by Cori Hilsgen
Kelsey Milbert will join her father’s dental practice on July 2.
Milbert is the daughter of Dr. Curt Cotton, who currently practices dentistry with Dr. Joseph Styles. The two have been practicing together at 1514 E. Minnesota St. in St. Joseph for 34 years, since July of 1978.
Milbert graduated from ROCORI High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter in 2007 and graduated in May from the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry.
Milbert was exposed to the dental profession since she was very young. She spent summers working at the office and said she saw how much her father loved what he did.
“I always loved going to the dentist,” Milbert said.
Milbert said she had always wanted to do something in the health-care profession and decided to study dentistry when she was a freshman in college.
Milbert’s husband, Matt, is also from the Cold Spring area. Matt works as an alcohol-compliance manager at the Cold Spring Brewery. Matt’s father is also a dentist. The Milberts, who began dating when they were 15, live in Sartell and have a 3-month-old golden retriever named Ruby.
In her leisure time, Milbert said she enjoys being outdoors, especially in the summer. She likes to go boating, relax on the lake and spend time with friends. Milbert said the new puppy is also a new hobby.
Cotton grew up in the Sioux City, Iowa area but spent his summers on Big Watab Lake. He and his wife, Karen, met at Gustavus Adolphus college. Cotton graduated with a biology/psychology major from Gustavus Adolphus and then went onto the University of Minnesota Dental School where he graduated in 1976. He spent two years in the Navy in California before moving to St. Joseph. Cotton said he decided to go into dentistry because he liked being able to set his own hours to allow time for hunting and fishing.
Cotton said he did not like going to the dentist as a child. He said his friends in college encouraged him to take the dental entrance exam and he vowed he would drop out if he didn’t like it, but he ended up loving it.
Cotton’s mother’s grandfather originally purchased property and built a cabin on Big Watab Lake in 1924. Cotton said because he spent every summer at the lake, he knew he wanted to come back and practice in this area. He and his wife, Karen, lived in the 800-square-foot cabin from 1978-1983 until they outgrew it.
Cotton was originally interested in practicing in Cold Spring. When he learned that Kelsey’s now father-in-law, Dr. Jeff Milbert, was starting a satellite office in Cold Spring, he decided to check with Dr. Styles to see if he was interested in working with a partner. He joined the practice after he finished with the Navy.
Milbert’s mother, Karen, is a retired elementary teacher. Milbert’s two brothers also attended Gustavus Adolphus. Brandon works in marketing for the Target Corp. and Brady sells wine for “World Class Wines.”
Styles attended Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. and attended dental school at the Northwestern University Dental School in Chicago.
Styles was a chemistry major in college. His friend encouraged him to become a dentist. Styles’ friend had wanted to be a dentist during all of his formative years. After visiting his friend at dental school, Styles decided that was what he also wanted to do.
Styles has been practicing dentistry since 1972. He practiced four years in Chicago and also taught part-time at the Northwestern University Dental School. When Styles was working in downtown Chicago, he had a friend who was a physician’s assistant in a little farm town about 100 miles from Chicago. After working a couple days a week in that town, he said he decided he liked small-town life better and decided to move to Minnesota before he became too tied to Chicago.
Styles had friends who attended college in Minnesota and he liked the St. Cloud area. He purchased a small farm house on the river south of town and started looking at possible opportunities. After he visited the one, elderly dentist who was practicing in St. Joseph, he decided to start his dental practice.
“I took the summer off from dentistry and built the office,” Styles said. “I have been here since 1976 and still have my first dental assistant, Mary.”
Additional space was added to the office that Styles built. Additions were made in 1979 and 1991.
Styles and Cotton said dentistry has changed very much over the years.
“We now have new techniques, materials and products. (Also) implants, bonding and cosmetics,” Styles said.
“Cosmetics has really taken over,” Cotton said.
“We save a lot of teeth that in the old days we would have taken out,” Styles said.
Neither Styles nor Cotton have any current plans to retire.
Styles’ wife, Barb, is a hair stylist and owns her own business. The two have a blended family with children Kelly, Joe and Jenna. Both daughters are elementary teachers and son Joe does production work.
Cotton said he was very excited when Milbert asked him what he thought about her going into dentistry.
“I told her that nothing would make me prouder,” Cotton said. “I told her I think that would be fantastic if you are really serious.”
Styles said he has known Milbert since she was a baby.
“She has always been a real good person and I was excited when Curt said she wanted to go into dentistry and probably come back here,” Styles said.
Milbert said she is excited to get started practicing dentistry.
“I love what I do and can’t wait to start,” Milbert said. “I am excited to be back in the area. My dad has always been a good mentor so far and always answers whatever questions I have. It will be fun to work together.”
Milbert will be assisted by Ashley Puariea, who has been a dental assistant for four years.
The Styles and Cotton dental clinic will be expanding office hours to accommodate patients.
The office will be open later three days each week and will be open all day Fridays.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.