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Associated Press 

President Donald Trump says Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be retiring at the end of February 2019 and that a new secretary will be named shortly.

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Record numbers of holiday travelers predicted

With record numbers of holiday travelers over the next week, weather is expected to be cooperative while gas prices remain higher than the state average in the area.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in the Chippewa Falls area are expected to hover around 30 degrees through Christmas Day.

No real snow is expected currently, only a chance of flurries after 7 p.m. Saturday.

While the roads may be clear of snow, experts expect a record breaking number of travelers this season, potentially leading to more road congestion across the country.

AAA forecasts that more than one-third of Americans will travel this holiday season, with a record breaking 112.5 million travelers using runways, roads and rails for their holiday travel.

That’s a 4.4-percent increase over last year and the most since AAA has been tracking holiday travel.

With around 102 million people packing into cars for trips, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip.

In AAA’s yearly holiday travel report, Bryan Shilling, managing director, AAA Travel products and services, said the generally strong economy was probably encouraging more people to spend on travel.

“Strong economic growth fueled by robust consumer spending continues to drive strong demand for seasonal travel,” Shilling said.

With a national average price of $2.36 per gallon, gas prices are generally low.

In Wisconsin, the statewide average is slightly lower at $2.18. In Chippewa County the average gas price is $2.31, while the lowest prices in the state, like Racine and Milwaukee Counties, are around $2.10 according to AAA’s gas price index.

Of course, holiday travelers will keep more than just gas stations busy.

Statewide patrol in greater numbers for longer hours during the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” holiday campaign that began Dec. 14 and continues through New Year’s Day.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, alcohol-related crashes resulted in 169 deaths and more than 3,000 injuries last year, as well as over 24,200 OWI convictions in Wisconsin.

Law enforcement said when announcing the program that they’re also facing a continued challenge with drugged drivers.

WisDOT Secretary Dave Ross said the program was all about preventing needless tragedies over the holidays.

“We appreciate all those who will be working over the holidays to serve and protect the public,” Ross said in the announcement. “Motorists can do their part by buckling up, watching their speed and being patient and alert every trip.”

Sgt. Pat Kraetke and the Wisconsin State Patrol advise motorists to continue to follow their normal safety routines, including avoiding using a cell phone while driving.

“This time of the year also be aware of changes in road conditions,” Kraetke said.

AAA forecasts that more than one-third of Americans will travel this holiday season, with a record breaking 112.5 million travelers using runways, roads and rails for their holiday travel.

'We are overwhelmed': Chippewa County Humane Association receives $10,000 donation

A cherished Chippewa Falls organization on Thursday received a donation which will help it in its charitable efforts.

Markquart announced the fourth winner of Markquart Gives Back 2018, which sees the Chippewa County Humane Association receiving $10,000. Markquart Motors and Markquart Toyota, a series of automobile dealerships, collected community members’ votes for their favorite organizations in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls on its website from Nov. 12 through Dec. 14, with the five top vote getters each receiving $10,000.

The Chippewa County Humane Association facilitates adopting, fostering and donating of animals such as dogs and cats, and the Chippewa County Humane Association Shelter Manager, Holly Morrison said the money will be used toward updating the windows in the dog run area of the shelter and used to help expand the intake room of the building so the staff can help more animals and families in the Chippewa Valley.

“We have over 800 animals come through our door a year and it gets tricky sometimes to try and find room for them, because we don’t euthanize for space,” Morrison said. “Everybody is there until they get adopted, so it gets pretty tight during the fall time when we have lots and lots of kittens waiting for their forever homes.”

Any remaining amount of the donation left after the two main renovations will be used for upkeep of the building Morrison said.

“The rest of the money, because the main things won’t be a lot of money thankfully, we’re going to be putting towards improvements in the shelter,” Morrison said. “Our building is 13 years old and it’s that time of the year, unfortunately, that we’ve got to check into things.”

The $10,000 donation will help the organization as it continues to strive to relive the suffering of animals who either lost or never had a home to begin with. Morrison said the Humane Association is very grateful individuals took the time to recognize the organization and everything it does for homeless animals in Chippewa Falls.

“We are overwhelmed with how awesome our Chippewa Valley pulled through for us,” Morrison said. “We can’t believe we were one of the chosen out of all of the different organizations that could’ve been picked. Anyone who decided to vote for us we can’t thank you enough. Our community continues to support us in everything that we do. It’s so great to be where we’re at. We love our Chippewa Valley.”

The three other organizations who have been announced so far as winners of Markquart Gives Back 2018 are The Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes, Beaver Creek Reserve and the Eau Claire County Humane Association. The final organization to receive a $10,000 donation from Markquart is set to be announced Friday afternoon on the Markquart Motors Facebook page.

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Local couples graduate together at CVTC

Lance and Jennifer Leisgang of Black River Falls acknowledge they had been fortunate to have good jobs despite their lack of advanced educational backgrounds. But they knew to advance any further, they needed to earn degrees. Meanwhile, Jason and Sharon Kincade of Chippewa Falls had tried for years to get promotions from their employer, and finally met with success as they neared completion of their degrees.

The two couples completed the Organizational Leadership program at Chippewa Valley Technical College and were among 318 graduates in 42 programs honored at the Fall Commencement held Tuesday, Dec. 18, at UW-Eau Claire’s Zorn Arena. The largest program was Nursing-Associate Degree with 74 graduates, followed by Business Management with 23 graduates and Truck Driving with 21. In addition, 23 people received HSED or GED high school credentials.

The Leisgangs and Kincades together made up most of the seven-person graduating class in the fully online Organizational Leadership program.

Lance Leisgang is a supervisor of inventory control for Canadian Pacific Railroad, while Jennifer is a category leader in capital assets for Ashley Furniture, so both are involved in keeping track of large inventories of equipment.

“We started going to college because we wanted to be promoted,” Lance said. “We wanted to get associate degrees that meant something in our fields, so we looked into Business Management.”

However, Lance’s territory extends over seven states and he’s required to travel a lot. Likewise, Jennifer is responsible for equipment inventories at six Ashley plants spread over every region of the country. They discovered Organizational Leadership fit their needs perfectly. With courses fully online, the Leisgangs could absorb the content and do the work from anywhere. Plus, the program is divided into manageable eight-week sections.

“It fit better into our work schedules and learning about leadership in general was going to be beneficial to us,” Lance said. He added that the credits from the program being transferrable to UW-Stout was a factor for them as well.

“We’ve learned about leadership styles, and how to handle some situations that arise as a leader,” Jennifer said. “And as we’re retooling our plants, I learned how to better plan and organize and set timelines. This will help me get promoted within the company.”

Getting promoted within the company is exactly what was on the minds of Jason and Sharon Kincade, who both work at TTM Technologies in Chippewa Falls.

“We were what they called ‘technicians,’” said Sharon, a Holcombe native. “It was more the troubleshooting side of production,” Jason added.

“I was trying to get into a supervisory position for about three years,” Jason continued. “My supervisor suggested education.”

“I was in the position I was in for quite a few years,” Sharon said. “Education was the next step on the ladder.”

The couple sat down with Jeff Pepper, a Business Management instructor at CVTC. They found the Organizational Leadership program was going to fit into their lives much better.

“We were both working full time in day shift positions,” Jason said. “Organizational Leadership offered us the chance to do everything online.”

“If we had to come to class, we would have had to take a demotion and move back before we could move forward,” Sharon said. “The online classes let us move forward.”

Their plan worked. Both Jason and Sharon received recent promotions as they were finishing the program.

The faculty speaker for the ceremony was Steve Gutsch, an instructor in the Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology program for 19 years. He urged the graduates to keep adding to their knowledge.

“How many of you have heard the term, ‘Knowledge is power?’ ” Gutsch asked. “Here at CVTC, the phrase gets changed to ‘the application of knowledge is power.’ Never stop learning and never stop applying what you learned.”

In his commencement speech, Wayne McAtee, manager of the Cardinal FG glass plant in Menomonie, challenged to graduates to challenge themselves.

“By being here tonight, you have proven that you have the foundation: time management skills, problem-solving abilities, seeing projects through to completion,” McAtee said. “Now you can set yourself apart and I would tell you that you can do that by being open-minded and not afraid to leave your comfort zone.”

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Chippewa Falls man killed in head-on collision

TOWN OF WHEATON — A 72-year-old Chippewa Falls man was killed in a head-on collision on a rural county highway Wednesday afternoon.

According to the Chippewa Falls Sheriff’s Office, Glen C. Winge was driving a 2002 Lincoln Continental northbound on Cty. Hwy. T, approximately a half-mile north of Cty. Hwy. X. For unknown reasons, the vehicle crossed the center line. A 2016 Dodge truck driven by 54-year-old Randy McInnis of Eau Claire was traveling southbound and attempted to avoid Winge’s vehicle by breaking and steering but was unable to avoid impact.

Winge, who was not wearing a seat belt, was pronounced dead at the scene. McInnis was treated for minor injuries.

The Chippewa County Coroner, Chippewa County Highway Department and the Chippewa Fire District assisted at the scene.

It was the second fatal accident in the last five days on a county highway. On Dec. 14, a 77-year-old man from Duluth was killed when he failed to yield to a tractor-trailer hogging logs at the intersection of Hwy. 40 and Hwy. 64 north of Bloomer.

The top 10 most crash-prone intersections in Chippewa County
The top 10 most crash-prone intersections in Chippewa County
The top 10 most crash-prone intersections in Dunn County
The top 10 most crash-prone intersections in Dunn County