The city of Westerville has launched a new program to honor its leaders, and former Councilman Damon "Chip" Wetterauer, who died unexpectedly in August, was recognized as the inaugural honoree at city council's March 19 meeting.
As part of the Champions of Westerville program, the city will plant trees, accompanied by plaques, along the city's recreation pathways in recognition of people who have made significant contributions to Westerville.
Through an interactive map on the city's website, people will be able to see where the plaques are located and read more about the honorees.
"Over the course of time, council has chosen to recognize people for their service in one capacity or another," said City Manager Dave Collinsworth. "We have chosen different mechanisms to honor those individuals."
The Champions of Westerville program is meant to create a more formal, standardized process for recognizing contributors while educating residents on past leaders, Collinsworth said.
"To be recognized as a champion, one must have served the community as a role model and displayed exemplary leadership throughout the community. Their innovation, integrity, stewardship and community engagement will have changed our community for the better and provide significant improvements that last over generations," said Westerville Parks and Recreation Director Randy Auler. "The recognition of champions provides the community with historical knowledge and, perhaps, will inspire others.
"It's really about what makes Westerville a special place."
Wetterauer served on Westerville City Council for 16 years.
During that time, he worked on the development of Westar and northern Westerville, as well as the McCorkle Boulevard and Hoff Park area, said council Chairman Mike Heyeck.
Wetterauer championed the city's recycling program, worked hard to develop a strong relationship between the city and school district, and helped hire Collinsworth as city manager.
As council chairman, he worked hard to be impartial and make sure the minority always was heard, Heyeck said.
"This list goes on, and I want to go on because he did so much," Heyeck said. "He was a councilman who sought first to be a champion of the city while being mindful of what was in the best interest of the city."
At the same time, Heyeck said, Wetterauer was hesitant to take credit.
"(Mayor Kathy Cocuzzi) said, 'If he's looking down, he's probably wondering what's going on, and he probably would not like the ceremony,' " Heyeck said. "He was not the person to raise his hand and say, 'I did that.' He was the person that sat in the back of the room and did something in a quiet way to create what we now know as Westerville."
Wetterauer's plaque and tree will be placed at the Westerville Community Center in the coming weeks.