In high school, I was a 5-foot-6 shooting guard on the White Bear Lake basketball team. When we made it to state my junior year, it was a big deal — mostly because it was an excuse for all our classmates to miss school and head to the Target Center. We had to face Shakopee in the first round, so our student section held up signs that read, “Shock Shakopee, Shock the World!”

We didn’t shock anyone. If you don’t remember, Shakopee beat White Bear Lake, 56-62, because Taylor Koennen scored 26 points and we couldn’t stop that girl.

That’s about all I knew about Shakopee before I accepted a job as reporter for Shakopee Valley News. Well, that and the fact that you can just barely see the Minneapolis skyline from the top of Wild Thing at Valleyfair, if you squint really hard.

This spring, I graduated from Bethel University with a degree in journalism and was the editor-in-chief of The Clarion, Bethel’s student newspaper. Before that, I interned at the Pioneer Press in St. Paul and Salon Media in New York City.

If I’m not reporting on a story, I’m probably either at a coffee shop reading something by Rick Bragg, or training for the Twin Cities marathon. I have four younger siblings, all under the age of 15, and three of them are boys, so I’ve always had a front seat to living room wrestling matches.

I eat way too much cookie dough ice cream (if you have any ideas for places that can feed my addiction, please email me). I drive a white PT Cruiser convertible that’s so ugly it’s cute, I buy all my clothes from Target and I still listen to Taylor Swift’s old music when I’m feeling nostalgic.

As a reporter at Bethel, I wrote about things the community could relate to: like 18-year-olds who would get engaged and the one-sided rivalry we had with St. Thomas. I wrote about liberal art school budgets tanking and professors retiring. It took time for me to get to know the university enough to get a grasp on how to cover it well. The same will be true for Shakopee.

I’ve already learned that the Concerned Citizens of Shakopee Facebook group is a great place to find photos of mating bull snakes and lost cats, I’ve read 172 pages of a financial report on Shakopee’s city budget, I know all about TIF districts and Canterbury Commons, and I’ve even been to Munkabeans for a vanilla latte. And that’s just three days into the job.

I love journalism. I love asking questions and having a professional reason to be curious. I love the adrenaline rush of having to submit a story six minutes after the court sentencing ends. And I love piecing all my chicken-scratch notes together until a story is formed – one that’s honest, raw, and true.

I love sitting in a place of vulnerability with a complete stranger as she tells me about her best day, or worst day. I’ve heard Shakopee readers are some of the most engaged readers in the state. People in this city care about their news, partly because of the way former Shakopee reporter Amanda McKnight muckraked important stories, and that’s something I hope never changes. I already know Shakopee is a gold mine of stories, and I can’t wait to help share them.

Oh, and if you want to help me understand this city better, or if you have story ideas or ice cream shop recommendations, please email me at mdebilzan@swpub.com.

Maddie DeBilzan graduated with a journalism degree from Bethel University. She’s interned at Salon Media and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Outside of work, she sifts through Goodwill clothing racks, listens to Ben Rector's music and goes on long runs.

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