A new generation of leaders


The region has recently seen a changing of the guard, with young people replacing longtime leaders of organizations in the region.

Sharetta smith

Smith, 43, could be Lima’s first black and female mayor. But it is also the first to represent Generation X, heralding a technological initiative aimed at making city services more accessible to citizens.

“I call (millennials) the microwave generation: you want the answer right away,” Smith said. “You grew up with technology, so if you want to know what something means you don’t have to go to the library and pull out an encyclopedia anymore. It’s right on your phone.

Smith wants the government to be just as responsive.

She worked on the Lima Smart Cities Initiative as Chief of Staff to former Mayor David Berger, updating government software programs to be compatible with Geographic Information Systems or GIS technology. mapping.

The initiative led to the creation of the Connect Lima app, which allows residents to submit photos of potholes, broken traffic lights, housing code violations and other non-urgent issues directly. to city officials and monitor the response. The next phase of the project will include the courts, the police and the prosecutor’s office.

Smith returned to her hometown of Lima in 2017 after working as a magistrate and public defender in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which had experienced a “renaissance.”

“I wanted this for my hometown,” she said, “and I wanted to be a part of it.”

She accepted a position as Berger’s chief of staff, preparing Smith to succeed the 32-year-old mayor when he announced his retirement in 2021. These years have taught Smith that the people here “really love Lima”, but that people want to see prosperous neighborhoods. , safe and affordable housing, stronger families, opportunities to start businesses and safer streets.

“We still have people who just aren’t earning enough,” Smith said. “So how do you get the job training so that people can access these decent-paying jobs? “

She sees potential for Lima. His office window overlooks the new Rhodes State College campus. Down Market Street is the new Graduate Medical Education Center, which trains medical residents. And the Speaker of the House and the Leader of the Senate both reside in Lima.

“All eyes are on our city, our region,” Smith said. “Our people are resilient and full of courage. “

Brandon fischer

The 34-year-old Delphos native has spent years drafting and testing contingency plans for Allen County Public Health to prepare the agency for outbreaks of infectious or food-borne illnesses. He was promoted to health commissioner in October.

Fischer started out as a pre-med student, but was later drawn to public health, landing an internship with the Indiana Environmental Agency, where he focused on recycling electronic waste. He joined ACPH in 2013 as a sanitation specialist, inspecting restaurants, tattoo parlors and septic tanks for health risks and educating these businesses on how to operate safely.

Fischer became responsible for emergency preparedness two years later, ultimately playing a central role in Allen County’s public health response to the pandemic by coordinating contextual testing clinics, vaccination clinics and others. efforts.

“My role was to write plans for all of this,” Fischer said.

In September, he replaced Kathy Luhn, who retired after 33 years with the agency, nine of which as health commissioner.

Now, Fischer is juggling a pandemic response and pursuing other agency roles, including restaurant inspections, childhood vaccinations, and issuance of birth or death certificates.

“I have discovered, especially over the past two years, that everything is unpredictable,” he said. “So we have to be ready for these surprising changes.”

Tyler Black

The Lima native, 30, took charge of the Johnny Appleseed Park District when longtime director Kevin Haver retired in July 2020.

“It’s pretty hard trying to get into that role,” Black said. “People think about what Kevin did, but I’m a different person from Kevin.”

Still, Black had worked for the Park District since he was in high school, starting as a part-time seasonal worker. His rise to the post of director was rapid.

Black studied wildlife science at Hocking College and the University of Rio Grande, which took him west for several years to conduct research for the US Forest Service. He returned to Ohio and eventually to Lima when the Johnny Appleseed Park District was hiring maintenance workers.

“It made sense to come back and have a family,” Black said. “The rest is history.”

Black was promoted to Deputy Director after a year of maintenance, preparing him for the role of Director when Haver retired. The park district has since unveiled an online registration tool allowing people to book shelters or register for programs.

Justin haker

Justin Halker, 32, spent nine years in law enforcement. He is now the Executive Director of the Senior Citizens Services Fitness Center.

The transition is less brutal than it first appears: Halker was called in regularly to check on the health of the elderly while working for the Lima and Fremont Police Departments, a task that he describes as “extremely rewarding”.

Halker, who grew up watching his mother and sister work in nursing homes, knew he would get in touch with his clients immediately when he saw a position open at Senior Citizens Center.

He now renames the agency to SCS, with less emphasis on the word senior so that all adults 50 and over, many of whom do not consider themselves senior, will feel welcome at the fitness center. .

“Everyone says it’s the best kept secret in town. … (But) a lot of people think of the word senior and they’re discouraged, ”Halker said. “They tell me ‘I’m not old enough to be a senior,’ when in reality senior is just a word. You have to be 50 and over to come here.

And it’s those same age restrictions that make SCS a great place to train, Halker said.

“It’s an atmosphere of age acceptance,” he said. “Everyone here will be your peer. You don’t have to worry about young children throwing weights and trying to scream while pushing 500 pounds.

Brandon Fischer (left) works at a mass vaccination clinic attended by Governor Mike DeWine last spring. Fischer played a central role in the Department of Health vaccination and testing sites before taking over as health commissioner in October when Kathy Luhn, second from right, retired.

Justin Halker, Director of Senior Citizens Services, chats with Robert Kramer as he paddles on a machine in the training hall. Halker is rebranding the fitness center as SCS to appeal to people 50 and over who don’t see themselves as seniors.

Tyler Black, 30, took over as director of the Johnny Appleseed Park District in July 2020 following the retirement of longtime director Kevin Haver.

Lima Mayor Sharetta Smith is the first black woman to hold the highest office in Lima. She is also the first of Generation X.

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