. Farrow is also considering a run and plans to make a decision later this month.

“She still has incredible name recognition,” Farrow said of Vukmir, calling her “a great voice for the conservative movement and her constituents.”

State Sen. Chris Kapenga, who is also weighing a run, said he didn’t expect anyone to be able to clear the field of potential candidates.

“I don’t think anybody would want to step up and try to push anybody else out,” Kapenga said. “We need to make sure we’re not creating enemies of each other, whoever gets into that race.”

Numerous others are weighing a possible bid, including state Sen. Dale Kooyenga, of Brookfield; former U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson, who lost to Vukmir in the Senate GOP primary last year; Ben Voelkel, spokesman for Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson; and Vince Trovato, another early Trump backer and his first state director in 2016.

Democrat Tom Palzewicz, an entrepreneur and Navy veteran, said within minutes of Sensenbrenner’s retirement announcement late Wednesday that he would run. Palzewicz lost to Sensenbrenner in 2018, getting just 38% of the vote compared with 62% for Sensenbrenner.

Reisinger, the Republican strategist who has worked on the campaigns of Walker and Johnson, said candidates need to judge the political environment generally, who they may face in a primary and the opportunity they have to potentially serve that congressional district for a long time.

The retirement could be a once-in-a-generation chance for many Republicans who weren’t even born when the 76-year-old Sensenbrenner was first elected to the state Legislature in 1968.

“There’s a lot of interest and excitement around it because of the big change that was unexpected,” Reisinger said.