The best of Wood County's citizens were honored Sunday for making this a better place for people to live, work and learn. The 2012 Spirit of Wood County Awards were handed out by the county commissioners during the annual Heritage Days to William Hirzel, Gary Spencer, Hugh Caumartin, Pat Bacon and George Thompson.
|Spirit of Wood County award recipients for 2012 (from left): William Hirzel, George Thompson, Alvin Perkins, Pat Bacon, Hugh Caumartin and Gary Spencer (represented by brother Douglas Spencer). (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
They are people who battle to save prime farmland, who dedicated a lifetime to law enforcement, who rebuilt trust in a school system, who served a city's residents with respect, and who put parks and people above a paycheck.
Hirzel, of Walbridge, was recognized for his role as the third generation of his family in Hirzel Canning and Farming Co., and for his commitment to agribusiness throughout the Northwest Ohio region.
"He, more than anybody in Wood County, brings to the forefront the big connection of linking the productive agricultural capacity of Wood County to the food industry of our area," said Bernie Scott, who nominated Hirzel.
He is involved in the National Food Processors Association, National Kraut Packers Association, Ohio Food Processors Association and National Institute of Food Technologists.
When accepting the award, Hirzel cited a statistic that nine acres of tillable farmland is lost every hour to highways and urban sprawl.
"That's serious," he said.
"We're going to have to make a whole lot more food in Northwest Ohio," to meet the food needs of the world, Hirzel said. "It's a challenge to preserve land and keep it productive," he said.
Spencer retired as Bowling Green police chief last year after 30 years of law enforcement service to the community, noted current Bowling Green Police Chief Brad Conner, who nominated Spencer.
"Gary Spencer has lived a selfless life of service that consists of service to his community and service to his country," Conner said, citing Spencer's Army enlistment and his two tours of duty in Vietnam.
As a rookie patrolman and veteran police chief, Spencer's "commitment to protect and serve the people was apparent to all who served with him or were beneficiaries of his administration of justice," Conner wrote in his nomination of Spencer.
Gary Spencer was unable to attend, so his brother, Doug, accepted the award on his behalf.
Caumartin was given the award of Education for Civic Responsibility for his role in rebuilding trust in the Bowling Green School District and his role in building a new middle school.
Former school board member Tom Milbrodt described the atmosphere of mistrust in the school system prior to Caumartin being hired as superintendent. Caumartin, a former superintendent in Toledo, turned out to be exactly what the district needed, Milbrodt said.
"We've been very fortunate to have him help us through a time of great growth," he said of Caumartin.
During his 13 years as superintendent, the district caught up on technology, healed feelings within the community, and built a new middle school and performing arts center.
In accepting the award, Caumartin spread the accolades to others in the county.
"You have no idea what an exceptional place Wood County is to live in," he said, citing the sense of cooperation among governmental entities.
Bacon, the former municipal administrator for Northwood, was given the Self Government Award.
"It wasn't just the city of Northwood, Pat worked for the citizens," said David Gallaher, a city councilman who nominated her for the award.
Bacon began her career in public service in 1980. "She was a hardworker and would do whatever was needed to help," Gallaher said.
Most notable, was Bacon's ability to make everyone feel important - regardless of their title.
"It did not matter if you were the CEO of a potential new business for the city, or a senior citizen concerned about trash pickup, Pat had the ability to make you feel that you were the most important concern of her day. And you were," Gallaher said in his nomination.
In accepting her award, Bacon recalled her frequent description of her job. "I love my job, but I don't like politics."
She also remembered early in her career being one of very few women at governmental meetings, but she said her male counterparts were always respectful and helpful.
Thompson, of North Baltimore, was given the Lyle R. Fletcher Good Citizenship Award for his 24 years as a county park district commissioner. Park District Director Neil Munger said Thompson was the driving force behind an agency that grew from three parks totaling 84 acres, to today's 19 parks totaling 1,127 acres. He challenged the park district to create first-rate facilities and programming, Munger said.
"George always had the vision to make the Wood County Park District the best it could possibly be," Munger said.
Thompson helped create the local park improvement grant program, which gives funding to local communities to meet their park needs.
Thompson has also served the Rotary Club in North Baltimore for more than 30 years, helped with development of retirement housing in North Baltimore and is a member of the county historical society.
Munger also noted that Thompson, an attorney, has often taken cases pro bono for clients without the means to pay for legal counsel, "always saying that a helping hand is far more important than his fees."
Thompson shared praises with others who helped him be a "conduit" for their creativity. He encouraged people to continue using their imaginations to serve others.
"Keep up the good work," he said.
Also at the program, the commissioners awarded a Special Spirit of Wood County Award to Alvie Perkins, who retired last year as county commissioner.