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Newspaper publisher named 'businessperson of year'

By Michael Harrington • Apr 29, 2019 at 7:00 PM

SANDUSKY — The people and businesses behind the areas continued economic resurgence were honored Thursday by the Erie County Chamber of Commerce at its annual awards ceremony at Castaway Bay.

“Each year, our senior council committee comes together and looks through our entire membership to find the people who went above and beyond to promote business in the area,” chamber president Pamela Smith-Droll said. 

Businessperson of the year — Ron Waite, Publisher of Norwalk Reflector and Sandusky Register

Since taking over stewardship of the Norwalk Reflector and Sandusky Register, Waite has used his 33 years of experience in the newspaper industry to push innovations and reinvigorate the local papers.

He was elected president of the Ohio Newspaper Media Association and serves on the board for the economic development corporations for Erie County and Norwalk.

“I’m sure I’ve upset just about everyone in this room at some point. It’s just the nature of the industry ... (But) we are your cheerleader and your watchdog,” Waite said. “We’ll continue to serve the community.”

Business of the year — NOMS Healthcare

What began as 30 area physicians going into practice together in 2001 has turned into top-of-the-line medical provider with more than 250 providers serving patients from Toledo to the Mahoning Valley.

NOMS healthcare plans to continue to expand as it continues its mission of providing easy access to great medical care. Crain’s Cleveland Weatherhead named it one of the fastest growing companies.

Lifetime Achievement — David Mehling

For decades, Mehling has been serving the community both through his work with the local radio stations and the hours he’s volunteered to organizations and local youth sports programs.

He’s been in the radio business for more than 50 years and continued to help with sports broadcasts on WLEC until he suffered a stroke.

“He’s been a mentor to me since I started working at the station … Not everybody in this world is meant to be a friend, a mentor and a boss all rolled into one and handle it like the way Dave Mehling does,” radio broadcaster Mark Fogg said.

Senior Council Award — BAS Broadcasting (Randy Hugg, Steve Shoffner and Mark Fogg)

BAS broadcasting has grown from one FM station to 11 regional AM and FM stations covering 17 counties. It features family-friendly programming, news, weather, sports and music.

Broadcast talents Hugg, Shoffner and Fogg have helped keep the community informed for years and accepted the award on the station's behalf.

Entrepreneur of the year — Claudio Salvador, Firelands Winery

Salvador earned fermentation and chemistry degrees from one of Italy’s oldest schools of viticulture. He joined Firelands Winery in 1984 and acquired it in 2003 with the help of business partner John Kronberg.

He’s pioneered the production of wines that people thought would be impossible in the area’s climate, won national awards and been inducted into the Ohio Wine Hall of Fame.

Ambassador of the year — Kathleen Hottmann

Hottmann has been involved in the community for two decades first working for companies like Subway Sandwiches, Wester & Southern Life and Block Advisors.

She’s been the chamber’s ambassador of three years and in that time she’s reached out countless local businesses to find out how the chamber could help them thrive.

“I really enjoy being a part of the Erie County Chamber and its just been such a pleasure and a blessing,” Hottmann said.

The Chairman’s Award — Joe Hayberger

After obtaining his education degree, Hayberger returned to Sandusky City Schools, where he taught for 35 years. He has also been a realtor for 41 years.

Hayberger has been involved in numerous local nonprofits, groups and serves as the director of Leadership Erie County. He’s a past recipient of the chamber’s youth service and ambassador awards. His former student and board chairperson, Naomi Twine, presented the award.

“It’s not a problem to be involved with all those groups because the people are fun to be with,” Hayberger said. “When you are with a group of people you enjoy being with it’s not a job, it’s fun.”

Chamber Chair Award — Naomi Twine, Ohio Veterans Home

Smith-Droll surprised Twine with the Chamber Chair Award for all the great work she’s accomplished as the board’s chairperson for the past two years. At the end of the night, Twine passed the chairperson position to Kula Hoty-Lynch, of Hoty Enterprises.

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