Thursday, December 31st, 2015
Two Fort leaders end decades of service
By William Kincaid
FORT RECOVERY - Two long-entrenched village leaders who together dedicated nearly half a century of public service leave office today.
Fort Recovery councilman Rod Thobe and mayor Roger Broerman oversaw major infrastructure projects and industrial growth, and helped shape the town, village administrator Randy Diller said.
"Both of them have had to deal with situations that weren't always easy to handle but they really tried to do what they felt was in the best interest of the people of Fort Recovery," he said. "They didn't always have total agreement by everyone on their stance, but they certainly were willing to listen and try to understand both sides of every issue and made their decision based on this input."
Thobe, 67, who joined council in 1980 and was president for 24 of his 36 years of service, reflected on the village's growth.
"It's been nice to see how things have progressed - the parks system, the streets and the sidewalks, over the years, gradually," he said. "We've been very fortunate here because of getting our infrastructure and keeping infrastructure in good shape, be it streets or sidewalks or water system or sewer system."
Broerman, 65, who has been involved in the village government for 16 years and spent the last 12 years as mayor, also spoke of the town's progress.
"Anything that you'd want in a small town I feel that we have here to offer," Broerman said. "We have a grocery store. We've got banks. We've got everything here that you really don't have to go out of town to do too much."
A lot has happened since Thobe's first day in office.
"We didn't have a pool, we didn't have the industrial park," he said.
Until 1984, when council approved a 1 percent income tax, officials relied mostly on state funds and property taxes. The income tax created opportunities to make improvements, Thobe said.
"I remember the one year our entire budget for all the streets was like $19,000, which wasn't going to get you very far," he said.
Current street projects now cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Another critical development for the village was the industrial park on the south edge of town.
"It took awhile to get it going because initially we weren't really educated on what it took," Thobe said. "But it's worked out real well. We haven't got any big outside companies. Most of them have been local people either started companies or expanded companies so they're people more attuned to this area."
Thobe also recalled the extensive flooding in the early 1990s.
"We had three 100-year floods in six years," he said.
Thobe, a professional photographer at the time, took flood damage pictures that residents and business owners used to recoup financial losses from the state and insurance companies.
"I liked history, so I knew this was history happening," he said. "So I went out and I just started taking pictures of every place."
In 1998, using Federal Emergency Management Agency money, Fort Recovery officials completed a $1.5 million relocation of two apartment houses, the town's fire department and more than 20 other buildings to higher ground.
Broerman was asked in 2000 to fill an open council seat. Like Thobe, he acknowledged the importance of the industrial park.
"We've got a lot of good-paying jobs and I think people take pride in working here in Fort Recovery," he said. "There's nothing better (than) to grow up in your town and after you graduate have the opportunity to stay in the town and work right in town."
Thobe and Broerman agreed that listening to people and looking at issues from multiple angles were their preferred style of governance.
"But in the end you try to make a decision (that's) best for the town because that's why you're in here for," Thobe said. "And, unfortunately, any decision you make, no matter what it is, there's somebody that doesn't agree with you or it's going to maybe affect one person more than another. You can't help that. But you try to do it as fair as possible but at the same time you do the best for the town."
Broerman echoed the thought.
"Maybe we didn't always agree on the decisions but we always supported each other and that's what you have to do," he said. "Listening to the citizens is a big part. What do they think? Because what we're doing is we're working for the citizens, the council members, the mayor, the village administrator - everybody here is working for the people."
The jobs require a thick skin to endure criticism and opposition, they said.
"Rod faced many controversial issues during his tenure but always handled them with poise, professionalism and fairness while trying to make the best decision for the entire community," Diller said.
Thobe, a 1966 graduate of Fort Recovery High School, owned a grocery store/carry out and worked as an electrician at Portland Forge for 40 years. He also served on the village fire department for 14 years. He and his wife, Linda, have three grown children.
In his youth he peeled potatoes, made pizzas and washed dishes in his parents's eatery, Thobe's Restaurant, where Kaup Pharmacy now operates on Wayne Street. He also pumped gas and changed oil at his brother's filling station, now a vacant lot west of the Shell gas station.
Except for a three-year stint during the Vietnam War aboard an aircraft carrier, Thobe spent most of his life in Fort Recovery.
"I was always interested in government. Even in school I liked government, not particularly politics," he said.
Broerman, a 1968 graduate of Versailles High School, and his wife, Kathy, owned The Stable in Maria Stein and then the St. Henry Nite Club, and later Miracle Lanes bowling alley in Fort Recovery. Broerman finished his career as a salesman for NuWave Technology in Coldwater from 1999 to 2014. He and his wife have two grown children.
Broerman will be succeeded by councilman Dave Kaup, who ran unopposed for mayor in the November general election. Council members will have 30 days after today to appoint a replacement for the two years remaining on Thobe's term. If they do not appoint a replacement, the mayor would be able to appoint someone to fill the vacancy.