The past year was one of changing faces for Wellington.
Our annual tradition in the week after Christmas is to look back through the pages of the Enterprise and assess the year, to get a feel for what shifts were fleeting and which will have a lasting impact on the community.
This time, we were struck by the many people of influence who left the halls of power, were hired into key positions, or passed away.
A major change came Feb. 1 when Ed Weber, hired in a 3-2 vote by the board of education, started his tenure as the new superintendent of the Wellington Schools.
Weber came into the job with a promise to be here for the long haul, ending a disappointing period of rapid turnover among educational leaders.
His first move was to go on a “listening tour” to learn about Wellington’s priorities and needs, sitting down with folks from coffee klatches to companies to churches.
In the months that followed, he cleaned house and fought to bring back Advanced Placement courses to Wellington High School, tackle bullying issues, and change school hours start times.
He also made some divisive choices, including recommendations not to renew the contracts of principals Craig Housum and Paul Holland. Holland ultimately stayed on at Westwood Elementary at the behest of the teachers’ union, but Housum resigned in late May.
His departure brought about the hire of principal Nathan Baxendale to lead McCormick Middle School in a unanimous vote by the board of education. He came to Wellington from Brunswick’s St. Ambrose School, where he was principal for two years.
In late May, Dave Knapp resigned as executive director of the South Lorain County Ambulance District to take a job with a company in a different industry.
Skip Gentry was named to the SLCAD post in August. Board president Butch Holmes praised his “wealth of management, teaching, and clinical experience” that are well-known throughout the state.
Much of that renown comes from Gentry’s years as a flight nurse specialist and base coordinator for Metro LifeFlight — part of a 37-year career in emergency care.
Fall brought election season to Wellington, and the names on the ballot did not include Sandy Denes. The longtime village councilwoman opted not to seek another term and said she was building a home outside the village limits.
Voters chose to return incumbents Gene Hartman and Keith Rowland to council. William Bogan was chosen to take Denes’ seat.
Wellington said farewell to three men of impeccable character and integrity in the latter half of the year.
In July, former village councilman and school board member Fred Alspach was killed in a scooter crash on North Main Street. He was 70 years old.
“Fred was the most valuable asset a community could have,” said former mayor Barb O’Keefe, who worked with him for decades. “He wanted to help with everything and always did a good job with anything he touched. I’ve known the family for a long time and they’re all beautiful people. This is a true tragedy.”
In September, former village administrator Bob Dupee died at age 74. He had served Wellington 32 years, retiring in 2006, and is credted with the creation of the Jones Street recreation park and Wellington Industrial Park.
“Bob knew this community inside and out,” said Terry Mazzone, director of communications for the Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative. “We don’t have our parks without him. We have one of the best electrical distribution systems in the state because of what Bob Dupee did. He just did a super job in the community. If you told him he couldn’t do something, he’d figure out a way to get it done.”
At the end of November, Village Market owner and philanthropist Bill Brumfield passed away at age 77.
He served throughout the years on the Herrick Memorial Library board, the Wellington Endowment Fund, Main Street Wellington board, and the Lorain County Community Foundation.
In 2016, the Patricia Lindley Center for the Performing Arts held its grand opening. The 600-seat facility is named for Brumfield’s late wife, and built in part with a $1.25 million gift to the Wellington Schools in her memory. It is a testament to the couple’s love for the theater.
He set up funds for the continued maintenance of the building and to pay the director’s salary, said fellow Lindley board member Lad Harrison.
“Bill gave from his heart,” said Lad Harrison, a member of the Lindley Center board. “It wasn’t just giving financially. It was time, energy, and enthusiasm. It’s a legacy that’s hard to duplicate.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.