Shiny new structures and charmingly renovated old ones. Running and biking trails and spiffed-up sidewalks. Restaurants and riverfront activities.
There are all kinds of positive images associated with Fort Wayne's revitalization. It starts not with buildings and projects, though, but with people and the visions they pursue of how the city can improve. Today we pause to take note of two of those public servants.
One is Community Development Director Greg Leatherman, who recently announced that he will be retiring April 12 after 20 years in city government. Leatherman has been in his post since 2013, when predecessor John Urbahns left to become executive vice president for economic development at Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
As The Journal Gazette's Dave Gong noted in a profile Sunday, “In one capacity or another, Leatherman was involved in many of the city's major development projects, including Parkview Field, the Harrison, the Courtyard by Marriott, Cityscape Flats, Skyline Plaza, Randall Lofts and riverfront development.”
Leatherman's private-sector experience in real estate and environmental remediation prepared him to be the city's point person on challenging efforts, including cleanup of the aftermath of a 1997 tire fire at the former Bowser Pump Plant. Using a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Leatherman helped turn a toxic industrial site into a place suitable for residential development – a key to the rebirth of the Hanna-Creighton Neighborhood. More recently, he was a key player in the city's controversial fight to acquire the North River property, where the OmniSource metals recycling company once operated. The wisdom of that acquisition is still debated, but Leatherman's experience with other projects makes him confident the cleanup there will go smoothly.
Earlier this month, another key leader in reimagining Fort Wayne, Pam Holo-cher, was recognized by the American Planning Association Indiana Chapter at a luncheon in Muncie. Holocher, who has worked for the city for four decades, has been director of planning and policy since 2004. She's played an important role in annexations over the years and helped develop both the Downtown Blueprint and the city-county comprehensive plan.
Holocher was awarded the association's Indiana Planning Sagamore.
Progress is not without controversy, and every project has to stand on its merits. But the dedication and hard work of people such as Leatherman and Holocher are a constant that has helped Fort Wayne move forward.