Healthy @ 150
A What keeps a community alive, vibrant and thriving?
People They’re the folks who make Ottawa and Franklin County a more colorful, cultured, engaging place to live. They better the quality of life, boost creativity and morale, and serve as visionaries and leaders. As Ottawa and Franklin County near the communities’ 150th birthday milestones, The Herald is taking a look at what’s kept the area healthy for nearly a century and a half in the newspaper’s annual Progress edition.
The first of three special sections takes a glimpse at some of the people who help shape the community, steering it toward a more brighter future. It isn’t intended as an all-inclusive list, but rather a sampling of those who work to keep the heart of Ottawa and Franklin County healthy and beating. They’re parents, children, friends and neighbors. People.
Weekender, February 15-16, 2014
Loving life from ‘the very beginning’ By MEAGAN PATTON-PAULSON
“It usually comes in every December, right around Christmastime,” she said. Wray said she has no idea who the donor is, only that he or she lives out of state.
Herald Staff Writer
Leah Wray looked up at the large wall full of baby photos at her office, remembering all of the young souls her agency was a part of bringing into the world. “That’s a special one,” Wray, LifeCare Center for Women director, said, pointing to a photo composite of a mother, father and baby. “That was an adoption case. There was a young woman who chose adoption and worked with that family, and was fully prepared for it, and still keeps in contact with the baby.” For that young woman, Wray said, choosing adoption was one of the most selfless and loving gestures she could have made. “Adoption is a very selfless act,” she said. “When a gal chooses an adoption plan, she chooses to go through the work and pain of carrying the baby and then chooses someone else to parent for her.” It’s special cases like that, Wray said, that have inspired her during her years at LifeCare, a Christian-based, nonprofit pregnancy and parenting education center at 121 E. Second St., Ottawa. The center helped more than 300 people last year choose healthful lifestyles for themselves and their babies, while also providing a way for them to earn food, clothing and other baby necessities. But it’s just one of many collaborating entities in the county contributing to the overall health of the community, Wray said. “It’s amazing what can happen when we work together,” she said.
Called to action A petite woman with an instant warmth about her, Wray has served as the director of LifeCare for five years. LifeCare was started in 1993, although Wray came on board in 1996. She started as a volunteer, she said, after an inspiration from an unexpected place: the radio. “I remember one of the DJs on the Christian radio station say if we wanted to say we’re pro-life, what are we doing about it?” Wray recalled. “So I just got the phone book out and found out Ottawa did have [a pregnancy center].”
Photo by Meagan Patton-Paulson/The Ottawa Herald
Leah Wray, director at LifeCare Center for Women, stands in front of a wall of baby photos at the center, 121 E. Second St., Ottawa. LifeCare is a Christian-based, nonprofit pregnancy and parenting education center. After a few years as a volunteer, Wray moved up to the assistant director role, and finally, the director, although if you would have asked her 20 years ago what she’d be doing as a career, she never would have guessed it was this, she said. Wray, who has lived with her husband — a crop and dairy cow farmer — for 25 years, originally is from Pennsylvania. She grew up in a private religious school, earned her high school diploma and did a year of nursing school before coming to Franklin County with her husband. With her husband, Wray reared four children, along with one other who will forever have a place in her heart, she said. “I did lose a baby at 17 weeks, and I can remember how perfectly formed that little tiny thing was, and although I didn’t think it at the time, looking back now I can see that kind of opened my eyes to the fact that there is life there at the very beginning,” Wray said. There was no explanation for the baby’s sudden death, and Wray, who also had a child who was 1 at the time, struggled with
the news. “It’s just one of those things,” she said. But it’s helped her identify with young women coming into the center, or those who seek out post-abortion counseling services from LifeCare. “Sometimes, it’s just being a listening ear for them,” Wray said.
‘Earn while you learn’ During her tenure with the organization, one of the biggest changes LifeCare has undergone was when it adopted the “Earn While You Learn” program, in which women can earn baby diapers, clothing and other supplies while taking parenting classes. “Up until that point, we had a once-a-month policy, and that meant they could only come in one time a month to get whatever they might need as far as baby clothes or diapers or formula or whatever,” Wray said. “But we just struggled and felt every time that we weren’t doing anything. “We were just merely allowing them to continue where they were at and not helping them get out of
that situation.” So now, the facility offers classes on parenting, marriage, life skills and Bible study lessons, as well as adoption counseling, in exchange for “Baby Bucks” to use at LifeCare’s “store,” which is stocked with donated baby clothing, diapers, wipes, toys and other gear. “It’s been a positive change for the most part,” Wray said. “A lot of the gals, and the guys, because we have a lot of guys who come in, they are really proud of the fact that they can earn something.” They also can earn the Baby Bucks by keeping regular doctor appointments and well-baby visits, Wray said. One of the newest additions to the LifeCare family is a $40,000 3D ultrasound machine, which was made possible by a $20,000 donation from the national Knights of Columbus Foundation. The machine has allowed female patients to see 3D pictures of their babies as early as six weeks into pregnancy, which has been a tremendous asset for the center, Wray said. “The girls are making comments of, ‘Oh, this is better than what I got at
the doctor’s office,’ and they can actually hear the heartbeat, and that has made a profound difference as well,” Wray said. LifeCare, a nonprofit organization, doesn’t charge for its services, and it doesn’t receive any government or tax money, although it is an agency that falls under the United Way umbrella, Wray said. In addition to three paid staff members, volunteers help man the facility, and the “store” is stocked mostly by donations. One anonymous donor, she said, has given more than $3,000 worth of baby gear — including cribs, mattresses, car seats, strollers, changing tables and more — purchased and shipped from Walmart, to the center every year for the past few years.
LifeCare contributes to the overall health of the community in many ways, Wray said. “In our parenting classes, we do several on nutrition, how to feed the baby,” she said. “Going back to prenatal, we have several classes on what eating for two means, how to take care of their bodies for their babies. Then we can get into some of the nutrition, emergency first aid accidents, illnesses, and just generally helping them be better parents. I think that can help in their parenting as well as their relationship issues. Sonograms can help them bond better with their babies and choose better lifestyles for them.” The center also gives the community’s expectant mothers — and fathers — another place to turn when they need help. “We work a lot with agencies,” Wray said. “We refer back and forth with other agencies, like the Elizabeth Layton Center, ECKAN, Hope House and Willow [Domestic Violence Center].” The center had 2,202 visits last year, and served more than 310 people. Forty percent of those women were between the ages of 20 and 25. Thirteen percent were younger than 19. In the future, Wray said, she’d like to see the center offer more adoption support services, as well as more programming aimed at teaching high school students abstinence. When asked about her plans for retirement, Wray, 50, joked that she’d love to be out of a job at any point in the future. “I would love for there not to be a need for LifeCare,” she said.
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Weekender, February 15-16, 2014
Special friendship blooms on street corners By ABBY ECKEL
enough that if I had it my way, there’d be flowers on every corner.”
Herald Staff Writer
Seeing the end result is something both Marie Seneca and Jane Creighton look forward to each year, they said. Both avid gardeners, the duo has worked on beautifying downtown Ottawa, as well as Pomona, Seneca, Pomona mayor, said. It wasn’t just their shared love of gardening from which their friendship blossomed, but from a love of animals as well. “I had called [Creighton] about purchasing lilies and when she came by the house to deliver those lilies, she saw my flower gardens and made a comment that she didn’t normally like anyone else’s landscaping but her own, but she liked mine,” Seneca said. “It was around Easter and I’d lost two beloved pets and so I was just about inconsolable and when I told [Creighton] about that and how I used gardening in times of stress and joy, she told me she was an animal lover, too. She had such compassion and she sent me flowers and I’d never received flowers for the death of a pet and it touched me. We discussed flowers and our love of animals and developed a really good friendship over those two issues.” Seneca always has enjoyed gardening, she said, a passion that started at a young age and has carried over into her adult life. “I’ve always loved things that were beautiful, peaceful and calm and I think gardening is one of the few fair things in life you get out exactly what you put in,” Seneca said. “I like the joy of going and picking my own berries for my breakfast — I’m obsessed with gardening. If I could get up at sunrise and garden till the sun went down it, I’d love it.” As a self-taught gardener, it’s been a series of trials and errors, Seneca said, as well as reading anything she could get her hands on. “I’ve gardened since I was a child, from starting with friends when we’d have sunflower contests to see who could grow the biggest sunflower,” she said. “I’ve always loved gardening. Ever since I can remember I’ve planted
Hopes for future
Photo by Abby Eckel/The Ottawa Herald
Marie Seneca, an avid gardener, stands with one of the many plants in her home in Pomona. Seneca, Pomona mayor, along with Jane Creighton, have worked together on beautification projects in Pomona and Ottawa. Creighton and Seneca share their love of gardening, animals and beautiful things, they said. The two maintain six corners of downtown Ottawa where they plant flowers and tend to them throughout the spring and summer. and pulled up saplings and relocated them and planted trees and spent a lot of time in the forest as a child.” For Creighton, most of her gardening skills were learned from her husband, she said, although their love of gardening was a bit different. “My husband was the primary person. He lived to garden, he lived for spring and he loved the feel of soil on his hands,” Creighton said. “I love the fruition. I don’t mind the back breaking labor and I love the end result, but I loathe the feel of soil on my hands and I don’t want it under my fingernails. I suppose that makes me not a true gardener. I have no trouble with the work, the soil prep, planting, watering, weeding, the constant care — I’m perfectly willing to do it joyfully because I love the end result.”
Beautification With their double knowledge of gardening and a passion for beautiful things, Seneca and Creighton have done many projects in Pomona and Ottawa, Seneca said. “We started in Pomona. Jane already had some pots here and with me being the
mayor, I wanted to improve our park and make it visually appealing,” she said. “I focused on the old train depot in the park — given to the city and moved to the city because the city didn’t have funds to restore it.” Creighton lent her expertise when asked about fixing up the corners on Main Street in Ottawa, Seneca said, and volunteered herself and Seneca to take over a few of the street corners as beautification projects. “I love that because I do business in Ottawa — I run my errands and do business and work on the corners,” Seneca said. “There are dozens of people who drive by and honk and wave and say it’s beautiful or stop and ask you how to care for certain plants. We expanded [the corners] with the War Memorial and Crown Realty and expanded to Haley Park and old city hall and El Mezcal. We care for six corners in Ottawa now.” The area by the Franklin County War Memorial, Fourth and Main streets, was something Creighton said she knew needed to be taken care of. “I found it appalling,” Creighton said. “The War Memorial is such a beauti-
ful memorial and to be fronted by such a disaster. I have found as I’ve traveled throughout the U.S., there are some areas that may not be up to par, but it is rare that the area surrounding a veteran’s war memorial ... is ever in disrepair.” Her favorite thing about taking care of the corners on Main Street is envisioning what the corners are going to look like after all the hard work is done, Creighton said, even if it doesn’t meet her standards. “It’s anticipating how it will look,” Creighton said. “It never meets what my vision is. Marie, however, never moans and groans, she just takes it in stride, but I don’t. You can hear my complaining if something fails to come up, that’s a major flap and I’m not a happy camper.” The well-manicured corners say something about the Ottawa community, Seneca said. “It creates a warm and inviting community and draws attention to the store fronts as people drive by and it shows you care about your community and provides a much needed oasis,” Seneca said. “I think people need to be surrounded by beauty because life is stressful
Seneca and Creighton aren’t the only ones who help keep the corners in bloom during the spring and summer months, they said, but both have high hopes for the corners for the next generation. “I hope to establish a record of what’s being planted on each corner so future volunteers know what the plants are and how to care for them,” Seneca said. “My hope is that these beds will be lovingly cared for for years to come. I’d like to see us have more visually appealing things like park benches and fountains, more art on Main Street. I’d like to see that enhanced so there’s a pleasurable and enjoyable trip down Main Street and Pomona.” Creighton’s interest continues to lie in making downtown Ottawa as beautiful as possible, whether that’s on the corners, or by preserving the downtown buildings, she said. “I would hope that
there would be more and more interest in Ottawa since I’m now focused in that direction, on the preservation of the buildings,” Creighton said. “I believe if more and more people become interested to take and make an effort in their downtown, that the entire downtown will become revitalized. I believe the store fronts will fill.” Many of the projects in Ottawa and Pomona might not have happened without the hard work of Creighton and Seneca, and it’s Seneca’s determination and mild manner that Creighton said is part of what she enjoys most about their friendship. “She is a rare individual,” Creighton said. “She is always, always ethical. She is even-tempered, which is a good foil for me because I have a hair trigger. She is wonderfully supportive in anything that we work on together. Marie is incredibly intelligent. I appreciate Marie for a number of things and it is those qualities that make her a very special friend and I hope that I have, in my own way, returned that friendship.”
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White: Theater culture plays a part in any thriving community By DYLAN LYSEN Herald Staff Writer
John White was just a boy when he realized his passion for art and theater. Actors from Ottawa University, who were performing “Fiddler on the Roof” for Hawthorne Elementary School, asked him to join them on stage when he was in fourth White grade. He hasn’t stopped working in theater since. “That was my first theater experience, and I really enjoyed it at that point,” White said. “It’s always been something I’ve loved since that time.” White, who was elected president of ACT Ottawa in fall 2012, said theater and art bring cultural relevance to the city, even if it sometimes is difficult to sustain. Many people perform or make art because they are passionate about the practice, he said, not because art makes money. “We wish we could make it more successful,” White said. “We’ve had good support from the city and we’ve had good support from Ottawa University, but being a bedroom community like Ottawa is, you can go to Olathe, Kansas City, or
Garnett and Lawrence for a theater performance. Just trying to get the local folks to understand we’re here and we’re doing performances is a hard message to get across.” White has worked as a case manager at East Central Kansas Area Agency on Aging for about nine years, as well as directed and acted in several plays in Ottawa in his free time. He said the people who are involved in making each production volunteer their free time to create something they are passionate about. “Just like everybody else, I volunteer my time,” White said. “Those people who are involved in productions, all of them volunteer their time and donate their time. In some instances, they may be giving up four nights a week for two to three months at a time just to put on a performance that they deem good enough to put on for the community.” White has been involved with ACT Ottawa for more than 10 years and has previously held the president position. He has directed, acted and worked behind stage for both Ottawa’s community theater, as well as Ottawa University’s theater. He attended OU where he said his teacher, Larry Peters — the namesake of Larry D. Peters
Auditorium on campus — was an important figure that kept him involved in theater productions. Although it is tough to support a community theater with other options to get the same type of entertainment in other towns, White said, he thinks the theater in Ottawa is just part of a culturally defining element that gives Ottawa character. He wishes ACT Ottawa could find more support to help those arts sustain a healthy city, he said.
“I think it offers a different form of art and entertainment. I think it’s under-utilized in Ottawa,” White said. “I think it adds another avenue of culture. Any healthy vibrant community has to have different forms of art. It has to be a combination of all the arts.” White said ACT Ottawa is about to begin casting for a performance of Shakespeare’s “A Mid Summer Night’s Dream” that will open the last two weeks of May and will end on the first day of June.
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Weekender, February 15-16, 2014
Varied experience lays foundation of service By MEAGAN PATTON-PAULSON
He supports the recent push by Gov. Sam Brownback for all-day kindergarten, he said, which the Garnett school district had when he served as superintendent there. “Most parents liked that, because if you’re going to send your kid in there, why not have him there all day?” Woods said. Woods said he considers Ottawa to be a healthy community because along with a good location and history, it has beyond average basic services. “One of the reasons I live in Ottawa is I think we have a very good fire department, police department,” he said. “People take care of things pretty well around here. I think that is a good start. With services, those things are very important. That’s why I think Ottawa has a good presence and a
Herald Connections Editor
One of the things Ken Woods learned from a former superintendent almost immediately after returning to Ottawa, he said, is a theme he’s carried with him for most of his adult life: Hire good people. “At the time [I served in the Ottawa school district], there was an interview system that had a lot of questions on it … and one of the questions I’ll always remember is it said, ‘Why did you want to be a teacher?’ Well, everybody loves kids. But the good ones said, ‘I want to see kids learn. I want to see them grow.’ … So we hired a lot of people who fit that mold, and some of them are still here, and I think that’s how you get your program really going.” Woods, 71, has been an on-again, off-again resident of Ottawa since 1973 and has since pursued various vocations and levels of education. “I didn’t plan it that way,” Woods joked. His lengthy list of positions includes serving as Ottawa school superintendent, an administrator at East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp., Ottawa Library interim director, Chamber of Commerce interim director and Franklin County Community Foundation director, which is a post he currently holds. He’s proud of the accomplishments and work he’s done in Ottawa, and is hopeful that more great things are in store for the community and its health in the future. “You’ve got to be open to new things and look for new things, and accept some new things that you may not understand,” Woods said. “I think most communities are not real big on opening up to new things. [They] kind of like what they’ve got and just want it done better. I’ve always thought, well, I’ve had people help me along.”
good health to it.” He also supported the recent push by Midge Ransom, Franklin County Health Department director, and her Healthy Community initiative grant, which the Franklin County Community Foundation has helped facilitate. “What we’re trying to do is develop programs to help people learn how to eat better, exercise,” he said. “We’re talking about bike trails. We’re talking about hiking trails …the Community Garden, which was collaboration between ECKAN and the city. ... There are so many groups doing so many different things, which is good, but we just need to get everybody working together, and that’s a big issue. “If we all work together, we can get something done.”
Photo by Meagan Patton-Paulson/The Ottawa Herald
Ken Woods, Franklin County Community Foundation director and former Ottawa Library interim director, stands outside Ottawa City Hall and the library, 101 S. Hickory St. Woods said he’s proud of the work he was able to accomplish in his various leadership roles through the years. school districts as well, he said, before coming to Ottawa to take on the school district’s assistant superintendent post. After six years in the assistant role, he was promoted to superintendent. The switch was a challenging one for Woods, he said. “When I talk about education, I always tell people I see myself as an educator,” he said. “As a superintendent, you’ve got to be an administrator more. … I stayed for two years, but it was a big job, and I just wore out, burned myself out.” He left to pursue a another degree and teach at Northwest Missouri State University. He also served as superintendent in Garnett and Clay Center before returning to Ottawa in 1997, which was closer to his wife’s banking work. “We moved back, and I started my other careers,” Woods said.
An educator first
A new vision
Woods, who grew up in Garnett, earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Emporia State University, formerly the Kansas State Teacher’s College, in education and administration. He was inspired by a few relatives who had been teachers, he said. “I just thought it was a worthwhile occupation, and something you could stay in a little bit longer,” he said. His first teaching post was in the tiny town of Axtell, Kan., where he taught high school history and science. He served at a few other
Woods next helped draft a long-term plan for the Fourth Judicial District Juvenile Department and also started as deputy director at ECKAN with Richard Jackson. Woods said he found social and community action work much more interesting and needed than he ever realized. “I had no idea [there was that much poverty],” he said. “ … That was a real eye-opener for me. It’s a very interesting thing to deal with all the time. It can get you down.” He left ECKAN after five years, and then got involved with the Ottawa
Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Ottawa Library board of trustees, eventually serving as interim library director. “I just think libraries are very important,” Woods said. “I think they serve the community, and I didn’t realize until I got involved in the board how much they do.” For a short time in 2012, Woods served as part-time interim director of the Chamber of Commerce. One of his most treasured accomplishments in Ottawa, Woods said, is his work forming and operating the Franklin County Community Foundation. “The Foundation is more than what I envisioned,” Woods said. “My understanding of it has grown over the years.” The Foundation, which Woods helped found in 2000, disperses about 10 trust funds in the form of scholarships and other bequests. It is directed by Woods and a 10-person board of trustees, and operates under the affiliation of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. But that could change soon, as the foundation’s board is considering breaking away to form its own 501c3 organization, Woods said. “At this point, I’m kind of in the middle, but I hope we stay affiliated with Greater Kansas City because they just bring so much professionalism.” Woods said.
A good start Woods said he’s also proud of his accomplish-
ments in the Ottawa school system. “People have to understand the importance of education,” he said.
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Weekender, February 15-16, 2014
Hometown mayor says ‘good growth’ is critical By CLINTON DICK
opportunities as well as providing a place for our seniors to go that are ready to go to that type of living. It is important too because it is family-owned and not corporate-owned, and it is owned by a family [Averill] that understands community. We see a little good kind of growth.”
Herald Staff Writer
WELLSVILLE — As a fourth-generation resident of the city, Wellsville Mayor Bill Lytle knows a lot about his hometown. But it’s his actions, city officials said, that set Lytle apart from other longtime residents. “He loves this town,” Donna Layton, Wellsville city clerk, said. “Obviously, him and his family have lived here for generations, and he does have a passion and a drive to make it a better place. He is proud of it and wants everybody else to be proud of it. Having been here for 30 years and seeing a lot of mayors, Bill is my favorite by far.” Lytle’s love for Wellsville has propelled him to serve almost two terms as mayor, and with one year left, he sees Wellsville as a healthy community with room to grow and opportunities to continue to improve.
Healthy Wellsville A variety of factors contribute to Wellsville’s overall health, he said. “I think you’ve got to have citizen interest, support of the business community,” Lytle said. “I think you have to continually be aware of infrastructure needs and work to attract growth. I think you have to establish good working relationships within the community as well as make it an attractive place to live so you have to worry about parks and other recreation things. You just have to take care of all parts of the city, and while infrastructure is the main artery, you can’t forget cemeteries that need to be maintained, parks that need to be maintained and improved. ... There is just a lot more to it and those are all part of a healthy community.” Lytle has overseen many improvements and changes to the community, but one of the biggest additions to Wellsville came during his first year as mayor, he said. “We were able to provide ambulance services in town,” he said. “That was my first year. It did take some doing. [The county was] actually looking to buy some land to build a substation up here. It became quite an issue county-wide because they were up here and not somewhere else. It has been a big deal for the community because we do have great first responders here, but it becomes about transportation time from the time first responders get someone stabilized to the time you get them to the hospital. It was probably at best a 20-minute trip here from Ottawa. “We feel like in most cases we saved that time because I don’t think anyone would question that we could put our first responders against anybody around. They are absolutely great, but it does become about time and we’ve managed to cut that immensely.” Apart from the ambulance service coming to town, other improvements during Lytle’s time as mayor include $225,000 of improvements to the city pool, West Sixth and Elm streets, Wellsville, all coming from donations, and a project to straighten and fix stones at the Wellsville cemetery. As a former Wellsville school board member, Lytle also acknowledged the importance of a good school in a healthy community. “You can’t talk about a healthy community and not mention the school,” he said. “We have a good school system here. They promote the community because they participate in a lot of extracurricular [activities] from FBLA to forensics, to athletics. If somebody came to town
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Bill Lytle, Wellsville mayor, sits in his chair Feb. 3 at the city council table in city hall, 411 Main St., Wellsville. Lytle has served as mayor for seven consecutive years and lived in Wellsville his entire life. and talked about the community, a lot of people around the state, the first thing they would think of is our school either from some sporting events or some other events. So, the quality of your school is a big part of your community and you certainly can’t leave them out because they are a big employer, and they’re the name that is in the public weekly.” Much like himself, Lytle noted, many residents either stay, or come back to settle down in Wellsville, putting a whole new generation of kids through the school system. “The good thing about Wellsville is, some of our graduates have come back here to be a big part of the school,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of families who have either stayed or moved back, so we have a lot of third-generation kids going through right now. The schools just kind of change as some of the kids have come back and they are teachers or administrators or whatever.”
Development growth While relationships within a community help strengthen it, Lytle said, it is important to keep an open dialogue with other communities as well. “You also have to work and develop a good working relationship with other communities within the county,” he said. “I think we’ve got a lot more active role in the Franklin County Development [Council] than we have in the past and that relationship continues to grow, which I think is very important for us. We don’t have exactly the means to get our name out there, so we rely on those people to help us with leads and they are very good about keeping up with what is going on here.” With that relationship continuing to blossom, as
well as the construction of Logistics Park Kansas City facility, also known as the BNSF Railway intermodal, in the Gardner-Edgerton area, he said it has been difficult not to talk about growth to the area. Lytle understands growth in Wellsville is important, he said, but it won’t happen overnight. “It’s kind of a circle,” he said. “If you don’t have some of the revenues coming in, you can’t do some of the things you need to. On the other hand, if you can’t do some of the things you need to, you aren’t going to have revenue coming in. “I think that everybody wants the town to grow and I think one thing is that initially when the talk of the intermodal came along, people thought the day it opened we would see 100 new houses or every acre filled up. Now, I think we understand what happens isn’t so much with the intermodal itself, but with all the growth that comes within distribution and manufacturing. People realize it is important that we grow, but it is also important how we grow. So, it seems to me that we want to be a little picky how we grow. You want a good kind of growth, and I think that is another place where Franklin County Development comes into play.” “Good growth” is key, he said. “I do think we are going to experience moderate growth,” Lytle said. “For the time being, it may seem insignificant to most people. It is not going to be real noticeable, but I notice that there are some houses being sold. We do have one or two new houses going up this year. We’ve noticed some growth with East Kansas Chemical again. The retirement community has added 18 assisted living and 18 more skilled care. It is a big deal for us because it means more employment
jority because you aren’t going to make everybody happy.”
A healthy main street, doctors, dentists, a veterinarian, parks and recreation opportunities also contribute to the overall well-being of the community, he said. “When you really start to talk about it, we are healthier than you think,” Lytle said with a chuckle. “There are a lot of things that make a healthy community that you take for granted I guess. It all comes together.” While Lytle is not sure yet if he will run for another term as mayor after his final year is complete, he said, he hopes he leaves Wellsville better than when he took office. “What you find out about the people in the community is you have a lot of contact with the gripers, not the ones who think the town is going good,” he said, laughing. “While you know they are in the minority, it seems like they are in the majority. It is sometimes hard to keep that perspective. “What has been most rewarding is seeing some of the things you worked on become reality, and when the day is over, you’ve maybe left it in a better place than you found it. You don’t do that without the city council, so I guess between the council decisions that have been made, we have in the past seven years made some improvements that have made Wellsville a better place. “You have to keep the perspective that it is your town and you want to continually make it a better place. One thing about the job is, you can’t be selfserving because you represent 1,600 residents, so
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Weekender, February 15-16, 2014
Couple returns to Ottawa to form new connections By ABBY ECKEL Herald Staff Writer
Church camp and a continuing love of the arts brought Meg and Shawn Dickinson together, they said. Having met when they both were 16 years old at church camp, it wasn’t until the duo reconnected in college that their relationship rekindled, Meg Dickinson said. “We got married our last year as students at K-State and finished our degrees and lived and worked in Manhattan [Kan.,] before moving back to Ottawa,” Meg Dickinson said. “We’ll be married nine years in August.” The couple initially wasn’t sure whether Ottawa was in their future after getting married, but Shawn’s mom had a ploy to get the two back to Ottawa, he said. “My mom’s in real estate and there was an opportunity for us to come back and flip a house with her, and she said we could do one and move on,” Shawn Dickinson, Ottawa city commissioner, said. “We’ve done five now and we’re here. It was not something we expected, but it’s been a happy return.” The two always have been active in community activities, Shawn Dickinson said. From student council in high school, to serving on the Ottawa City Commission — the two always have felt a need to be involved.
Community leadership “Where you live you get to know people and start the process of the more you know the more you want to impact what’s going on,” Shawn Dickinson said. “Relationships are important and fortunately we’ve each had opportunities to get involved with neat organizations in the community and we’re impressed by the caliber of people that live in our community and it’s fun to get involved and make an impact in the community where you live,” Meg Dickinson said. Because of the lack of young leadership in the community, Shawn Dickinson said, it felt like the perfect timing when the Ottawa City Commission tapped him to succeed Jeff Richards who resigned after becoming Franklin County sheriff in midApril 2013. “I felt like it was important to have leadership because people in the community our age are working and living here and it’s important for them to be represented by someone their age,” Shawn Dickinson said. “I’m part of the young leader network, and the YEO, young elected officials. When you go to conventions and conferences [for the city commission] there aren’t a lot of young community and state leaders. There’s not a lot of them in their 30s and mid-30s leading in their communities and I think it’s important that that’s represented.” Meg Dickinson always has found a niche in the arts, she said, and has been involved with music her whole life. “I was involved in every type of musical activity I could get my feet into,” she said. “When we came back to Ottawa, I had the opportunity to teach elementary music for five years at Sacred Heart and last year I made the transition to accept a part-time position at Ottawa Public Library in development and community relations and it’s been super fun.” Her love of art and music never went away though, she said, as she was approached last year to teach an integrating fine arts class as an adjunct instructor at Ottawa University. “The awareness for fine
Photo by Dylan Lysen/The Ottawa Herald
Meg and Shawn Dickinson stand together after the February First Friday Forum at Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa. The two, along with others from the current Leadership Franklin County class, were the presenters at First Friday Forum. The Dickinsons have always been active in the community, they said, with Shawn Dickinson serving on the Ottawa City Commission, and Meg Dickinson being the president of this year’s Leadership Franklin County class as well as an adjunct instructor at Ottawa University. arts integration is growing, and it’s two-fold,” she said previously. “One is because it’s a whole new approach to teaching children. Part of it is project-based, just helping children to be able to experience learning in different ways and primarily through the fine arts — literature, visual art, dance, drama and music.” As well as teaching, she also serves on the Ottawa Community Arts Council board of directors, is the class president of this years Leadership Franklin County group and is working with her husband to bring a new arts festival to Ottawa in June, she said.
Fostering the arts Remaining active in the community and bringing new features to the community is driven, in large part, by their 19-month-old son, Liam, the two said. “Liam gives all the other things we do purpose,” Shawn Dickinson said. “He’s the next generation and is why we feel it’s important to lead now and keep things we think are great moving forward so when he’s growing up these opportunities are available.” Finding new ways for kids and adults alike to enjoy art is part of their effort, they said. The Swan Arts Festival is coming to Ottawa this summer, Shawn Dickinson said, something he felt the community had been lacking since his return. “You see how this community really rallies around new things, but when they see something great in the community they step up in funding and support in many ways and we’ve been very grateful,” he said. “I think this [arts festival] gives Ottawa an opportunity to really have that festival that helps define us. ... You have festivals like Maple Leaf [in Baldwin City], and inside the community,
there’s church activities going on and reunions. We feel like [the Swan Arts Festival] is what this could be for Ottawa.” Dwindling school funding soon could force schools to cut fine arts classes, he said, and a festival could be a way to foster the arts and allow students a place to have a creative outlet. “As part of Leadership Franklin County, the superintendents from the school districts within Franklin County spoke and shared how if funding doesn’t turn around, the arts are the next thing we’ll lose in school,” Shawn Dickinson said. “We’ve seen in Salina through their arts festival and the commission that they’ve been able to take on arts education and there’s the possibility that our community sadly might have to pursue.” Art comes in many different forms, Meg Dickinson said, and students choose to showcase their art in different ways, but all students should have the opportunity to find their success through creative expression. “I think for so many individuals that arts is like a light bulb goes off and it’s a place to find happiness and enjoyment,” she said. “For some students, it’s athletics and woodworking or welding. It’s a variety of things but supporting this is the small part we can do to ensure that our child — and those within our community — have the opportunity to find their niche and a place they can be successful.”
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for you here and it could look like that and I’m happy to walk alongside you and challenge you and call you to be the person you want to be.’” Improving the communities throughout the county is something Shawn Dickinson said he’d like to see happen, whether it’s building new playgrounds, or creating new events for families to attend. “From a city perspective, it’s looking at things like the Ottawa Municipal Auditorium and parks and how we expand those and create pocket parks and maybe that’s a swing set in an empty lot because maybe that’s the closest thing a family could be to a park,” he said. “It’s figuring out how do we create a better community? We have great communication between school boards, the county, the city — everybody works together well and we need to capitalize on some of those things to make things better and as the city grows, those are things that bring people to a community.”
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without the support of each other,” Meg Dickinson said. “At times, it’s challenging to make it work as we are starting our family, but it’s worth the effort and Shawn is an amazing dad and spends great time with Liam, and Liam reminds us to be present. For myself, I feel time moving faster since he’s been born as we mark milestones. At the end of day, we can come back to the table and sit down and be reminded of why we’re doing what we’re doing.” The two have projects they work on separately, as well as those they do together, Shawn Dickinson said, but both bring something special to the table. “We tend to have roles we play,” he said. “I’m an analytical thinker and I think about the details and the order of things to make it happen, and Megan, in many ways, is the positive force that when you’re thinking about the details you get dragged down, but she reminds us of the ultimate goal.” And something else goes into the planning, Meg Dickinson said. “Faith is an important element to us,” she said. “We truly believe that God is orchestrating the path for us and we try to
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Weekender, February 15-16, 2014 Page S7
Enthusiast brings history into the 21st Century By MEAGAN PATTON-PAULSON
When Deb Barker was a young girl, her grandmother gave her something she’d never forget — a membership card to the Ellis County Historical Society. “I didn’t know what it meant, but I was just thrilled,” Barker, Franklin County Historical Society director, said. That love and respect of history, instilled in her by both her grandparents, launched Barker into a long and fulfilling career of cataloging, researching, teaching and sharing her passion for the past. She’s taught at various universities, was part of the Kansas Arts Commission at one time and most recently has spent 24 years serving at the helm of the Franklin County Historical Society, dedicating the bulk of her adult life to preserving the rich, healthy history of Franklin County. “My fascination with Franklin County history just continues to grow,” Barker said. “I mean, we’ve just got mounds of material around here, and I still find out new stories all the time.”
‘Combining force’ Barker grew up in Winfield – a town similar to Ottawa in many ways, she said. “It was about the same size and had a religiously affiliated college,” she said. After high school, she pursued an undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado in American studies and anthropology, and then a master’s degree in art history from the University of Kansas. She also has 30 hours beyond her master’s toward a Ph.D., she said. “History, anthropology and art history are all museum studies. They all have a museum aspect to them, so that’s always been the combining force there,” she said. She moved to Ottawa in 1976 with her husband, who opened a law practice in town. Barker taught at KU until 1980, and then spent a year working as the infor-
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Photo by Meagan Patton-Paulson/The Ottawa Herald
Deb Barker, director of the Franklin County Historical Society, stands by a shelf of school yearbooks at the Franklin County Records and Research Center, 1124 W. Seventh Street Terrace, Ottawa. Barker has served at the helm of the historical society for 24 years. mation coordinator for the Kansas Arts Commission. “That was a temporary job, but it was lots of fun,” she said. After taking a few years to be with her newborn daughter, she helped found the Ottawa Community Arts Council and served as its administrator for a number of years.
‘Tremendous fun’ Barker took over as the historical society’s director in 1990, she said, and at that time, the organization was run out of the third floor of the Franklin County Courthouse. In 2002, the group moved to the Franklin County Records and Research Center, 124 W. Seventh Street Terrace, Ottawa, which formerly was the county’s first rest home, opening in 1958, Barker said. During her tenure, Barker has helped save and restore the Old Depot Museum — almost a $1 million project — and develop an Internet portal chock full of historical photos, documents and information. More than 23,000 photos now have been scanned in to the society’s system, as well as 15,582 objects and
4,272 archival documents. “We’re doing it one at a time, and we’re not remotely done,” she said. Barker also has done quite a bit of work in the past two decades for the Freedom Frontier National Heritage Area — a 41-county collaboration to tell the stories and history of those counties leading up to the Civil War. Barker was there at the forming of the group, and helped write its proposal and management plans. “Creating it and deciding what to do with it and then actually watching it start to happen has been tremendous fun for me, and I’ve made this huge group of friends from all over the 41 counties,” she said.
‘Vital service’ The historical society now employs Barker — the only full-time worker — and five part-time employees. The group helps with the “health” of the community, Barker said, by providing an educational opportunity for people to research their families and their neighborhood. “We perform a pretty vital service; maybe not for a lot of people, but our por-
tal gets more than 21,000 hits a year, and that’s not just someone looking up directions on how to get here,” Barker said. “We take care of county records. We advise on what records they can keep and not. We’re the only people doing genealogical help. People come from all over the country to research here.” The organization definitely has seen its ups and downs through the years, Barker said. “We’ve expanded a lot,” she said. “We had a period of a lot of staff, and when the recession hit, we had budget cuts and we had to lay some people off.” This past year, though, has been a big one for her and for the historical society, Barker said. Through volunteer help, grants and other money, the society has painted all the trim on the Depot, installed film on the windows to keep harmful UV rays out so more textiles and artifacts can be displayed, replaced the mortar on Dietrich Cabin and helped discover
Barker has compiled one book in her time at the historical society, she said, but she recently signed on with a publishing company to do three more photo books, hopefully to coincide with the city’s 150th birthday this year. At 63, Barker said, she’s not ready to retire just yet; she still has a few things she wants to accomplish with the historical society, including making a 3D movie for kids to view at the Depot, finding funds for more preservation of artifacts and getting all of the organization’s documents and objects catalogued. One large room of the records center is preserved and organized perfectly, Barker said, with expensive acid-free boxes and photos covered in mylar, so fingerprints won’t mar the delicate surfaces. But another large portion of the center remains unfinished — awaiting time, money and staff resources. And an outside shed stores larger objects, like furniture, Barker said, that hopefully one day will be displayed more prominently. “We’re in a situation now where we just really show pictures of things rather than the things, and man, that’s just another step backward,” Barker said. “People want to see the real things, and it’s very legitimate. So that’s kind of frustrating.”
Barker admits she has a long wish list and a head full of ambition, but she is thankful for the generosity and support the community has provided. “I’ve had some amazing people come forward to help with things at just the right time,” Barker said. “I’m a big believer in collaborative efforts, and I’ve been amazed. When I came, the salary for the director was $3,000 a year. It was just a little joke job. It wasn’t anything you could live on. And we’ve built a lot of it up. It’s a serious operation, which a lot of people don’t know about and don’t care, but we have the respect of the state historical society, we have the respect of the powers that be, Freedom Frontier and Kansas Museums Association, and we’ve done a lot with the little money we had. So, I’m proud that we’ve gotten so much accomplished.” Asked if she’d ever leave Franklin County, Barker laughed, joking she should have gone somewhere where her degrees and knowledge would have been worth more money. “But I just enjoyed what I was doing, and thought that was pretty useful,” she said. In her 24 years at the historical society, she’s learned to be patient, pick her battles and take advantage of people’s help when it shows up, Barker said. “You’re not going to get everyone, and that’s alright,” she said. “Not everyone likes history. ... But you just have to keep plugging.”
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Weekender, February 15-16, 2014
Writer: Don’t shelve creativity By ABBY ECKEL Herald Staff Writer
POMONA — Dave Burns decided to get serious about his love for writing in 2009, he said. Burns, now the librarian at Pomona Library, 219 Jefferson St., Pomona, Burns said he was looking for creative writing classes in the Ottawa area when he realized none were offered. “At the time, I was looking for [local groups where] people can get together and bounce ideas and I wasn’t finding anything,” he said. “I went to [a class] in Overland Park that wasn’t what I felt it should be, so I went to the library and asked if there was anything like this around here, and they said no but that they had a folder of people who had requested this sort of thing and asked if I would be interested in starting a creative writing class.” Burns started the Ottawa Writers Guild in 2012. The group meets at the Carnegie Cultural Center, 501 S. Main St., Ottawa, The Ottawa Herald, 104 S. Cedar St., and at the Ottawa Library, 105 S. Hickory St., he said. “The first class I did, I did two different types and had 15 to 20 people total interested in ‘How do I do this writing thing?’” he said. “I began to share some of what I’ve learned and realized there was a real need and people were interested.” The writers guild filled Burns’ need for a place to meet with other local authors and receive input from others on his projects, he said. “It’s a place to come and share work and get feedback,” he said. “I was looking for a place for myself to work with other authors and pick people’s brains, and it’s become a whole thing to the point where we meet twice a month.”
‘A story to tell’ From The Ottawa Writers Guild stemmed a literary and arts magazine that had been published once a year, but is planned for twice a year in 2014, he said. “I started ‘Uncarved’ as a literary and arts magazine as an opportunity to highlight local authors and artists and musicians and we’ve done two volumes — one the first year and one this past year in the fall,” Burns said. “The writers guild has become such an organization within itself they want to do two issues every year — one in the spring and one in the fall.” The Uncarved publication has reached so many people through its online presence that it’s prompted an award winning photographer to get in touch with Burns about being featured in the magazine, he said. “We had a photographer from England who contacted me who’s been published in National Geographic and is an award-winning photographer and found us through our online presence,” he said. “She contacted me and asked ‘Would you allow me to provide cover art for you?’ I asked her to send some work and shared it with the writers guild. It’s been amazing because we’ve had people from all over contact us.” Burns never imagined the writers guild would grow to what it has become, he said, but it’s been a pleasant surprise. “I figured it was going to be a couple people getting together, but the first day I started — I hadn’t done any publicity — the first day there were eight people waiting at the doors to come in,” he said. “It’s grown to two different groups and over 30 members and over 50 people interested in taking classes and I have been floored by the amount of response I’ve gotten and it further emphasized that this is a need for people. It’s been an
“I think everyone has a story to tell ... whether it’s factual and in their past or the next great American novel. ... They have an experience to share and I want to give everyone that opportunity to do that.” — Dave Burns, Ottawa Writers Guild amazing response that I’d never anticipated at all.” The classes Burns offers are taken by people of all ages and writing skill levels, he said, but there also are people in the community he wished he could help, but can’t. “Ottawa is an underserved community financially, and so one goal would be to secure a grant or private funding so I can offer [writing classes] at no cost to the public,” he said. “I’ve had quite a few people who’ve contacted me, but can’t afford $25 a month. It’s heartbreaking.” The writers guild has set up a scholarship program people can use to help with costs for those who would like to take classes, Burns said. “I think everyone has a story to tell and I’ve seen it and they do,” he said. “Whether it’s factual and in their past or the next great American novel, I know from experiences I’ve had, that they have an experience to share and I want to give everyone that opportunity to do that and the tools to do that.”
New opportunities When he’s not teaching creative writing classes or working with the writers guild, Burns is at the Pomona Library, he said. “They brought me in to do some activities and things, get people involved and one of the first things I did was get in and get a collection of local authors in the area and had them come in and do a book signing,” he said. “A lot of the names were because they had donated books, but these are people that have family here and it was a good opportunity for them to display their work. In doing that, I started to get a pulse of what the community wants.” With the library being in a shared space at Pomona’s City Hall, Burns said, he wanted to find
programming solutions that would be supported by the community. “I’m a big believer in not just doing programming for the sake of programming but figuring out what people want,” he said. “Pomona is an underserved and older community and one thing I found is that there were people coming in wanting to get together and play cards.” To fit the needs of the community, the library has pitch playing and dominoes Monday and Thursday afternoons, as well as crocheting on Fridays, he said. “It’s this mind set that the library may not be what people expect it to be because it needs to be more of a community space,” Burns said. “I think the new building will add so many more opportunities.” The Pomona Friends of the Library recently purchased attorney William Bayne’s former office building at 115 Franklin St., Pomona, and have gifted the use of the building to the Pomona Library with plans to have it open mid-March, Marie Seneca, Pomona Mayor and president of the Pomona Friends of the Library, said previously. “I think [the new library] is going to open up opportunities for more programming,” Burns said. “We have someone who comes in and teaches art classes to school-aged kids and has been doing
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author of seven books, he said, all which can be found on his website, www. uncarvedbooks.com Creative juices get flowing when Burns does an exercise he stumbled upon while reading Stephen King’s “On Writing,” he said. “[King’s] book talks about the concept of how to develop and the importance of writing in same place, same time,” he said. “It’s creating space and time which creativity finds you. You do these things and sit down with a computer and essentially be still and by doing that your mind compartmentalizes things you’ve seen throughout the day.” Knowing the importance of writing and the creative outlet it provides people, Burns’ ultimate goal is to find a place of his own to continue to offer his writing classes, he said. “I find myself looking at the old furniture building on First and Main,” he said. “My ultimate dream would be to get some way to secure a building of sorts to where art classes of all kinds can be offered and art of all mediums be displayed.” Burns knows he expresses himself better through writing than he does verbally, he said, and he wants to provide a place for people to find their own creative outlet. “I’ve seen people drawn toward writing — that’s where they can express themselves and I’ve seen them grow and it’s cool when the community recognizes that,” he said. “This would be a place that would give people exposure to what’s available and the work they’re doing.”
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Weekender, February 15-16, 2014
Retired educator finds new teaching opportunity By DOUG CARDER
gest power plant right now. It’s pretty amazing, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.” The Aldermans don’t have to travel quite so far to visit their grown daughter, Angie Davis, who resides in Shawnee. “I have four grandchildren, ranging from 13 to 4 [in age],” she said. “[Alex and Angie] each have a girl and a boy.”
Herald Senior Writer
Attending a one-room school north and west of Ottawa through the seventh grade, now-retired educator Lynda Alderman said she enjoys talking with current Franklin County students about what life was like in a country school. Teaching fourth-graders who visit the one-room schoolhouse in the Old Depot Museum, 135 W. Tecumseh St., Ottawa, is one of the joys of being a volunteer worker with the Franklin County Historical Society, she said. “We teach a fourthgrade curriculum,” Alderman, historical society board president and Ottawa school board member, said. “We’ve opened it up to the entire county, and we have quite a few schools that come. I tell them what it would have been like, based on my own experiences.” While at the one-room school in the depot, students write on slates, use ink pens and ink wells and eat their lunch from a tin bucket, she said. “They also like coming to the recitation bench,” Alderman said. “It’s a lot of fun.” Of course, Alderman said, she also explains to students that being in a one-room school also meant that the restroom was an outhouse. “You had to watch for spiders and snakes,” she said. Alderman said her family — as well as that of her husband, David Alderman — have deep roots in Franklin County. “Our families are some of the old settlers from back when the county first began,” Alderman said. “The county’s history is amazing. A lot has happened here.”
One-room schoolhouse Attending school in the Baxter country school, Alderman was the only student in her class from kindergarten through seventh grade, she said. “I came in to town [Ottawa] in eighth grade, and that was a shock,” Alderman said. “I was the only one in my class all those years, and then I went to middle school in eighth grade and there were a lot of kids. What I liked about the one-room school is that I could learn at my own pace. When I got to eighth grade, I had already had some of that stuff when I was in the sixth grade. Another thing I liked about the one-room school is that we had a boy in our school that was developmentally challenged, and we had the same teacher all those years, so she would just pick up and carry on. I thought he had a good education, as well as did I.” At about age 8, Alderman said, she realized
Challenging times Photo by Clinton Dick/The Ottawa Herald
Lynda Alderman, an Ottawa school board member, spent 31 years as a teacher at the former Eisenhower Elementary School in Ottawa before retiring when the school closed in May 2011. She also now is the Franklin County Historical Society board president. she wanted to become a teacher. After graduating from Ottawa High School in 1967, Alderman moved to San Francisco and graduated from San Francisco State University, she said. “I was in the first [Ottawa High School] class to graduate from the new building [at 1120 S. Ash St.,] which isn’t so new anymore,” Alderman, 64, said. “And my husband was in the last class to graduate from the old high school in 1966. David worked in management with Toyota in San Francisco. If you had to live in a big city, that’s one to live in. The elementary school where I did my student teaching was two blocks from the beach.” The Aldermans lived in San Francisco for about 10 years until they moved back to their roots near Ottawa. “We came back here in 1978,” Alderman said. “[David] has been farming ever since we moved back to Kansas. It’s my family farm — it’s been in the family since 1923 or 1924.” After serving as a substitute teacher for a couple years, Alderman was hired in 1980 as a first grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School, where the district’s central office now is located at 1404 S. Ash St., Ottawa. “I taught first grade at Eisenhower for 31 years in the same room. It’s the room where [the superintendent] offices are located,” Alderman said. “I loved it. I was there until the school closed and I retired.” Alderman taught multiple generations of students while at Eisenhower. “I taught some of my [grown] students’ children,” Alderman said. “It was fun to have their children. [Teacher] conferences were fun. When they closed Eisenhower, that was my last year. There were a lot of tears. We had a great school and a great bunch of teachers. We were really close, and we still are.” Alderman, who likes the outdoors and working in her yard, said she would like to do more traveling. “We have a Honda Gold Wing that we like to ride whenever we can,” she said. The couple has taken
trips on the motorcycle to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Natchez Trace national trails, as well as to Colorado, Iowa, Arkansas and other states. “I’m married to a farmer, so we have planting and harvesting seasons, and those are the prime times to ride,” Alderman said. “I want to travel to Ireland, around the United States. I would like to see Alaska. “I may have to leave my husband at home to be able to do all that,” she said, jokingly. The Aldermans took a trip last year to South Africa to visit their grown son, Alex Alderman, and his family, she said. “He works for Black & Veatch,” Alderman said. “He’s an engineer and is building the world’s big-
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Lynda as a first grade teacher, and Lynda’s son, Alex, and I were best friends in high school, so I spent a lot of time at their home. Lynda was like a second mother to me and played a huge part in my life.” Though her own children are grown, Alderman said having so many former first grade students still attending classes in the Ottawa school district — from fourth grade through high school — makes it seem like she has “250 students” in the district. “I have students from first grade who are in college now, and I still get hugs from them,” she said. “That’s the good part of teaching.”
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teachers] and not much pay. Just since I’ve retired the workload has become so much more demanding.” Alderman likes seeing her former first grade students, whether they still are in the school system or have grown into adulthood. “I enjoy seeing the kids I taught grow up to become fabulously productive adults,” she said. “Ryan Cobbs [OHS principal] is one of my former students, and I’m really proud of him. He’s doing a great job.” Cobbs said he remembers Alderman as his first grade teacher and thinks she was a good educator and now a good school board member. “I certainly remember
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Weekender, February 15-16, 2014
Bird serves faithfully: A city worker to count on By DOUG CARDER Herald Senior Writer
When he’s not overseeing the city’s budget, Scott Bird finds himself preaching the Gospel at a small white clapboard church in Ottawa. In the past, he’s served as a Boy Scout Bird leader, worked in building construction and operated a power plant. Bird, the City of Ottawa’s finance director, recently reflected on the professions and interests that have represented milestones in his life as he prepared to mark 33 years of employment with the city in April. A 1975 Ottawa High School graduate, Bird went to work for the city in 1981 as a C Class Power Plant Operator. After a decade there, he moved up the ranks to assistant superintendent, he said. “I decided to go back to college, and I was very blessed to have a boss who worked with me on trading my shift so I could go to school during the day at [Ottawa University],” Bird said. “I also was blessed with a wife [Beverly] who would put up with me working, going to school and sleeping — that’s what I did most of the time.” As a part-time student, taking about nine hours per semester at OU, Bird graduated in May 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, he said. “The city manager at the time called me in June , after my graduation in May, and asked if I would like to come help with the budget at City Hall, with no promises attached,” Bird said. “I’ve been fortunate to be at City Hall ever since.” The then-city clerk and finance director, Pete Smith, took Bird under his wing, he said. “He was a super guy and a wonderful mentor,” Bird said. “I had the opportunity to work with him for just a little over a year, and when he retired I was promoted to that position [in January 1993]. Until he passed, he would come in periodically and check on me and make sure I was taking care of his city. I think he was city clerk and director of
finance for about 25 years. He was a great man.” Smith encouraged Bird to become involved in the City Clerks and Municipal Finance Officers Association of Kansas from the outset, Bird said. “I’ve been very pleased to be a part of that association all these years, and I went through their certification program and became a certified municipal clerk. Later, I earned the classification of master municipal clerk. Carolyn [Snethen, city employee] also obtained her master municipal clerk classification. At one time there were only 34 master municipal clerks in the state of Kansas, and Carolyn and I were two of those.” About seven years ago, Bird said, he recommended Snethen be promoted to city clerk, a position she holds today. “She continued to assume most of the city clerk responsibilities — she got her master municipal clerk certification before I did,” Bird said. “She does a great job.” One important aspect of Bird’s job as finance director is keeping track of the myriad components of the city budget, he said, as well as monitoring federal and state grant monies. “One of the challenges is to watch the number of budgets that we deal with and make sure they come in where they need to,” he said. “We’re also dealing with more complex regulations at the federal and state level. We deal with a lot more grants. We used to deal with maybe one grant a year, and now we’ve dealt with as many as 12 in a given year. We are always looking for additional grants to stretch city dollars and make them go farther.” Some grants the city has been awarded have been used for street improvements, park equipment and other city needs, Bird said. A conversion last year to a new software system was one of the most daunting challenges Bird’s department has faced in recent times, he said. “We had the same financial accounting software for 20 years,” Bird said. “While it was a workhorse, it had become outdated. Last year, that information was converted to the new [Incode] software system, and that task was almost beyond explanation. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded with a
wonderful staff. People don’t know how hard they work. I would leave in the evenings at 7, and I still had people here working on the software conversion — that was the norm rather than the exception last year. We started the conversion in March 2013, and we’re still dealing with some of that now, so it’s been almost a yearlong project.” Richard Nienstedt, city manager, said working with Bird has been “a breath of fresh air”. “I’ve found Scott to be very community oriented, very family oriented and very church oriented,” Nienstedt said. “He thinks outside the box, which I also appreciate.”
Growing up in Ottawa Born in Girard, Bird moved to Ottawa when he was 3 years old. “When I was 6, we moved to Burlington, and when I was 8, we moved back to Ottawa to stay,” Bird said. “I attended Eugene Field and Lincoln [elementary schools in Ottawa] and came through the junior high and high school systems. My dad worked for the gas company and my mom worked at Ottawa University.” Bird said it has been a “privilege and incredible honor” to serve the community where he grew up. “I was fortunate to have had some of the legends of OHS as instructors,” Bird said, naming off about a half dozen teachers who had had an influence on his life. Bird, who ran track in high school, said he fell in love with his high school sweetheart between his sophomore and junior years in high school. Scott and Beverly Bird will mark their 37th wedding anniversary this June, he said. “I ran the concession stand in the Cyclone Room [at OHS], and she would come up and buy breakfast from me,” Bird said. “She was operating the concession stand at the ballpark the summer between my sophomore and junior years, and I would go to the ballpark and hang out at the concession stand more than I would watch the games that year. Eventually, I got up the courage to ask her out. “We went to the Dairy
Queen [on South Main Street] for our first date, and I remember the only thing she would let me buy her was a 25-cent Coke,” Bird said, laughing. “I didn’t have a lot of money, so 25 cents I could handle.” After attending Pittsburg State University for one year, Bird returned to Ottawa and went to work for Loyd Builders, 2126 S. Elm St., Ottawa, he said.
Working in Ottawa “I went to work for Loyd Builders for five years,” Bird said. “Mike Newmaster, [OHS] drafting instructor at that time, always had a house-building project, and I had the good fortune to participate in that project my senior year. I’m sure that helped me get my foot in the door at Loyd Builders.” Bird credited the late Allen Loyd, company founder, Sonny Burch and Jerry Thompson, company owners at the time, for having an important influence on his life during his employment with Loyd Builders and into the future. “To show you the class of people they are, I had worked for them for about five years and then in 1981 the interest rates had taken off like a bottle rocket, Bird said. “The cost of borrowing was so high it just shut construction down. And for the first time in five years they laid us off that winter. They didn’t want to, but it was the right business decision to make. The employees had always paid for half of our health insurance coverage, and the company had paid the other half — until they laid us off, and then they paid all of it.” A family man with two grown children, David and Meredith, who both reside in Ottawa with their families, Bird preaches the first and third Sundays of the month at Cornerstone Church, 621 N. Poplar St., Ottawa. “I recognized that I was supposed to be preaching,” Bird said. “I could feel God call me to preach the Word, so I went to seminary a few years ago and got my master’s degree in Bible and Theology from Calvary Theological Seminary [Kansas City, Mo.] All honor and glory belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.” Bird, 56, also credited Fred Adamson, a former
Support makes a difference at Ransom By DYLAN LYSEN Herald Staff Writer
Dean Ohmart knows he doesn’t have the education to physically help the city’s health at Ransom Memorial Hospital, but he does hold a position in which he helps those who do. Ohmart Ohmart, the chief financial officer at the hospital, 1301 S. Main St., said although he isn’t a doctor at Ransom, it doesn’t mean he can’t help the city’s wellness from his office. He and other branches of the hospital that are not directly involved with patient care still have a desire to help as much as possible. Joining the Ransom staff as CFO in January 2001, Ohmart has helped the hospital find ways to expand its facilities to better serve the community. Some of the projects with which Ohmart has been involved include the development of the Gollier Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, 901 S. Main St., renovating the hospital, and recently acquiring equipment for MRIs. “We want to care for the people of Franklin County,” Ohmart said. “We want to make it as easy as possible for our clinical
people to care for people. So that’s our goal in the finance division of a hospital, to kick the road block out of the way so they can get their work done.” Ohmart said before he joined the staff at Ransom, the hospital’s rehab center was much too small to serve the community. He said Ransom had the ability to reach out and find larger venues to serve the community, as well as buy up an empty building in the mid-town area that was not otherwise being used. By creating a better space to allow rehab and utilizing an otherwise vacant building at what is now the Gollier center, Ohmart said, it was a winwin for the hospital and the community. “That was an old, vacant grocery store,” Ohmart said. “That was a huge boon for the community, I think, to get that [building] in use.” Hospitals weren’t Ohmart’s original choice for financial services, but the allure to help hospitals complete the projects he had proposed in his previous role as a consultant was too good to pass up. After graduating from Fort Hays State University, Ohmart worked for a certified public accounting agency in Topeka. He was a consultant for the agency, he said, and part of his job was pitching ideas to his clients. He
often would propose the same pitch the next year because the plans were never acted upon. “You can’t make a difference really at the CPA firms,” Ohmart said. “You just kind of audit the numbers and help them, but you don’t really have a chance to make a difference.” After he left the agency in Topeka, he held jobs at hospitals in Hays and Liberal before meeting Larry Felix, Ransom’s chief executive officer, and Susan Ward, chief nursing officer. He said working with Felix and Ward was a great opportunity because they offered him the ability to help those who help others, as well as doing ethical work to make sure help always is provided. “The key to me was Larry and Susan wanted to do things right,” Ohmart said. “Administrators at the places I left weren’t necessarily like that. That’s what [Felix and Ward] told me; that they wanted to do things right, and that’s what they’ve done.” Ohmart said the underbelly of medical services is that there needs to be patients for the hospital to make money and stay in business. Without patients, the hospital wouldn’t be able to expand to better serve. But he said the hospital’s mission is to promote more healthful living in the community
regardless. “What we’ve tried is to instill wellness in the city and be proactive to take care of yourself so you don’t need health care,” Ohmart said. “It sounds counterproductive because we need sick people so we can pay the bills, but if we have a healthy population they will need medical care too.”
Scout leader, and other Scouting figures, including Bird’s father, David, a Scout master, for having a profound influence on his life. “I remember getting my Cub Scout Bobcat pin when I was six,” Bird said. “For the most part, I’ve been involved in Scouting my whole life, pretty close to 50 years. I came through Cub and Boy Scouts and came back as a young adult leader for a few years. Then, when my son turned 6, one of my college professors’ sons was in Scouts and he asked if I would help, and I knew my son was wanting to get involved, so I followed David clear through Scouting until he got his Eagle
and three years after that. Once in awhile, I put on my uniform and be the old man Scouter, but I haven’t been very active the last few years.” Bird’s five grandchildren are keeping him active, though, he said. “Having grandkids is way more fun than I would have ever imagined,” Bird said. “I have four granddaughters and one grandson, and I’ve enjoyed building bird houses and a playhouse for them, and one of these days, Lord willing, I’m going camping [with my grandson]. “You know, life is a series of seasons,” Bird said. “And I’ve enjoyed this season.”
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Weekender, February 15-16, 2014
Park planners prove to be more than just bark By DYLAN LYSEN Herald Staff Writer
Kim Geist and Dawn Rush had something of a pet project: to build a park where their favorite animals could run around outside without a leash. By finding support from the city and the community, Geist and Rush’s pet project became a pet playground reality. The Ottawa Bark Park is set to open at Forest Park, 320 N. Locust St., sometime this spring, subject to weather conditions. The fenced-in dog park is expected to be a safe place for dog owners to let their pets roam free, unleashed. Geist and Rush said the park would encourage social interaction between dogs and pet owners. It will be the first park in Ottawa to allow off-leash dogs. “There have been so many dog lovers with nowhere to go,” Geist said. “It’s good for the community’s interaction as well. The dogs will socialize and play together and stuff, but it’s also good for people too.” Kristi Lee, Franklin County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau director, said the bureau liked the idea from the beginning and is looking into organizing a pledge to support the park. She said she isn’t sure the park will attract any significant tourism, but it does add to the city’s quality of life. Rush already has heard from residents of other communities who are
Photo by Dylan Lysen/The Ottawa Herald
Dawn Rush, with her English bulldog, Dozer, and Kim Geist, with her miniature poodle, Emmitt, and unknown breed, Natalie, hang out at Best in Show Grooming, 130 W. 15th St., Ottawa. Geist and Rush are self-proclaimed dog people and, as cochairs of the Bark Park Boosters, helped raise money to fund that Ottawa Bark Park in Forest Park, 320 N. Locust St., Ottawa. planning on using the new park, she said. “I’ve had questions from people in Paola who don’t have anywhere to go,” she said. “They intend to bring their dogs.” The idea for the park was first introduced in 2007 on the master park and recreation plans, Wynndee Lee, Ottawa planning and codes director, said, but the
push from Dawn Rush and her husband John in fall 2012 got the pet project on its four-legged feet. To support the idea, Rush and Geist helped organize fundraisers and found significant donors to support the park. Proceeds from the fundraising were used to help fund construction. The project has raised about $30,000, including
a $10,000 donation from Advantage Ford, Lee said. The fundraising for the park isn’t finished. Lee said the city is running the Bark Park Brick campaign, which features an offer that allows residents to purchase bricks that will pave the entrance of the park with the donor’s name on it. The campaign aims to sell 350 bricks at $50 each
Linder: People build community By CLINTON DICK Herald Staff Writer
WELLSVILLE — Wayne Linder put a lot of elbow grease into city hall. While a contractor was working on the building at 411 Main St., Wellsville, in the Linder late 1990s, Linder was ready to pitch in where needed, he said. “I’d done some of the work on it myself,” he said. “They was putting up forms for the basement and the guy that was doing it was from Edgerton and he said, ‘I can’t get this done today because I’m short a man.’ I said, ‘Well what if you had a half a man? I’ve set forms, but it was a long time ago.’ So, I jumped in and helped him set the forms in the basement and we built the basement walls. I’ve done a lot of work on it.” Linder, now retired in Wellsville, was happy to do it, he said, and was happy to see the building finally completed in October 1999. “They had a little opening ceremony,” he said. “It was exciting to do it and get it done for the city.” The City of Wellsville already had the land for the building, Linder said, but the project received help when Bob Kleirs and the Kleirs family, Wellsville, donated money to construct the new city hall, and Donna Layton, Wellsville city clerk, helped Linder with the building designs. “We really enjoyed working with [Linder],” Layton said. “He has always had a strong dedication to Wellsville and involving himself in the community. He is just a very dedicated person.” The original building cost was set at about $400,000, Linder said. By the time he contracted and helped build the current building, the total cost was about $260,000, he said. “One guy came up and told me, ‘The bad part about this whole thing is the people in this town don’t realize how much you’ve saved them,’” Linder said, chuckling. “I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to worry about that.’”
Linder, who has lived in Wellsville for about 40 years, worked for General Motors for 30 years and as the city inspector for Wellsville for about 15 to 20 years, he said. During that time, Linder inspected about 100 new and remodeled houses in Wellsville. “I’d go and make sure the house was adequately constructed,” he said. “Then, I’d go and make sure that it was plumbed correctly and electrically and stuff like that. During that time, I was city inspector because they didn’t have a full-time job for me. It was during a time when the city hired a hot-shot full-time inspector and he didn’t last very long and they had me take his place. I went and did an inspection when they needed it and I had an office up at city hall.” Linder retired from his city inspector post around eight years ago, he said. Before his retirement, he also ran his electrical
business, Linder’s Repair, Wellsville. “I wired houses all over the country,” he said. “I wired houses in Osawatomie and did commercial electrical work in Overland Park. I’ve done some appliance work for some people.” Aside from his work, Linder made a strong connection with the Wellsville community. That’s changed some as the city continues to grow. “I used to know everybody in town, but I don’t anymore,” he said. “I know all the older families here and the kids. I used to shoot the cannons for the football team for 25 years. So, I didn’t miss any football games.” Linder plans to spend the rest of his life in the community he loves, he said. “The people make it happen,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything without the people. There are just a lot of people that
touch you and do things for you ... ’course I did things for them years ago, and I guess it’s payback time or something. But it is people like that who make the community.”
for the project. Lee said 34 have been sold so far. Other fundraising projects included Country Mart, 2138 S. Princeton Circle Dr., and Walmart, 2101 S. Princeton St., play-
ing host to donation booths, as well as Sutton’s Jewelry, 207 S. Main St., donating pieces for special dog tags that pet owners could buy for their animals, the proceeds of which went to construction costs. The help from the community has been stronger than Lee has seen with other projects, she said. Although Geist and Rush have done a lot of work to help raise money and awareness of the project, the community’s support proved to the city it was worth looking into, she said. City leaders knew the park eventually could be maintained by the city, Lee said, but the initial funding needed to come from private donors. “People are writing personal checks for $1,000,” Lee said. “That is a commitment we have not seen for any other project. That is a strong indicator that people both wanted it, but also understand that it needs to be supported privately.” Geist is a self-proclaimed dog lover. She owns Best in Show Grooming, 130 W. 15th St., Ottawa, and works as a vet technician as well. She works with animals from all over the area and she knows those animals have loving owners. “There’s a great number of dog lovers in this community and outlying areas too,” Geist said.
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Published on Feb 15, 2014