The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, May. 6, 2021

VWHS senior Elizabeth Rutkowski shares a laugh with her favorite teacher, Jeff Kallas, after reading a humorous anecdote from her time in his classroom during Wednesday’s 26th annual Van Wert City Endowment Fund for Educators’ teacher appreciation banquet. photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

For more than a quarter of a century, Van Wert High School seniors have been telling their favorite teachers how much they mean to them, thanks to VWHS grad and former school psychologist Randy Gardner’s wish to create a program dedicated to three teachers who were important to him.

Gardner’s vision of creating an endowment to give seniors a way to honor their favorite teachers was an attempt to thank three special teachers, Gil Smith, Glenn Livingston, and Ralph Gallapoo (his grandfather), for the positive impact they had on his life.

Gardner and his wife, Cindy, were again on hand for this year’s teacher appreciation banquet, held Wednesday evening at Willow Bend Country Club, where 10 seniors read letters about their favorite educators. This year’s seniors included the class’s top five students, as well as five other seniors specially selected to read their letters.

“As I was thinking about this year, and our community of teachers and educators,” Gardner said following dinner, ”I was just thinking that those three men would be so proud of the job that the educators in Van Wert city and Van Wert County did this year. 

“When other people worried about other things, our teachers put kids first and were right back in the classroom when they were able to,” he added. “That’s the kind of dedication and accountability you have in smaller communities.”


POSTED: 05/06/21 at 3:19 am

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

With the annual banquet again scrapped this year because of COVID-19, the Van Wert Service Club honored this year’s R.K. Thompson Self-Reliance Award finalists and announced the top winners during the club’s meeting Wednesday at Willow Bend Country Club.

Top winners for 2021 were Jamie Burenga, daughter of Thomas and Julie Burenga, and Peter McMaster, son of Matthew and Pamela McMaster.

Burenga, a senior at Van Wert High School, is involved in a number of school organizations and activities, including National Honor Society, Beta Club, Symphonic and Marching bands, and the girls’ tennis and swim teams. She is also a member of the First United Methodist Church youth group. R.K. Thompson finalists typically have jobs, and Burenga interned with The Kenn-Feld Group through VWHS’s Career Employment Opportunity (CEO) program, while also lifeguarding at the YMCA.

2021 R.K. Thompson Self-Reliance finalists and top winners include (seated, from the left) finalists Cole Gorman, Clayton Leeth, Jordan Hurless, and Killian Sudduth, and top boy winner Peter McMaster; (standing) finalist Sarah Thomas, top girl winner Jamie Burenga, and finalists Kassidy Ringwald, Elaina O’Neill, and Madison Langdon. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

YWCA Executive Director Kimberly Laudick, who is also a Service Club member and introduced the girl finalists, said Burenga’s definition of “self-reliance” is “creating opportunities for myself, being an agent for my education, and advocating for myself.”

Laudick noted that Burenga, who plans to major in chemical engineering and minor in either environmental engineering or sustainability at the University of Dayton, has also attended engineering camps during the summer because of her interest in a career in an engineering field.

Burenga’s teacher reference noted of her: “Jamie has a maturity surpassing most high school students. She has been a joy to have as a student. Jamie is often sought out as a team leader because of her work ethic, positive attitude, and perseverance to face the tough challenges.”

The other girl finalists were Lincolnview seniors Madison Langdon, Elaina O’Neill, and Kassidy Ringwald, and Crestview senior Sarah Thomas.

McMaster is a senior at Lincolnview and is a member of the school basketball team, National Honor Society, Scholastic Bowl team, is Beta Club and Science Club president, a team captain of Science Olympiad, and is also founder and president of the school Math Club.


POSTED: 05/06/21 at 1:34 am. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Three people were sentenced, and four people entered changes of plea during criminal hearings held this past week in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court.

Noah Johnson, 32, of Elida, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, with credit for one day already served, on a charge of attempted gross sexual imposition, a felony of the fifth degree. Johnson was also classified as a Tier 1 sex offender and will have to register every year for the next 15 years.

Amy Blatteau, 43, of Van Wert, was sentenced to one year of community control, to include 60 days in jail, beginning June 6, on a charge of operating a vehicle while impaired, a misdemeanor of the first degree. After serving 15 days in jail, Blatteau may opt for electronically monitored house arrest for the remaining 44 days of her jail term. She must also undergo a substance abuse assessment and any treatment recommended, her driver’s license was suspended for four years, effective November 19, 2020, and she was fined $850.

Devante Edwards, 27, of Van Wert, was sentenced to two years of community control, including 50 hours of community service, on a charge of theft, a misdemeanor of the first degree. Edwards must also undergo mental health and substance abuse assessments and any treatment recommended ad pay $1,780 in restitution to the local Walmart store.

Zachariah Germann, 33 of Van Wert, was sentenced to 15 months in prison after changing his plea to guilty to one count of domestic violence, a felony of the fourth degree. Judge Martin D. Burchfield gave Germann credit for 122 days served.

Mackenzie Shepherd, 20, of Van Wert, changed her plea to guilty to an amended charge of theft, a misdemeanor of the first degree. She was then sentenced to two years of community control, including 52 hours of community service, mental health and substance abuse assessments and any treatment recommended, and must pay restitution in the amount of $20 to Vancrest Assisted Living.


POSTED: 05/06/21 at 1:16 am. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

A dearth of local issues and just two Van Wert City Council primary races led to a record, or near record voter turnout, as well as a quick night for the Van Wert County Board of Elections ballot counters.

Out of a registered county voter base of 20,132 people, 5,722 of those registered as Republicans, a total of just 1,214 people voted in the primary election. Of those, 626 were Republican and 588 voted a non-partisan ballot.

Both Van Wert County Council on Aging replacement tax levies passed by overwhelming margins, with the .25-mill, five-year levy passing 1,085-116 and the .20-mill, five-year levy passing 1,077-114. Both levies received just over 90 percent of the ballots cast

The replacement levies, when revenues start coming in, will provide funding for the Council on Aging, as well as some funding for Delphos Senior Citizens to provide transportation and many other services to senior citizens living in Van Wert County.

The replacement levies were needed to restore millages to their original levels.

A portion of the county in the Willshire area also voted on a renewal levy for Parkway Local Schools, with 10 voters in favor of the levy and 6 voters against it. Mercer County voters will decide the ultimate fate of the levy.


POSTED: 05/04/21 at 8:38 pm. FILED UNDER: News

The Van Wert County Board of Commissioners have proclaimed Thursday as National Day of Prayer in the county. The Van Wert County Ministerial Association, as well as the county commissioners, invite area residents to attend a prayer gathering in front of the County Courthouse at noon on the National Day of Prayer: Thursday, May 6. Shown are (from the left) Commissioner Thad Lichtensteiger, Commissioner Stan Owens, Pastor Chris Farmer, Pastor David To, Paul Hoverman, and Commissioner Todd Wolfrum. photo provided

POSTED: 05/04/21 at 8:33 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Staff and submitted information

CONVOY — Crestview High School was named one of America’s Best High Schools by U.S. News & World Report, ranking 55th among Ohio high schools, 1,770th nationally, and first in Van Wert County.

Ranked 55th in Ohio by U.S. News & World Report, Crestview High School credits the community, along with the hard work of the students, parents, teachers, and staff, with its success. Crestview photo

“It is exciting for our school system, and specifically, Crestview High School, to receive this notoriety,” said CHS Principal Dave Bowen. “However, it takes a community to raise a child and assist in his or her finding success. We thank our students, our parents, our staff, and teachers, and, again, our community for the investment and the pride that they have in our school.” 

The publication uses criteria gathered from state tests compared to other schools within the same state, looks for above average performance of economically disadvantaged students on state tests, and factors in graduation rates along with college-readiness performance. Other notable rankings for Crestview included a tie for first on graduation rate, which was at 100 percent, and 12th in the state on math and reading performance rank.

POSTED: 05/04/21 at 8:32 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Student Ambassadors from Vantage Career Center recently collaborated with the YWCA of Van Wert County to bring awareness of sexual assault through Denim Day. Vantage Ambassadors decorated jeans with images and words of awareness of sexual assault and support for survivors. They also held a Denim Day fundraiser, where students could wear jeans instead of their uniforms by paying $1, that raised more than $500. The money raised will benefit survivors at the YWCA. Shown are (from the left) Vantage Ambassadors Read Warnement (Continental) and Megan Schnipke (Ottoville), YWCA Outreach Coordinator Julie Schaufelberger, YWCA Director of Victim Services Jamie Evans and Ambassadors Adriana Myers (Van Wert) and Bryce Recker (Continental). YWCA photo

POSTED: 05/04/21 at 8:31 pm. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Tuesday, May 4, is Primary Election Day in Ohio this year. Ballot issues are slim this year, with two Van Wert City Council primary races and two replacement levies sought by the Van Wert County Council on Aging. Republican voters will decide both City Council primary races, as the only Democrats running are unopposed in the primary.

Heading the City Council races is a two-person race for the president of Council position now held by Jon Tomlinson, who is not running for re-election. Both of the candidates seeking to replace Tomlinson have previous political experience.

Kirby Kelly, served two terms on City Council in the last decade, while the other candidate, Jerry Mazur, is a former City Council member, Council president, and mayor.

Both are hoping to provide leadership as Council president, a position that is similar to being U.S. Senate president. Both positions include presiding over their respective legislative bodies and neither position has a vote other than to avoid deadlocks with tie-breaking votes.

In addition to Council president, there is a four-way race for the three at-large seats on City Council.

Those seeking the Republican nomination for an at-large Council seat include two incumbents, Bill Marshall and Jeffrey Kallas (the other incumbent, Joel Penton, is not seeking re-election).


POSTED: 05/03/21 at 11:42 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Staff and submitted information

COLUMBUS — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted provided the following updates Monday on Ohio’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Long-term care/nursing facility testing order
Governor DeWine announced on Monday that a new Ohio Department of Health order will exempt fully vaccinated staff in nursing homes and assisted living facilities from routine testing. Staff members who are not fully vaccinated will be required to be tested twice a week. 

Mike DeWine

An individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Homebound vaccination plan
The Ohio Department of Aging and Ohio Department of Health have developed a homebound vaccination playbook for organizations working to ensure homebound individuals have access to the vaccine. By utilizing existing Rapid Response Teams, Ohio can deliver the vaccine where it is needed. 

That playbook is available on the coronavirus website at If you are a homebound individual or know a homebound individual who would like a vaccine, please contact the Area Agency on Aging at 1-866-243-5678.

In-Demand Jobs Week
Lt. Governor Husted provided remarks from the Southern Hills Career and Technical Center in Georgetown where he was visiting for a signing day as part of In-Demand Jobs Week.

The Lt. Governor, who also serves as Director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, made various stops in and around the Cincinnati region today in recognition of In-Demand Jobs Week. The visits worked to promote the state’s efforts to champion career, technical, and vocational education while highlighting both in-demand and critical jobs.

Follow along throughout In-Demand Jobs Week on social media at #InDemandOhio.

Case data/vaccine information
In-depth COVID-19 data for Ohio:
Ohio’s central scheduling system:
Ohio mass vaccination information:
All vaccine providers:
More vaccine information:

For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, visit or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

POSTED: 05/03/21 at 11:30 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Staff and submitted information

Van Wert Health has announced an initiative to administer sports physicals for local student athletes who attend four schools in the surrounding area. In order to play school sports, all student athletes are required by state law to receive an annual physical each academic year for health and safety reasons.   

“Our primary concern is the safety of our student athletes in any sport they play,” said hospital Director of Rehabilitation Natalie Koester. “The convenience of offering sports physicals in a familiar setting is helpful to our student athletes and families alike.”  

The following dates and times have been set for sports physicals:

  • Van Wert City Schools — Wednesday, May 12, from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
  • Ottoville Local Schools — Friday, May 14, from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
  • Lincolnview Local Schools — Tuesday, May 25, from noon-5 p.m.
  • Crestview Local Schools — Thursday, June 3, from 8:30 a.m.-noon.

All physicals will take place at the respective high school for a reduced fee of $10 each. Each physical will be administered by a certified health provider, and schools will ensure there is privacy for students during each physical examination. Each student athlete who plans on receiving a physical must bring a completed Preparticipation Physical Evaluation form.  

Students who are unable to attend a sports physical at their respective school may make an appointment with any Van Wert Health primary care physician or advanced nurse practitioner for a sports physical, or may go to the Van Wert North walk-in clinic (no appointment needed) for a reduced fee of $25 between May 1-July 31. 

More information and a link to the Preparticipation Physical Evaluation form is available at:

POSTED: 05/03/21 at 11:25 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Staff and submitted information

Van Wert Civic Theatre announces the return of live theatre as Last Tango in Little Grimley opens Friday, May 7, for a six-performance run.  

VWCT actors (from the left) Travis Nihiser, Emily Gehle (seated), Amy McConn, and Doug Grooms rehearse a scene for Last Tango in Little Grimley. VWCT photo

This 45-minute comedic romp features four VWCT actors portraying members of a local dramatic society. Actually, they are the only four members left. If this group is to survive, it must take drastic action. How will the members sell enough tickets to stay afloat and pay off some debts? Sex . . . or rather the promise of a sizzling, sexy show. They predict their scheme will work. But will it?

Stan Lippi is the director of this fast-paced, hilarious play, while cast members include Doug Grooms as Gordon, Travis Nihiser as Bernard, Emily Gehle as Joyce, and Amy McConn as Margaret.  Performances are set for May 7, 8, 14, and 15 at 8 p.m., and May 9 and 16 at 2 p.m.  This show will be one act of silliness and laughter — no seriousness in this play. 

Reservations can be made, and paid for, at Those interested in attending can also call the box office at 419.238.9689. All tickets are $16 and must be paid for at time of reservation. Live box office volunteers will be available on the phone from 2 – 6 p.m. on weekdays and one hour prior to performance time.  Please make one reservation for those you want to sit with.  Seating will be assigned by the Box Office manager to allow for distancing. 

Make reservations soon, as theater seating capacity is limited.  VWCT thanks people in advance for their support and reminds everyone that a mask is required to attend the performance.  

For more details about the show and our COVID safety measures, visit the VWCT website above.  

Van Wert Civic Theatre is located at 118 S. Race St. in Van Wert.   

POSTED: 05/03/21 at 6:53 am. FILED UNDER: News