Newsmakers 2013: A year in reviewWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s something about the minutes ticking down on New Year’s Eve, heralding the start of another calendar year, that prompts reflection.
Anyone on social media probably found their Dec. 31 feeds full of year-in-review posts as friends looked back on 2013’s graduations, weddings, babies, new jobs and other personal milestones while also looking ahead with hope and well-wishes for 2014.
At the end of each year, Toledo Free Press editors also look back on some of the year’s biggest news stories.
Perhaps the biggest newsmaker of the year was also the smallest. Baby Elaina Steinfurth dominated local headlines for months, even drawing national attention, as law enforcement officers joined by hundreds of volunteers spent months searching for the East Toledo toddler reported missing in June. When her remains were discovered in the rafters of a detached garage in September, the community’s heart collectively broke. In December, her mother and mother’s ex-boyfriend pleaded guilty to murder and began serving life sentences.
Brian Hoeflinger was another young life cut short too soon. The 18-year-old honor student was killed in a drunken driving accident on Feb. 2. His parents, Brian and Cindy Hoeflinger, almost immediately embarked on a campaign to raise awareness of underage drinking. His father has written a book and the couple started an organization, Brian Matters, hoping to prevent more accidents like the one that cost their son his life.
Yet more heartache came in March as 20-year-old Kaitlin Gerber was shot and killed by ex-boyfriend Jashua Perz, one of the city’s 31 homicides of 2013 and one that raised awareness of how domestic violence protection orders can fall short.
But it wasn’t all heartbreak.
Many of our newsmakers are people who generate that certain buzz. Who have that spark, that vision, that infectious energy or quiet strength that inspires those around them to new heights.
Collins, a Toledo City Councilman and retired Toledo police officer, surprised many people when he jumped ahead of Councilman Joe McNamara and Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez to nab the second spot in the mayoral primary behind incumbent Mayor Mike Bell. He surprised even more when he defeated Bell by a wide margin in the general election.
Durant hit the ground running after being named interim superintendent of Toledo Public Schools (TPS) in April. A TPS graduate and veteran TPS teacher and administrator, his energy, drive and enthusiasm immediately set a more positive tone for the district. Many credit him with sparking enough confidence in voters to finally pass a levy for TPS. In December, he was rewarded with a four-year contract extension.
Melden has been leading with a creative vision since taking the helm of local nonprofit Food for Thought in 2011. Events like Jam City and Food Fight 419 generated new excitement and awareness as well as thousands of dollars toward helping Toledo’s food-insecure families. Even Melden’s preferred title — chief thought officer instead of executive director — reflects his outside-the-box thinking. In the past year, the organization has nearly doubled its mobile sites and established partnerships with Glass Wear, Actual Coffee and the Toledo Farmers’ Market.
Lucas also had a big year. In January, the local entrepreneur launched education startup Classana and in September, organized the second annual sold-out TEDxToledo.
Nationally-renowned portrait artist Adams has been quietly making a name for herself in the art world. The work she creates in her Huron Street studio has been displayed at the Toledo Museum of Art and Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Her latest was recently installed at the Ohio Statehouse.
Small-business owner Sandy Spang burst onto the political scene in a big way, earning a spot on Toledo City Council after placing third in both the primary and general election.
Former Mayor Bell’s trip to Germany in April and the news that a trio of local investors was interested in privatizing operation of the area’s two airports were met with both applause and derision.
Lexi Staples, executive director of the Pride of Toledo Foundation, has helped grow Toledo Pride from 2,500 attendees in 2010 to upwards of 13,000 this summer. She also helped spearhead the opening of Pride Center 419, a community center geared toward the needs of Toledo’s LGBT community.
The War of 1812 bicentennial led to a series of historical events, including a full-scale re-enactment of the Battle of Lake Erie in September.
In the sports realm, the Mud Hens unveiled plans for a multimillion-dollar Downtown renovation project around Fifth Third Field and announced Larry Parrish would return as manager. The announcement that Toledo native Jamie Farr was stepping down from hosting the annual LPGA tournament that has borne his name since 1984 marked the end of an era. Marathon Petroleum took over as title sponsor. Central Catholic’s star quarterback DeShone Kizer announced he will head to Notre Dame this fall, a decision he and his family made for both athletic and academic reasons.
Many neighborhoods gained bright splashes of color as the Organization of Latino Artists and Toledo Free Press contributor Rachel Richardson of Art Corner Toledo helped organize several new murals now dotting the South End and Downtown. Arts lovers and historians alike smiled as the long-shuttered Ohio Theatre reopened.
Other notable events included the last live harness race at Toledo’s Raceway Park, a sinkhole that swallowed a car and Cedar Point’s newest roller coaster GateKeeper, built by Ohio companies.
Toledo Free Press also covered many of the community’s “unsung” newsmakers, among them Craig Schuele, who is raising six adopted kids; Mark Greenblatt, who lost 150 pounds during his weight-loss journey; and all the servicemen and women featured in our annual Fourth of July military yearbook.
Another could be Toledo Free Press columnist Jeremy Baumhower, who had a busy year brainstorming various charity events, including Team 8, a kids’ race in honor of the Boston Marathon bombing victims, and This is Me, a fundraiser for Girls on the Run of Northwest Ohio featuring portraits of local women sans makeup.
Just last month, Toledo celebrated the 100th anniversary of the slogan “You Will Do Better in Toledo.” We agree. For the fifth year in a row, Toledo Free Press was named best weekly newspaper in its 75,000-plus circulation class by the Ohio chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, an honor we aim to defend as best we can moving forward.
Here’s to a new year. Thank you for joining us in 2013, and we look forward to seeing what 2014 has in store.
Sarah Ottney is managing editor of Toledo Free Press. Contact her at email@example.com.
Tags: Baby Elaina, Brian Hoeflinger, D. Michael Collins, DeShone Kizer, Elaina Steinfurth, Jamie Farr, Jashua Perz, Jeremy Baumhower, Kaitlin Gerber, Leslie Adams, Lexi Staples, Managing Editor's Statement, Marathon Classic, Newsmakers 2013, Organization of Latino Artists, Rachel Richardson, Romules Durant, Sam Melden, Sandy Spang, Sarah Ottney, Will Lucas, year in review