The Van Wert County Courthouse

Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022

First Federal kickoff the Walk of Honor fundraising effort. Pictured from left to right are: Tom Burenga, First Federal board member; Ciara Thomas; Ken Myers, trustee/ Project Chairman; Brian Renner President/CEO; Bill Marshall, Commander; Suzie Grimes, and Kindall Maxson. Photo submitted

VW independent staff/submitted information

First Federal of Van Wert helped kicked off fundraising efforts for the planned American Legion Post 178 “Walk of Honor” with a generous donation of $10,000. The donation was presented during a brief ceremony held Saturday morning.

The “Walk of Honor” will be a memorial walkway and monuments designed to honor all veterans and first responders in Van Wert County.

“With First Federal being a community minded business that thrives to support the local community, the American Legion choose to approach them and asked if they would like to kick off the fund raising,” First Federal Brian Renner President/CEO said. “First Federal is honored to be part of the Walk of Honor project. We owe our gratitude to veterans and first responders for everything they have done for this country and this county. As a local community business, what better way to show our appreciation than to be part of this terrific project that the American Legion is undertaking.”

The Walk of Honor will add additional monuments to the American Legion’s Memorial Park located next door to the post on Main St., as well as a walkway of engraved bricks and pavers honoring those that have served not only in the military, but also first responders.

It will also contain monuments for veterans that served in non-conflicts, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan as well as law enforcement, and fire and EMS for all of Van Wert County. The Walk of Honor will show the support of the community countywide, of all those men and women that have chosen to sacrifice for the good of the communities and our country.


POSTED: 12/04/22 at 10:18 pm

This rendering shows plans for American Legion Post 178’s planned Walk of Honor, next to the Legion Hall on S. Shannon St. Fundraising efforts kicked off on Saturday. For more details, check the story above. Photo submitted

POSTED: 12/04/22 at 10:17 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Submitted information

WAPAKONETA — Following an investigation led by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Auglaize County Prosecutor Edwin A. Pierce jointly announced that a grand jury has indicted Christine Ann Steinke on 15 felony charges related to the theft of more than $150,000 from the city of Wapakoneta. The announcement was made on Friday.

“There’s no clearer example of abuse of power than stealing from those she serves for her own personal gain,” Yost said. “The people of Auglaize County deserve better, and we want to ensure that justice prevails.”

Christine Steinke

Steinke, a former utility clerk in Wapakoneta’s Utilities Department, was indicted last Thursday on 13 felony counts of tampering with records and two felony counts of theft in office. The indictment alleges that, while serving as utility clerk from 2009 to 2021, Steinke took portions of customer payments to the department for her own personal use.

BCI was asked to investigate after a software upgrade by the Utilities Department revealed discrepancies and local police were alerted to the alleged thefts. Upon completion of its investigation, BCI referred the findings to the Auglaize County Prosecutor’s Office.

“The yearlong investigation initiated by the Wapakoneta Police Department and continued by Ohio BCI involved the gathering and review of thousands of pages of records, which resulted in the indictment against Steinke,” Prosecuting Attorney Pierce said. “While numerous businesses and government utility customers payments were involved, those customers did not suffer any direct loss.”

Steinke was taken into custody Thursday evening and released Friday on her own recognizance after a bond hearing in the Auglaize County Common Pleas Court.

She had been placed on paid leave in September 2021; two months later, she resigned her position.

POSTED: 12/04/22 at 10:17 pm. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent staff/submitted information

Van Wert Live has announced America’s Got Talent sensation Chapel Hart will make a stop at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center on their first headlining Glory Days Tour at 7:31 p.m. Friday, March 31.

Sisters Danica and Devynn Hart and cousin Trea Swindle won the hearts of America’s Got Talent viewers earlier this year but have been steadily making their mark on country music for years. Over the past few months, the Poplarville, Mississippi natives have earned praise from greats like Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker. Their talents also drew the attention of Darius Rucker, who recruited them for the stellar collaboration, “Ol’ Church Hymn.”

The Country Music Trio Chapel Hart will perform at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 31. Photo submitted

As they continue to ride this much-deserved wave of success, Chapel Hart has plotted an extensive tour that kicks off January 26 in Wichita, Kansas, and continues across the U.S. through mid-July, including the March 31 performance in Van Wert.

The trek marks a significant milestone for the hard-working trio, who have been performing together since 2014.

“It feels really amazing to be going out on our first-ever headlining tour,” Devynn Hart explained. “God has truly had his hands on us and our careers. We are forever grateful for every opportunity.”

In 2021 Chapel Hart was inducted into CMT’s Next Women of Country, the institution that has been known to help up-and-coming female country artists such as Kelsea Ballerini, Ashley McBride, and Gabby Barrett, just to name a few.

This Mississippi trio’s music has reached fans around the globe earning them the title of “International Group of the Year” as well as “International Song of the Year” for the single “You Can Have Him Jolene” in Scotland. They were also nominated in multiple categories by the British CMAs including “Group of the Year” and “Album of the Year” for their sophomore release “The Girls Are Back In Town”.


POSTED: 12/02/22 at 11:23 pm. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent staff

Formal charges have been served in connection with a mid-November fire at Comfort Inn on N. Washington St. in Van Wert.

Van Wert County deputies served Christopher Aaron Tinsley Jr., 26, of Van Wert, with a warrant charging him with aggravated arson, a first degree felony, escape, a felony of the second degree and assault, a fourth degree felony. The warrant, which stemmed from a grand jury indictment, was served Thursday at the Van Wert County Correctional Facility.

Witnesses say Tinsley set a decorative bale of straw on fire in the lobby of Comfort Inn at approximately 3 a.m. Sunday, November 13. The fire was put out by an employee who confronted Tinsley. He left and was located by officers and while investigating the lobby fire, officers noticed the Comfort Inn’s shed was on fire (see pictures in a related story below). The Van Wert Fire Department was dispatched to extinguish the blaze.

After fighting with police officers and Van Wert County deputies, he was taken to jail.

POSTED: 12/02/22 at 11:21 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Carson Hunter (10) leads the break for Crestview in the first home game of the season. The Knights started fast and went on to beat Shawnee 68-55 on Friday. A game story can be found on the Sports page. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent

POSTED: 12/02/22 at 11:21 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Submitted information

The Van Wert Area Retired Teachers Association (VWARTA) will meet for a holiday luncheon and program at 12 p.m. Friday, December 9, at Willow Bend Country Club.

Holiday music will fill the air in the lovely dining room. The festive meal menu includes lasagna, tossed salad, dinner roll, rosy applesauce, and assorted cheesecakes, plus coffee and tea. The meal cost is $11 per person with a reservation requested by 6 p.m. Wednesday, December 7, to Jean Minnig at 419.203.0642, or via email,

Kevin Morrison and staff of the Van Wert County YMCA will speak on the new after school mentoring program to begin in 2023 as they continue the Y’s mission of assisting today’s youth with various life needs.

A business session will follow the speakers’ presentation. An election for new officers for 2023 will be held. VWARTA local dues for 2023 of $10 may also be paid at this meeting. Pension updates and STRS news will be shared. Invite other retired educators or persons interested in public education to join you for this holiday gathering.

For more information about the Van Wert Area Retired Teachers Association (VWARTA) or the Ohio Retired Teachers Association (ORTA), please contact VWARTA President Deb Kleinhenz at 419.203.2283.

POSTED: 12/02/22 at 11:20 pm. FILED UNDER: Lifestyles, News

SCOTT TRUXELL/independnt editor

Thursday night’s meeting of the Vantage Career Center Board of Education almost didn’t happen. Of the 12 board members, five were out due to illness, leaving just seven, the minimum needed for a quorum.

After the meeting got underway, the board approved a resolution for a new three-year contract for Superintendent Rick Turner. It begins with the start of the next school year, August 1, 2023 and runs through July 31, 2026.

Vantage Career Center Superintendent Rick Turner has a new three year contract that runs through July of 2026. Scott Truxell/Van Wert independent

Turner, a 1979 Crestview and Vantage graduate, was hired to replace then-retiring Superintendent Staci Kaufman in 2017, and earned a another three year contract in 2020. Prior to Vantage, Turner had spent 32 years at Apollo Career Center, including 11 as director of adult programs.

“I feel privileged to be able to lead the district for another three years,” Turner said after the meeting. “It’s a very effective district that does a lot of good things for high school and adult students. We have an amazing staff and to be able to lead them – I’m very excited about the next three years. I’m a full believer in the potential of Vantage Career Center and we will keep moving forward in a positive way.”

Board President Pat Baumle was complimentary of Turner and said he provides strong leadership and a firm understanding of vocational education.

“In Rick not only have we found that leadership but we found an alumnus with that leadership who really has a passion for career education and Vantage in particular,” Baumle said. “We feel blessed.”


POSTED: 12/02/22 at 4:42 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent staff/submitted information

It’s become a worldwide phenomenon — Giving Tuesday was celebrated this past Tuesday, November 29, across the globe and throughout the local community.

VWCF’s Laney Nofer, Renee Thatcher and Seth Baker were set up for Giving Tuesday donations. Photo submitted

The Van Wert County Foundation commemorated the day in a very special way by helping to boost endowed community organization funds. Those funds were established by community non-profit organizations so they may operate in perpetuity.

The Van Wert County Foundation celebrated giving by matching donations, up to $10,000 per fund, made to Van Wert County Foundation Charitable Organization Endowment Funds on Giving Tuesday. Individuals and businesses donated to one or multiple funds, essentially doubling the gift with the match. Those who gave to the Van Wert County Foundation’s Giving Tuesday initiative donated online and brought donations to the office.


POSTED: 12/02/22 at 4:40 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent staff/submitted information

The Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce held their 17th Annual Salute to Small Business Awards Thursday at Willow Bend Country Club.

The Edition won the Small Business of the Year award. Pictured from left to right are:Marcy Collins, Jim Collins, Melissa Williams and Kenzie Collins. Photo submitted

Schrader Realty won five of the nine various awards. Overall, the following businesses were recognized:

  • Emerging Business of the Year: Patriot Lawn Care
  • Charitable Non-Profit: The United Way of Van Wert County
  • Community Collaborator: Schrader Realty
  • Downtown Champion: Schrader Realty
  • The Woo (Winning Others Over): Schrader Realty
  • Community Youth Champion: Schrader Realty
  • Palate Pleaser: Collins Fine Foods
  • Women in Business: Schrader Realty
  • Small Business of the Year: The Edition

The Chamber thanked following sponsors for their investment in the Van Wert Chamber of Commerce and member businesses:

  • Premier Sponsors: Shultz Huber & Associates, and Citizens National Bank
  • Community Influencer Level: Central Insurance, Danfoss Corporation, Alliance Automation, Lightsource BP, Tenneco, Inc., and Van Wert Health. Community Collaborator Level, Eastside Sales & Service, TSC-Telecommunications Service and Community, Vantage Career Center and Van Wert Manor
  • Community Builder Level: Store & Haul, First Bank of Berne, Straley Realtors & Auctioneers, and Laudick’s Jewelry

POSTED: 12/02/22 at 4:40 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent staff

As part of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s ongoing efforts to make roadways safe, troopers will continue to focus on impaired driving this month and throughout the holiday season.

“When you drive impaired, you’re putting the lives of everyone on the road at risk,” Governor Mike DeWine said. “Plan ahead, make responsible decisions, and drive sober when heading out this season.”

Since 2019 there have been 49,785 impaired driving-related crashes on Ohio roadways, killing 2,497 people and injuring 30,280 others. Alcohol and drugs played a role in more than 50 percent of fatal crashes in Ohio. During that same period, troopers removed more than 71,000 impaired drivers from Ohio roadways.

The public is encouraged to call #677 to report reckless or impaired drivers, and drug activity.

POSTED: 12/02/22 at 4:39 am. FILED UNDER: News