TZD Star Awards Recipients

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Child Passenger Safety: Julie Philbrook

Julie Philbrook

Julie Philbrook has been a registered nurse at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) for more than 34 years and has worked in the field of trauma prevention for more than 26 years.

Through her work at HCMC, Julie has managed numerous Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS)–Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) projects on child passenger safety (CPS) and teen safety. She has planned and coordinated countless injury-prevention programs including bike rodeos, high school mock car crashes, worksite programs, and car seat safety events. She developed and conducted a challenge program for high school students that was widely copied elsewhere.

Julie has been a passionate, active voice for the safety of children on our roadways for more than 25 years. She was one of the first CPS technician instructors in the nation and a founding member of the MN Child Passenger Safety Advisory Board, providing invaluable counsel to the board during her many years of service. Throughout her career, Julie has checked thousands of car seats and taught hundreds of others in this field.

Education: Vijay Dixit

Vijay Dixit

Vijay B. Dixit traded his professional expertise in operations management, Lean Six Sigma, and innovation for that of social advocacy. Like many advocates working for the cause of traffic safety, Vijay, along with his wife, Rekha, and daughter Nayha, was drawn into it after losing a loved one: his daughter Shreya, to a distracted driver on November 1, 2007. Following this tragedy, Vijay started the Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation to encourage individuals, businesses, communities, and young adults to adopt distraction-free driving as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Rather than focusing on the penalties for those convicted of distracted driving, Vijay wants to prevent these crashes by emphasizing that distracted driving is a behavior issue that can be addressed through positive influence. To that end, Vijay focuses on educating young drivers by offering Youth Outreach Internships. This initiative motivates insightful peer-to-peer discussions about distraction-free driving and its consequences. He engages novice drivers and student leaders at numerous high schools and driver’s education programs by operating Distraction-Free Driving Clubs to instill responsible driving behaviors. In 2013, Vijay pioneered the development of the world’s first Adaptive Massive Open Online Course (aMOOC™) for combating distracted driving. He has also worked with the courts to mentor a teen who was found guilty of killing another teen while driving distracted. The teen told his story at multiple public forums and to the local media. The KARE 11 feature story on this work won the Midwest Emmy Award.

In April 2016, Vijay published One Split Second, a book about the epidemic of distracted driving—how it kills and how we can fix it.

In May 2016, the Shreya Foundation was entered into the Minnesota History Museum Register in recognition for its distraction-free-driving advocacy. The Foundation hosts an annual Raksha Protect Vigil & Walk/5K Run to engage public figures and media outlets in spreading the message of distraction-free driving.

Emergency Medical & Trauma Services: James Kroona

James Kroona

James Kroona has put in countless traffic safety hours—as a Willmar Ambulance EMT, as a volunteer, and as part of Southwest (SW) EMS. He has participated in the coordination and implementation of almost every enforcement wave support project in Kandiyohi County for more than seven years.

Among other efforts, James collaborates with towing agencies and schools for crashed car displays; coordinates the mock crash and/or traffic safety day each year at the local high school; collaborates with local bars for OTS coaster distribution; coordinates with SW EMS to give rollover simulator presentations throughout southwestern Minnesota; and collaborates with city maintenance for buckle-up stencil project paint sprayers and equipment.

James thinks anything is possible and believes that everyone should care about traffic safety. He has been a TZD coalition member in Kandiyohi County for seven years, and his attitude and good rapport with the many people and agencies within the county allow the coalition to aim higher than what its budget allows. James always finds a way to make things happen and is not afraid to ask people to collaborate on projects with their time, funding, or support. His attitude is contagious and the coalition would not have such amazing collaborations within the community without his help.

Enforcement: Brad Norland

Brad Norland

Lieutenant Brad Norland, with the Minnesota State Patrol (MSP) in Thief River Falls, consistently works toward TZD goals and the MSP mission to improve safety on our roadways. His involvement in community education, proactive enforcement, and overall group leadership skills are a significant contribution to public safety.

One of Lt. Norland’s goals is for the public to equate the MSP with sincere, kind, and friendly troopers, and he is dedicated to the community and to building relationships with the public. In 2012 Lt. Norland worked with four other MSP district lieutenants on a pilot study that demonstrated it was easier for troopers to spot distractions in progress and cite violators when troopers were seated in an SUV versus their squad vehicle. Lt. Norland used what he learned during distracted driving stops to educate local police officers. He has designed and marketed educational information to help officers find distracted-driving violators and uses court cases to help officers understand how to more effectively write violations for distracted drivers.

In addition, Lt. Norland has used the Greater NW EMS simulator to engage and educate the public at more than 200 driver’s education, workplace, and community events. He truly does not hesitate to seize opportunities to educate.

Working with Captain Wedin, Lt. Norland’s most recent creative project is to engage each school in the northwest region by promoting an “Adopt a School Program,” in which a trooper is encouraged to adopt a nearby school and form a relationship for both traffic safety education and to serve as a role model for future recruitment for the MSP. To date, all of the schools in the northwest region have been adopted.

As a leader, Lt. Norland effectively uses his traffic safety expertise to encourage and mentor troopers and allied agency members to increase their enforcement efforts and further the TZD mission. His goal is to increase the number of traffic safety presentations in our schools, local businesses, libraries, and other community events, leading to a safer commute for our family and friends.

Engineering: Rick West

Rick West

Safety on the statewide county road system is built on the efforts and leadership of Rick West, county engineer for Otter Tail County. When it comes to county roadway safety in Minnesota, Rick was one of the first champions.

Rick promoted the sharing of crash data and delivery of roadway safety projects before the existence of roadway safety plans. He worked with his county, state, and federal engineering counterparts to advocate for safety planning on the county road system long before it was nationally recognized. Rick’s efforts have fostered the delivery of a County Roadway Safety Plan in every county in Minnesota, a feat not yet achieved by another state. Rick shares his passion for and experiences with roadway safety improvements through webinars, peer exchanges, the National Association of Counties, and Transportation Research Board advisory groups.

Rick has chaired the Minnesota County Engineers Association–Highway Safety Committee for many years. Other efforts and organizations that Rick has been a part of include the Local Road Research Board; development of the MN Crash Mapping Analysis Tool; Safe Communities Coalitions; MN Local Technical Assistance Program, Federal Highway Administration workshops, and the National Association of County Engineers.

Rick’s leadership resulted in the successful completion and implementation of the Otter Tail County Roadway Safety Plan, which stands prominently on the MnDOT website as a national reference. He has shared his knowledge and mentored others developing their roadway safety plans and strategies. Rick also helped a neighboring county plan for and construct roadway safety improvements by bundling projects together within his region—lowering bid costs and reducing required staff time and efforts. This allowed implementation of hundreds of miles of target roadway striping, curving delineation, and intersection enhancements.

Rick has attended and spoken at several TZD conferences and has been involved with TZD from the beginning. He has presented material on both engineering safety and collaborations with other TZD “Es.” His dedication to roadway safety is bolstered by his connections with people and agencies across the nation focused on making our roadways safer.

Judicial & Court System: Matt Grochow

Matt Grochow

Detective Matt Grochow of the St. Peter Police Department has worked in the Brown, Nicollet, and Watonwan (BNW) Counties’ Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Court for over seven years as the community compliance agent. During this time, he has served approximately 150 high-risk alcohol and drug offenders and currently visits 40–45 people weekly. His role encompasses monitoring clients’ compliance with all parts of the program: drug testing, curfew, and attendance at required services. He also builds a relationship of trust with each individual, offering advice, services, and support for offenders working to maintain sobriety. He goes above and beyond what his normal job duties require of him and takes many after-hours and weekend calls and contacts from clients, probation agents, and law enforcement.

For the past three years, Detective Grochow has also served as the outreach technician for the 5th Judicial District Ignition Interlock Grant Program. In this role, he monitors 125 clients who are receiving the grant in the district, tracking every client’s interlock event notification regarding possible alcohol use, missed rolling retests, and possible circumventions.

Detective Grochow’s efforts for the BNW AOD program and 5th Judicial District Interlock Program require him to work directly with clients, probation agents, district court judges, jail staff, mental and chemical health professionals, interlock monitoring centers, the MN DVS interlock unit, and his fellow law enforcement officers. He has excellent communication and interrogation skills and a unique ability to get offenders to open up when they have been using alcohol or drugs. He uses this information to provide appropriate interventions to get the offender back on track. Detective Grochow is a major asset to the BNW drug court and the local ignition interlock program. He never makes participants uncomfortable by accusing or threatening them; rather, he encourages them to do the right thing and to be honest with their probation agents. He has also been instrumental on several occasions when repeat DWI offenders have circumvented the interlock system and attempted to operate their vehicles.

All of his efforts and collaborations have resulted in his helping to keep our roads safe from drivers who have impaired driving records or documented chemical dependency problems.

Media: Tim Harlow

Tim Harlow

There are few in the media who do more for traffic safety than reporter Tim Harlow of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Tim produces at least one traffic safety story weekly through his column “The Drive” and often writes other stories throughout the week. He champions TZD messages from many angles, whether it’s about traffic impacts of highway construction projects, law enforcement campaigns targeting drunk driving or seat belt use, the dangers and often sad realities of distracted driving and speeding, or MnDOT’s engineering and DPS’s enforcement efforts to make roads safer for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Tim often uses his personal accounts on the road to further the traffic safety message as he truly practices what he preaches. Tim also uses his Twitter account to post traffic reports and other traffic-safety-related information daily.

Tim seeks out stories about dangerous driving behaviors and the consequences of those behaviors. He’s a skilled journalist who thoroughly researches stories through interviews, research, and observation. He’s willing to cover stories on the scene and talks to a variety of people to get different perspectives, which results in an objective and accurate story. Tim also takes the time to learn about traffic safety. Whether it’s attending the 2016 Lifesavers Conference in Long Beach, CA, or connecting with public information officers at MnDOT and DPS on a regular basis, Tim is always trying to educate himself on the best ways to reach his audience. He builds relationships with his agency sources and is receptive to having stories pitched to him. He’s a true professional and an asset to the cause of traffic safety in the state.


  • Child Passenger Safety: Laura Owen
  • Education: Officer Adam Gau
  • Emergency Medical & Trauma Services: Matt Jakubik
  • Enforcement: Deputy Tom Coulter
  • Engineering: Lou Tasa
  • Judicial & Court System: Michelle Zehnder Fischer
  • Media: Dodge County Independent Newspaper


  • Engineering: Tom Dumont, MnDOT District 3
  • Enforcement:Trooper Gabe Cornish, Minnesota State Patrol
  • Judicial/Court Systems: Jack Muhar, Itasca County
  • Education: Brenda Pohlman, Fillmore County Public Health
  • Emergency Medical and Trauma Services: Deb Syverson, Sanford Medical Center
  • Child Passenger Safety: KaRee Lockling, Fond du Lac Reservation Human Services Division
  • Media Star: KKLN 94.1


  • Engineering: Nancy Klema, MnDOT 
  • Enforcement: Deputy Sheriff Tim Entner, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office
  • Judicial/Court Systems: Judge Shaun Floerke, Minnesota’s Sixth Judicial District
  • Education: Jennifer Hoff, Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center
  • Education: Bill Shaffer, Office of Traffic Safety, Minnesota Department of Public Safety
  • Emergency Medical and Trauma Services: Deb Horsman, Mayo Clinic
  • Child Passenger Safety: Deborah Schroeder, Olmsted County Public Health
  • Media Star: Jennifer Austin, KBJR-TV


  • Engineering: Vic Lund, St. Louis County
  • Enforcement: Becky Putzke, Brainerd Police Department
  • Judicial/Court Systems: Thomas Miller, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Minnesota Department of Public Safety's
  • Education: Andrea Gierok, Winona County Community Services
  • Emergency Medical and Trauma Services: Tom Vanderwal, Greater Northwest Emergency Medical Services
  • Child Passenger Safety: Esther DeLaCruz, CPS Associates
  • Media Star: Jason Manning and KQDS Radio


  • Engineering: Brad Estochen, MnDOT
  • Enforcement: Jason Engeldinger, Minnesota State Patrol
  • Judicial/Court Systems: Judge Mark Starr, St. Louis County Courts
  • Education: Gail Weinholzer, AAA Minnesota-Iowa
  • Emergency Medical and Trauma Services: Dan DeSmet, North Memorial Ambulance Service-Marshall Region
  • Child Passenger Safety: Jennifer Booge, Mahube Community Council
  • Media Star: ABC 6 news team, KAAL-TV


  • Engineering: Mark Vizecky, MnDOT
  • Enforcement: Scott McConkey, Office of Traffic Safety
  • Judicial/Court Systems: Shari Schluchter, Beltrami County Courts
  • Education: Bryan Carey, Minnesota State Patrol
  • Emergency Medical and Trauma Services: Brian Nord, Allina Transportation Buffalo
  • Child Passenger Safety: Diana Van Wormer, Regions Hospital
  • Media Star: Trish Van Pilsum, FOX-9 News


  • Enforcement: Joel Scharf, Moorhead Police Department
  • Emergency Medical & Trauma Services: J. Kevin Croston, North Memorial Medical Center
  • Education: Dan Schoonhoven, Moorhead Fire Department
  • Engineering: Wayne Sandberg, Washington County
  • Child Passenger Safety: Sharon Munns, Saint Marys Hospital/Mayo Clinic
  • Judicial/Court Systems: Joel Watne, former assistant attorney general
  • Media Star: Star Tribune


  • Enforcement: Bruce Johnson, Dakota County Sheriff's Department (retired)
  • Emergency Medical & Trauma Services: Darrell Smith, Cook County Ambulance Service
  • Education: Joseph Grafft, Metropolitan State University
  • Engineering: Dave Engstrom, MnDOT
  • Child Passenger Safety: Brynn Duncan and family, crash survivor
  • Judicial/Court System: James Dehn, Isanti County Courts
  • Media: Stan Turner, Minnesota News Network


  • Enforcement: Jeremy Cossette, White Earth Tribal Police
  • Emergency Medical & Trauma Services: Jim Theodore, retired
  • Education: Cheryl Bisping, Mesabi Safe Communities Coaltion
  • Engineering: Dave Kopacz, Federal Highway Administration
  • Child Passenger Safety: Tom Jansky, Gold Cross Ambulance
  • Media: Jeff Passolt, FOX-9