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February 5, 2016

Whitley County Circuit Court Judge's race heats up with Hockemeyer, Rentschler

Douglas Fahl is unopposed in Superior Court Judge's race

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

The Whitley County Circuit Court Judge's race has heated up -- with two candidates filing for the May Republican Primary Election.
Currently the Whitley County Prosecutor, Matthew Rentschler declared his candidacy for the seat in January.
On Wednesday, Columbia City attorney Greggory Hockemeyer filed the necessary paperwork with the state to join the race.
Rentschler and Hockemeyer will square off in the Republican primary on May 3, 2016.
Whitley County Superior Court Judge Douglas Fahl will be unopposed in the Republican primary as he seeks to retain his seat.

Chamber Ambassadors celebrate new business

(Talk of the Town photo by Jennifer Zartman Romano)
An entourage of business owners, business leaders and non-profit representatives could be seen walking through downtown Columbia City, above, this morning in celebration of yet another new business venture launching locally. Called the Whitley County Chamber Ambassadors, the team is comprised of local Chamber members who are among the first to celebrate new or expanding businesses in the community. This week alone, the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce celebrated the opening of three businesses with ribbon cutting ceremonies. Above, from left, are Chamber Ambassadors Scott Tyree, Don Mockler and Jay MacIntosh.

The Urban Skillet throws down the spatula in The Center Cookoff

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

Always an evening of culinary surprises, four local businesses will compete for plaques and, probably more importantly, bragging rights at The Center for Whitley County Youth's 2016 The Center Cookoff.
Held the evening of April 14, the event will be held at First Church of God in Columbia City. Three of last year's competitors will return joined by newcomer The Urban Station. Owned by Kristin Spangle, The Urban Station is located in downtown Columbia City at the corner of North Main Street and Jackson Street, serving up an ever evolving menu of soups, sandwiches, wraps, Asian-inspired dishes and items less often seen locally such as pho and sushi.
The Urban Station will compete against returning teams from Jill Daniel Menu & Party Consulting, Bruno's BBQ and Catering and Ceruti's at Eagle Glen Event Center.
The annual The Center Cookoff is now in it's ninth year, with the second year of their professional level competition. Proceeds from the annual event support The Center for Whitley County Youth's programming to support at-risk youth in the community.

Additional information about this annual event, including seating details, will be posted as soon as it is available on Talk of the Town.

Community Voices

On Community Voices, our local Edward Jones Investment advisor Don Mockler addresses concerns about how the presidential election may impact investments. Click here to read it.

Constituents gather with questions, concerns at Whitley County Chamber's annual Legislative Forum


Republican showdown for District 3 county commissioner's seat

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

As the hours ticked closer to noon on Friday, another candidate joined the race for Whitley County Commissioner in District 3.
Phillip Valjack filed for candidacy to challenge incumbent commissioner Don Amber for the District 3 seat in the May Republican Primary.
District 3 is comprised of Smith, Union and Jefferson Townships. Amber is a resident of Smith Township. Valjack is a resident of Union Township. The winner of the May Republican Primary Election may face a yet-unknown Democratic challenger for the November General Election.
In District 1, Tom Western remains unchallenged in the May primary. Current commissioner Tom Rethlake is not seeking re-election.

Seven challengers rally for at-large seats on Whitley County Council

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

By the noon filing deadline on Friday, a total of seven Whitley County residents declared their candidacy for one of three Whitley County Council at-large seats in the May Republican primary Primary Election.
Candidates include newcomers James Argerbright, Chad Banks, Matt Boyd, Ronald Glassley and Thor Hodges as well as incumbents Bill Overdeer and Paula Reimers.

Eighteen candidates file for State Convention

From reports

A total of 18 candidates filed for one of 13 spots on the roster of Whitley County's Republican delegates to the State Convention.
Candidates will include Jim Banks, Matt Boyd, Ryan Daniel, Judith Earnhart, Richard (Dick) Goodwin, Neil Hanni, Laurell Hodges, Larry Long, Jon Myers, Mark Roach, Jana Schinbeckler, Terry L. Smith, Justin Stinson, Joan Western, Jennifer Zartman Romano, Debra Zawlocki, Linda Zimmerman and Max Zimmerman Jr.

Horizon Bancorp and Kosciusko Financial, Inc. announce signing of a merger agreement

Article provided

Horizon Bancorp (NASDAQ GS: HBNC, "Horizon") and Kosciusko Financial, Inc. (Privately Held "Kosciusko"), today announced they have executed a definitive agreement whereby Horizon will acquire Kosciusko and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Farmers State Bank, an Indiana state chartered bank, through a stock and cash merger. 
Under the terms of the merger agreement, shareholders of Kosciusko will have the option to receive $81.75 per share in cash or 3.0122 shares of Horizon common stock for each share of Kosciusko's common stock or a combination thereof, provided the overall shares exchanged consist of 65% stock and 35% cash. Based upon the February 3, 2016, closing price of $23.99 per share of Horizon common stock, the transaction has an implied valuation of approximately $22.5 million.
Established in 1892 and headquartered in Mentone, Indiana, Kosciusko, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Farmers State Bank, serves northeastIndiana with five full-service banking locations.  As of December 31, 2015, Kosciusko had total assets of approximately $148.2 million and total equity of $16.5 million, translating to an equity to asset ratio of 11.1%.
Horizon Bancorp is a community bank holding company headquartered in Michigan City, Indiana with total assets of $2.7 billion as of December 31, 2015.  Horizon Bancorp's wholly-owned subsidiary, Horizon Bank, NA ("Horizon Bank"), still operates under its original charter, dating back to 1873, with forty-six offices extending throughout northern and central Indiana and southwestern and central Michigan.
"We are enthusiastic about this merger, as it is consistent with Horizon's philosophy of partnering with banks that hold core values similar to ours and a commitment to serving their local communities," said Horizon's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Craig M. Dwight.  "Farmers State Bank was founded with the goal of People First Banking, which complements Horizon's value of customers being our #1 focus.  Horizon will add value to Farmers State Bank's customer base through our customer service guarantees, extensive product menu and on-line banking services.  In addition, Farmers State Bank's agricultural, business banking and mortgage lending services align well with Horizon's primary revenue streams.  We believe our complementary product offerings and commitment to engaging the local community is a winning combination for our shareholders, employees, customers and the community at large."
Dwight further explained that the Kosciuskomerger provides an excellent complement to Horizon's existing branch locations in the vibrant northeast Indiana market. "We believe increasing our presence in this region will provide Horizon with substantial growth opportunities and the ability to attract and retain seasoned bankers, which are key components to our future success," Dwight commented.
"Farmers State Bank's experienced team of community bankers, with a shared philosophy of providing exceptional customer service and commitment to the community, will enhance Horizon's franchise value," continued Dwight.  Horizon has a track record of establishing local advisory boards to maintain the pulse of the local community.  Dwight indicated that such an advisory board will be established for Kosciusko County following the merger.
Greg Maxwell, President and Chief Executive Officer of Farmers State Bank stated, "We are pleased with the opportunity to partner with the Horizon Bank family and the increased opportunities this provides our customers, employees and the communities we serve.  Horizon's demonstrated commitment to preserve true community banking, which means local decision-making, retention of local staff, commitment to community involvement, and personal one-on-one service, will be keys to our joint and future success." 
The transaction is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2016, subject to approval by bank regulatory authorities and the shareholders of Kosciusko, as well as the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions. Farmers State Bank will be merged into Horizon Bank, and the combined operations will be continued under the Horizon Bank name.
Horizon Bancorp was advised by Raymond James & Associates, Inc. and the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg, LLP.  Kosciusko was advised by Austin Associates, LLC and the law firms of Rockhill Pinnick LLP and Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP.

February 4, 2016

Ashten Barnes signs on to play football for Marian University in the fall


Considering a run for Commissioner? Deadline to file for May Republican Primary is Friday at noon

From reports

If you've been tossing around the idea of running for Whitley County Commissioner or seeking one of the other open seats in the upcoming May Republican Primary election, your hours to act are passing quickly.
All candidates wanting their names on the ballot in May will need to file by noon this Friday, February 5, in the Whitley County Election Office, located in Room 18 of the Whitley County Courthouse. The courthouse will be open until 4:30 p.m. today.
Individuals interested in filing to run as a candidate for Commissioner in District 1 must live in Cleveland, Richland or Etna-Troy Townships. Those interested in filing for candidacy in Commissioner District 3 must live in Jefferson, Smith or Union Townships. Thus far, Whitley County councilman Thomas Western has filed for District 1 Commissioner and incumbent Don Amber has filed for re-election as District 3 Commissioner.
Three County Council members will be selected from a sea of candidates, including James Argerbright, Chad Banks, Ronald L Glassley, Thor A Hodges, Bill Overdeer and Paula Reimers, who have filed as of this morning. Rumors circulate that other candidates may be considering a run in this race as well.
The County Treasurer's race has two candidates, including incumbent Laurell Hodges and Steven Hively.
Only one candidate has filed for the Coroner's race, Frederick R. (Randy) Dellinger.
As of this morning, no candidates have filed to run as County Surveyor.

Quest for Republican precinct committee seats heats up with contested races

From reports

The increasingly important role of precinct committeemen in determining office holders seems to have sparked some excitement in the local Republican primary this spring.
Many precinct committee seats are contested as candidates continue to file the necessary paperwork to appear on the ballot in May.
Candidates who have filed thus far include:
Cleveland Northeast - Wayne T (Tom) Crowder & Jorell T Tucker
Cleveland Northwest - Judith Earnhart
Cleveland South - Laurell E Hodges
Columbia Northeast - Matt Boyd
Columbia South - Joseph L Simon & Jason Spencer
Columbia 2 - Beth E Glassley
Columbia 3 - Debbie Fairchild
Columbia 4 - Ryan L Daniel & Lisa A Richmond
Columbia 5 - Donald W Langeloh
Columbia 6 - Rosemary Brown
Columbia 7 - Jennifer Zartman Romano
Columbia 8 - Michael R Engle & Mary Ann McClusky
Etna - Chad Banks
Troy - David Heckman & Joan E Western
Jefferson East - Chad A Nix
Jefferson West - Joan K Null
Richland North - Cory Patrick & Mark A Zumbrun
Richland South - Eddie D Myers & Lisa Rossiter
Smith East - Carole Jacquay
Smith Northeast - Neil Hanni
Smith South - John M Barrett & Ron McNeal
Smith West - Marcus (Marc) E Gatton & Linda Zimmerman
Thorncreek North - Paul Zilz
Thorncreek Northeast - Paula Reimers
Thorncreek Northwest - Lee Baatz
Thorncreek South - Jon Myers & Justin Stinson
Union Columbia City - Jim Banks
Union East - Brandon C Forrester
Union West - Roger Metzger
Washington North - Levi R Knach
Washington South - Jeff Ott
Several precincts do not currently have candidates, including Smith Northwest, Columbia 1 and Columbia Northwest.
Candidates have until noon on Friday, February 5 to file the necessary paperwork to appear on the ballot for the May Republican Primary election.

Candidates file for State Convention delegate seats

From reports

As of this morning, the following individuals have filed to become delegates to the State Republican Convention:
Jim Banks
Matt Boyd
Ryan L Daniel
Judith Earnhart
Richard (Dick) Goodwin
Neil Hanni
Laurell E. Hodges
Larry Long
Jon Myers
Terry L Smith
Justin Stinson
Joan E Western
Linda Zimmerman
Max E Zimmerman Jr
Thus far, only one Democratic candidate has filed to be a State Convention delegate -- Madalyn Sade-Bartl of Churubusco.

Schools delay and close, accidents reported following slick morning commute

From reports

Whitley County awoke to slick, ice covered roads in northern townships this morning. Several vehicle accidents in northern Whitley County have had emergency crews busy all morning, including a multi-vehicle accident, a rollover accident and a vehicle reportedly crashing into a machine shed.
In response to the icy roads, local schools have made changes to their schedules today.
The following schools are on two hour delay schedules:
- Smith-Green Community Schools
The following schools are closed for the day:
- Whitley County Consolidated Schools
- Faith Christian Academy

Culvert repair causing closure of 300 North between 550 East and 650 East

From reports

According to county officials, CR 300 North between CR 550 East and CR 650 East will be closed starting at 8 a.m. this morning, Thursday, February 4, for a culvert repair. The area will remain closed through Friday, February 5.
Please plan an alternative route if you must travel in this area.

February 2, 2016

Organizers hope Whitley County can celebrate bicentennial all year long

BicentennialGilliom216.jpg(Talk of the Town photo by Jennifer Zartman Romano)
On Saturday morning, Dr. Russ Gilliom, above, spoke to museum visitors about the activities planned later this year in Whitley County to coincide with the statewide celebration of Indiana's Bicentennial. Gilliom provided visitors with commemorative pins created at the museum like the one he wore on his blazer, above.

From reports

This is Indiana's Bicentennial Year celebrating the founding of our state. Just think of all that has happened in the Hoosier State's 200 years of statehood!
According to local residents planning observations for the milestone year in Whitley County, community participation is needed to help make the local celebration a great and significant event.
The Whitley County Historical Museum, Genealogical Society and Historical Society are inviting the community to participate in a project celebrating 200 years as a state.
"We would like you to submit art forms, music, poems, essays, biographies, photos or any other creative endeavors used to recognize Whitley County and Indiana's history," said museum staff member Aaron Mathieu. "We want to include all our residents, school age through seniors in sharing their views."
This contest will begin March 1, 2016, and continue until August 1, 2016. Completed projects should be brought in to the museum at 108 West Jefferson Street, Columbia City, anytime during regular hours.
"We will plan to display as many items as possible by early September in the Museum. Special recognition will be announced for outstanding projects," Mathieu added.
Local organizers have been busy making plans for the county's highlighting event for the bicentennial -- a torch relay.
On Thursday, September 29, Whitley County will host the state's Bicentennial Torch Relay in Columbia City in Morsches Park.
Please contact the Whitley County Historical Museum, Genealogical Society or Historical Society for more details at 244-6372 or e-mail at or stop by at 108 West Jefferson Street, Columbia City. 
"For organizations and municipalities, please consider making this year's events, promotions, and activities Bicentennial themed," said Mathieu. He's hopeful that Whitley County will celebrate the Indiana Bicentennial in a big, memorable way with celebrations throughout the year.

Blue Bell Lofts project is moving forward


(Talk of the Town photo by Jennifer Zartman Romano)
Columbia City's community development director Jeff Walker told City Council last week that the Blue Bell Lofts project is moving forward. According to Walker, closing on the property is set for February 8. Additionally, the Columbia City Board of Works approved easements on the property, enabling efforts to convert the former Blue Bell factory into moderately priced senior housing to advance. After closing, redevelopment of the property is expected to begin shortly.

Scholarships aid students pursuing careers in criminal justice

Article provided

Whitley County Sheriff Marcus E. Gatton announced today that the Indiana Sheriffs' Association will again be awarding college scholarships. These scholarships are awarded to high school seniors, or college students who are pursuing a degree in criminal justice. There will be approximately forty $500 scholarships awarded to qualifying students throughout the state.
The Indiana Sheriffs' Association Scholarship Fund was established for the purpose of providing college scholarships to qualified students who are committed to pursuing an education and career in the law enforcement field.
To qualify for one of these scholarships, the applicant must be an Indiana resident, be a current member of the association, a dependent child or grandchild of a current member of the association, attend an Indiana college or university, major in a law enforcement field, and enroll as a full-time student (12 hours).
Applications needed to apply for the scholarships are available from your high school counselor, your local sheriff's office, or by writing to the Indiana Sheriffs' Association at 147 E Maryland Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204-3608. The scholarship application can also be downloaded from the Indiana Sheriffs' Association website at, as well as the Whitley County Sheriff's Department website at
All applications must be completed and received by the Indiana Sheriffs' Association on or before April 1, 2016.

Whitley County Dazzlers set sights on nationals, raising funds with pizza dinner

From reports

The Whitley County Dazzlers cheerleading team is planning a trip to nationals in Washington D.C. later this year. To make the trip possible, they are hosting a fundraiser on Monday, February 15, 2016, at the Columbia City Pizza Hut. From 5 to 7 p.m. that evening, $1 from the sale of each buffet dinner will support the team. Additional donations will also be accepted.

February 1, 2016

Counting down the days to 'Uncorked' at The Van Buren

Uncorked216a.jpg(Talk of the Town file photos by Jennifer Zartman Romano)
Plans for the 2016 Uncorked beer and wine tasting at The Van Buren in downtown Columbia City have built upon the great aspects of the 2015 event, shown here, but with some new surprises. Tickets are on sale now.

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

Those looking for an enjoyable evening among friends, sampling wines, beers and relaxing with music won't need to travel beyond downtown Columbia City.
On February 11, from 7 to 9:30 p.m., The Van Buren will host their annual Uncorked event, an evening of music, beer, wine and good times.Uncorked216b.jpg
Organized by Steve Holloway, this year's event will bring more than 40 wines, 14 beers and an assortment of ciders for the tasting. Cleanse your palate with a variety of hors d' oeuvres. A popular activity last year, the photo booth will be returning this year as well.
Just 300 tickets will be sold for this year's event and sales have been swift. General admission tickets are $30 per person. You must be 21 to attend.
For those who seek a little education on the matters at hand, a Beer Tasting 101 course will begin at 6 p.m. The Beer Tasting 101 ticket also provides guests with the opportunity to dine first. An expert will guide you on your tasting adventure. Four beers will be reserved for the Beer Tasting 101 course.Tickets are $45 per person.
Tickets can be purchased by calling 609-5582 or visiting Rider Electric or the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce (cash only). Credit card purchases can be made over the phone.
The Van Buren is located at 301 West Van Buren Street in Columbia City.
Sponsors include Cambria Custom Events, The Cake Lady LLC, Dr. Feelgood's Pro-Sound & Lighting, Wine Down Tastings and Tapas, Five Star Distributing and DJ Sound Solutions.

Surveillance planned for Every Kid's Dreamland, surrounding area


(Talk of the Town photo by Jennifer Zartman Romano)
Within the month, cameras will be installed in and around Every Kid's Dreamland park in Columbia City. The cameras are being installed, similar to other parks and locations in the city, as a means to curb crimes, including vandalism. Last Tuesday, Terry Wherry of the city's Communication Department told the City Council that cameras would be installed within the next 30 days. Via the cameras, round the clock surveillance of the park is possible in hopes of preventing damage the the park, improving safety and making it easier to address other issues in and around the park.

State ag director to speak at Huntington University Foundation breakfast

By Lauren Frischman

The Huntington University Foundation breakfast on Wednesday, February 10, will feature Ted McKinney, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, as he gives updates about the outlook of Indiana agriculture and the impact of the spring 2015 floods.
"This is an exciting time for Indiana agriculture which, as an industry, contributes $25.4 billion to the Hoosier economy and makes up 17 percent of the workforce," McKinney said. "With our economy and countless families invested in the industry, especially in Huntington, it's important to understand where the industry is, how we got here and what the future holds for agriculture in our state."
Dr. Raymie Porter, director for the Haupert Institute for Agricultural Studies, also will touch on the inaugural year of the university's agribusiness program and share his goals for the program moving forward.
"I commend Huntington University for bringing together a good agribusiness program and marrying it with the faith component, which is what the university is known for," McKinney said. "We need to ensure that Indiana's future leaders in agriculture have the skills necessary to compete on a global scale, and education is a critical component of that."
McKinney was raised on a family farm in Tipton, Indiana. He was a 10-year 4-H member, a former Indiana State FFA Officer and a graduate of Purdue University where he received a B.S. degree in Agricultural Economics in 1981. During his time at Purdue, he received the G.A. Ross Award as the outstanding senior male graduate, and in 2002, he was named a Purdue Agriculture Distinguished Alumnus.
McKinney brings over 25 years of agriculture leadership experience to his position at the Statehouse, having spent much of that time at Dow AgroSciences and Elanco. He has been the director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture since 2014.
The February Foundation Breakfast featuring McKinney will take place on Wednesday, February 10, at the Habecker Dining Commons with breakfast beginning at 7:30 a.m. and the program starting at 8 a.m. and concluding by 9 a.m.
The cost of the breakfast is $10, a portion of which will help support local students attending HU through the Huntington County Grant. First-time attendees enjoy a complimentary breakfast courtesy of Bailey-Love Mortuary. The Foundation Breakfast is held on the second Wednesday of each month, October through May, and is open to the public.
Founded in 1938, the Huntington University Foundation exists to support the mission of the university by promoting education and fostering a synergistic relationship between the university and the Huntington County community and surrounding area. 

Community Voices

Congressman Marlin Stutzman says now is the time for Conservatives to speak up today on Community Voices. Click here" to read his editorial.

Whitley County Chamber of Commerce invites local members to attend Chamber Day at the Indiana Statehouse

Article provided

The Whitley County Chamber of Commerce will join the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana and over a dozen other Chambers from across Indiana for the 2016 State wide Chamber Day at the Statehouse on February 9. The bus will leave from Fort Wayne at 7 a.m. and return around 6 p.m.
Coordinated by the Indiana Chamber Executives Association, the event will bring together Chamber members from around the state for a day of learning and networking. Whitley County Chamber of Commerce executive director Doug Brown will be participating in this important event and invites interested members of the community to join him that day.
Whitley County colleagues and small business owners are scheduled to meet with Governor Mike Pence and see the Indiana General Assembly in action.  Plans that day will include a tour of the Statehouse, several presentations, a personal look at the legislative process and lunch with other chamber advocates from throughout Indiana.  Additionally, attendees are scheduled to meet with Glenda Ritz, Indiana Department of Education Superintendent for 30 minutes at the end of the day.
The Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana will provide bus transportation to and from the Statehouse.
The cost to attend, which includes transportation and lunch, is $15 per person for Chamber members. Reservations are needed by Friday, February 5, 2016.
For additional information or to reserve a seat, contact the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce by calling 248-8131 or via email at