Soapbox Philosophy: Dealing with all the change in leadership
by Gregory R. Norfleet · Op-Ed · June 15, 2011

West Branch’s community leaders continue to change, and it continues to create a shift in how we perceive our community. I’m going to take you back just four years to July 2007, when I started my stint as editor of this paper.

The mayor was Sandy Hatfield. There was no city administrator. Mark Worrell is the only city council member still serving from back then. All of the people who work in city hall have changed. In fact, when I arrived, city hall was crammed into the back of the West Branch Fire Department, looking for a new home. The public works director, Brian Brennan, is gone, and Police Chief David Bloem is no longer patrolling the streets.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum director was Timothy Walch; he retired. The Hoover National Historic Site superintendent was Cheryl Schreier, who took the top job at Mount Rushmore. Becky Allgood, executive director of the Hoover Association, was hired about six months before I arrived and is one of the few still at the helm.

West Branch United Methodist Church, the largest church in the city, had a pastor named Scot Patrick. The second-largest church, Bethany Lutheran, had a pastor named Marty Jacobson. Main Street West Branch’s program director was Rebecca Turner. Scattergood Friends School’s head of school was Ginny Winsor. All of them are gone.

West Branch Community Schools’ Board of Education still has Mike Owen; Richard Paulus said Monday that he’s running again and Kathy Knoop said she has been encouraged to run again but is still undecided (Deb Schreiber is up for election but was not on the board in 2007).

Jess Burger, principal of Hoover Elementary, was hired about the same time as I was. Steve Hennesy was principal at West Branch High School and has retired.

The school superintendent is still Craig Artist, but only until the end of this month.

When I started at the West Branch Times, one of the first things the outgoing editor, Rob Poggenklass, did was take me along on a Monday morning interview to meet Artist in his office. At the time, Central Office was still in Hoover Elementary. Due to overcrowding, Central Office has operated out of Community State Bank for the past two years, and may return to campus if the school district can afford to renovate some rooms at West Branch Middle School.

This list does not include the numerous teachers and coaches who have retired in the past four years, or many of this community’s movers and shakers who have died, moved away or stepped out of the spotlight for various reasons.

Change is good when it happens for the right reasons. And most of the change we have seen in the turnover in these positions has been for the right reasons.

There is a level of sadness when we see a familiar face — with experience and wisdom — leave, and a level of excitement and anticipation when a new person — with new ideas and a new point of view — comes in. So change ignites mixed emotions.

As a city so close to a Big Ten university town, we should expect such turnover as a way of life. It is a healthy ebb and flow, even though it may be hard to keep track of changes in ordinances, policies and procedures when old — even only a couple years old — is replaced by new.

It’s even difficult for the editor who’s job is to keep everyone informed about the city’s comings and goings.

Skyscraper Ad