Presidential politics defined 2016.
To pretend otherwise is pointless. Blue collar and white collar workers, the young and old, rich and poor joined in a battle of ideologies. Wellington couches became command centers as factions warred over candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Each year, the Enterprise looks back through our pages at the stories that chronicled our collective experience. This trip around the sun, the rise of Trump to the presidency is unquestionably the most profound development of 2016.
Wellington also saw its share of local triumphs and tragedies that set the stage for years to come.
Here is a recap of some of the biggest stories of the year.
Photo by Ali Shaker | VOA — Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 presidential race. TRUMP TURNS THE TABLES Nov. 10 edition: Few political analysts picked Donald Trump from the crowded Republican primary pack to get the party’s nomination, with most favoring Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush. But each of those candidates quickly fell by the wayside, and when the Republican National Convention came to Cleveland in July, Trump remained standing. Journeying to the convention at Quicken Loans Arena, reporter Evan Goodenow found a deeply divided cross-section of Americans: flag-burning demonstrators, Communist Party demonstrators, fist-fights, apocalyptic prophets, signs bearing swastikas, conservative student marchers, voting rights activists, and T-shirt vendors hawking anti-Clinton merchandise. Trump yard signs across the county seemed to vastly outnumber those for Clinton, multiplying after an Oct. 7 stop by running mate Mike Pence at Your Deli in Amherst and numerous other stops by the ticket in Ohio. And as the fall wore on, the state slid from solidly blue to purple to deeply red. Trump’s campaign office in Lorain seemed to be doing much better business than the Clinton campaign office in Oberlin. On Election Day, it was clear that Ohio would go to Trump but entirely unexpected that all other swing states — Florida, North Carolina Pennsylvania, Wisonsin, and Michigan — would follow suit. Also surprising was the split in traditionally-Democrat-supporting Lorain County, where unofficial results showed Trump taking a slight lead. When all ballots were certified in late November, Clinton held the lead by about 400 votes. In Wellington, the divide was a little greater by still showed the village split down the middle between conservative and liberal mindsets. Trump won an overwhelming number of Electoral College seats. While he won in all the right places, Clinton won the popular vote by 2.8 million, the largest lead of any candidate in United States history who ultimately was denied the White House.
Photo by Jason Hawk | Wellington Enterprise — The walls of McCormick Middle School come tumbling down in demolition by Ozanne Construction. FAREWELL TO McCORMICK March 31 edition: Slam! The bucket of a huge excavator knocked loose bricks from the facade of the old McCormick Middle School. Crash! It hit again, punching a hole in the wall and letting fly a cloud of mortar dust from the 149-year-old building. An Ozanne Construction crew reduced the old lady to heaps of rubble over the course of a couple of weeks. The work drew crowds of onlookers, many remembering their days in McCormick’s hallowed halls. “There’s a little nostalgia here for just about anyone who lives in town,” said resident John Westfall, whose band was the last to perform in the school. The building watched over Wellington since 1867, just two years after the death of President Abraham Lincoln. First called Union School, it was renamed in 1964 for former principal, teacher, coach, and alumnus Ray McCormick. In the new millennium, the building was more than showing its age. Huge amounts of cash were put into renovation and keeping it running, but in 2012 McCormick was ranked by state officials as one of 15 Ohio schools most in need of replacement. Ground was broken in 2013 on a new McCormick Middle School adjacent to Wellington High. The replacement school opened in December 2015. As their old school came down, hundreds rushed to take home memorial bricks set aside by Ozanne workers. “When they first said it was coming down, that was the first thing that went through my mind: ‘I want a piece of my school,’” Christine Radachi told the Enterprise. Now cleared of all debris, the empty property will be turned into a village park. Plans are being formulated with hopes of the park opening in 2018.
Courtesy photo — Rex Wlodyka recovers at MetroHealth Center in Cleveland with his mother, Sarah Wlodyka, after he was rescued from the family’s septic tank pipe. SCARY SITUATIONS AND TRAGEDIES • Sept. 15 edition: It was the feel-good, smell-bad story of the year. Three-year-old Rex Wlodyka was rescued from his family’s septic tank pipe, saved when his four-year-old brother Tristan ran to get help at their Wellington Township home. Somehow, Rex had removed the pipe cap and wedged himself inside the space his mother described as “the size of a dinner plate.” Wellington firefighters and South Lorain County Ambulance District EMTs dug around the pipe, then sliced into it until there was room to extract the tiny boy from where he was halfway submerged in raw sewage. Only his father’s grip on Rex’s hand kept him from sliding completely into the tank. • Sept. 1 edition: Linda Velez, a 38-year-old visitor to the Lorain County Fair, was killed by a hit-and-run driver after a night at the fairgrounds. Gregg Box, 61, of Strongsville, is accused of vehicular homicide. His next pretrial date is set for Jan. 23 but his attorneys have argued he may not be mentally fit to stand trial. Police say Box was intoxicated when they caught up to him at Burger King on Rt. 58 on the north side of Wellington. He told arresting officers he thought he was in Wadsworth. Marijuana and $8,660 in cash were found in his car. • July 28 edition: A malfunctioning air conditioning unit caused the death of 14 golden retrievers from Wellington’s Lakesyde Kennels while en route to the American Kennel Club dog show. Owner Cortney Corral-Morris left the dogs in a cooled truck while parked at an Indiana hotel. Two hours later, she woke to find the animals dead. According to the St. Joseph County prosecutor’s office, a tripped electrical breaker caused the AC to fail and the driver was not at fault. An investigation conducted by the Roseland and St. Joseph County police with assistance from the St. Joseph County Humane Society deemed the affair “a tragic accident” and concluded no charges will be filed. • June 30 edition: Clarence Thomas disappeared in October 2002. His remains were discovered this summer at a Pittsfield Township farm — right where murder suspect Michael York said they would be. He led investigators to the spot on Quarry Road near US 20 owned by John Dovin. “It wasn’t even that far off the road where they found the body,” Dovin said. “It’s kind of unbelievable.” York pleaded guilty to aggravated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. • March 31 edition: Human remains were discovered on the roadside near Rt. 58 and New London Eastern Road in Huntington Township — and they had been there for years. The person’s identity was a mystery. Clues included a spaghetti-strapped top, high-waisted sweater, a Victoria’s Secret bra and matching panties, assorted jewelry, and artificial nails. The victim appeared to be a white woman in her teens to early 30s. Her remains were covered by six to eight inches of soil, suggesting they had been naturally buried over time.
File photos — Steve Pyles, Steve Dupee, Dennis Mock, Tom Turner, Edward Weber, Lois Wulfhoop, Brett Murner, Michael Pissini, and Tina Gabler. CHANGING FACES • June 16 edition: After serving as Wellington village manager for a decade, Steve Pyles announced he was pulling up roots to take a new job leading the village of Granville, Ohio, located east of Columbus. The new job, for which he beat 59 applicants, provided an $18,000 per year pay raise. “It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. There was no dissatisfaction or anything with Wellington. It’s just considering opportunities and options,” Pyles said. • Dec. 8 edition: Steve Dupee, longtime electric director for Oberlin’s utilities system, was hired to take the Wellington village manager role — stepping into shoes once filled by his father, Bob Dupee. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to serve Wellington,” he said. “That means working hand-in-hand with all village employees to meet the goals of the community.” • Aug. 4 edition: Dennis Mock departed unexpectedly from his position as superintendent of the Wellington Schools after just one year here, taking a job heading the Margaretta public school system. It was a position he’d applied for previously but had not been interviewed. When the job reopened, he jumped for it. Mock became the fifth superintendent to leave Wellington in 11 years. His resignation kicked off yet another search for a candidate to lead the beleaguered district. • Aug. 11 edition: Former Lorain superintendent Tom Tucker was hired to lead the Wellington Schools while a search for a permanent candidate was conducted. He was brought in on a solid record of passing a levy, balancing Lorain’s budget, returning art and music programs, and increasing enrollment. But Tucker made it clear from the start that he had no intention of taking the Wellington job for the long-term. • Dec. 22 edition: In a 3-2 vote, Edward Weber was hired to lead the Wellington Schools on a three-year contract. “I commit to working hard for the children, this community, and these families to make a difference,” he said. “Making dreams come true is the business I’ve been in. Having difficult obstacles to overcome has been my life’s work. When I looked at Wellington, I thought I could make a difference here. That’s why I applied and I’m thankful to the board and the community for accepting me.” Weber served as principal of the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine for the past 10 years. • Aug. 18 edition: School board member Lois Wulfhoop resigned, saying she had purchased a home outside the district. The resignation came just months after the termination of her husband, Tim Wulfhoop, after it was discovered he did not hold the proper license to serve as business manager for the Wellington Schools. • Oct. 6 edition: Attorney Brett Murner was selected to complete Lois Wulfhoop’s term on the Wellington board of education. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to put forth a great effort in the trust put in me by the board and continue the improvement in the Wellington Schools. I have a deep-seated belief in the Wellington Schools, its ability to get better, and that it’s already pretty great,” he said. Murner will serve through Dec. 17, 2017. • June 2 edition: Another treasurer — the third in two years — resigned from the Wellington Schools. Michael Pissini tendered his resignation in May to take a position with the Sheffield Schools. He followed treasurers Brad McCracken and Suzanne Wilson in leaving the district. • July 7 edition: Tina Gabler was hired to serve as treasurer for the Wellington Schools. She boasts a strong background in school finance, with 14 years of experience as treasurer and assistant treasurer in the Northmor School District in Galion, Ohio. For the past two years she was the fiscal services director at META Solutions, an IT firm located in Columbus.
Photo by Jon Delozier | Wellington Enterprise — The end came quickly for the Wellington Dukes stadium. It took just a few days for Herk Excavating to completely tear down the old stands built in the 1940s. BLEACHER PROBLEMS Aug. 11 edition: Demolition of the Wellington Dukes football stadium bleachers were approved at a cost of $15,000 and Herk Excavating of Vermilion was hired to do the job. The move was a surprise because the board of education had previously hoped to get — almost for free — the cast-off bleachers from the North Olmsted Falls Eagles, who are building a new school and stadium. That fell through because lead paint was found on the old Dukes bleachers’ support structure. The seating itself had been deemed unsafe and unusable the prior fall by the school system’s insurance inspector. The visitors’ locker room was also torn down. Many opponents refused to use it because of its condition. With the fall football season ready to begin, there was no time to raise new bleachers before the opening game. Rented bleachers, filled to capacity were used to hold 800 fans, then temporary seating was installed for $34,000 at the Dickson Street stadium in September. Permanent bleachers are expected to cost between $210,000 and $230,000.