It’s people who make Northwest Indiana special.
Those who came in the early days shaped a region built strong on steel and oil.
Today, the mainstays of the past hold up as a foundation for the future.
But it is today’s leaders who are actively building a better community.
When I think of leadership here, there are many time-tested names that come to mind.
Bill Wellman, the consummate promoter, is among them. At age 88, Bill is still wired to many local organizations and causes.
Whether offering sage advice as a board member of the Northwest Indiana Forum or promoting his latest venture as a restaurateur, Bill has become a wise fixture among the region’s leadership.
What about Cal Bellamy, the retired bank president, who boasts a schedule that would challenge the most active professional? From the Hammond Education Foundation to the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission and a great deal more, Cal provides valuable guidance throughout the region based on a lifetime of experience.
In government, Charlie Brown, the state representative from Gary, continues the fight for a healthier region. He successfully pushed for a ban on public smoking. He is now fighting for a new teaching hospital in Gary with a much-needed regional trauma center.
And at the community level there are people like Marty Wheeler, president of the Lake Court House Foundation. Her energy is contagious and has inspired many to help raise money to restore and maintain the “graceful lady on Crown Point’s square.”
I could go on and on with a lengthy list of names of those who make up Northwest Indiana’s leadership. Each in their own unique way makes a valuable contribution.
But someone said to me a week ago, “Who will be leaders for the next generation? We don’t seem to have anyone coming forward.”
Well, I am glad to say that’s wrong. We have a host of future leaders in development.
Formally, the Leadership Northwest Indiana program is breeding leaders, but there are many who are emerging as stars in their respective fields who will help fuel a bright future for the region.
All you need do is review those selected by BusINess Magazine for its annual “20 under 40” edition.
A good example is Kasandra Tenbarge. She is a leader at Purdue University Calumet’s Water Institute. Kasandra, in her 30s, says in the magazine, “We focus on cutting-edge technologies that I know will allow me to speak to various important audiences about how we can continue to protect the health of Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes.”
Bill Hanna, president and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, is helping bring major, game-changing projects to life. Formerly Valparaiso’s youngest mayoral chief of staff, he told the magazine, “I’m very proud of the fact we are a part of something that builds things – tangible results.”
Launched in 2011, the GrowNWI initiative has taken root with community gardens springing up across Northwest Indiana. It’s all because Ryan Richardson, vice president of operations at County Line Orchard in Hobart, decided people needed to get their hands dirty.
“Connecting with one’s food is the cornerstone of beginning a healthy lifestyle,” he said. And so produce from the GrowNWI gardens can be used by the sponsoring organization, donated or sold as a source of revenue.
My point: Just as the list of current leaders is long, so, too, is the list of emerging leaders.
I believe the thread of leadership in Northwest Indiana is being woven by those who aspire to achieve dreams and do good work.
To be sure, they are among the young.
But as in the past and evidenced today, it is the people who live, work and play here that make Northwest Indiana special.
My wish is that it may ever be so.