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New faces preparing to take over

January 1, 2019 GMT

January marks a new beginning, not just for the calendar year but often for individuals and organizations.

Here’s a quick look at some of the changes 2019 is ushering in from the courthouse to the schoolhouse.

Judicial change

Jennifer DeGroote will replace retiring Allen Superior Court Judge Stanley Levine. Gov. Eric Holcomb made the announcement Dec. 5.

DeGroote, a Superior Court magistrate, was chosen in October by the county’s Judicial Nominating Commission as one of three finalists to take the bench. She will serve out Levine’s term, which expires in 2020, taking over for Levine in the court’s civil division this month.


Her appointment is particularly noteworthy because it marks the first time most Allen Superior Court judges will be women, Court Executive John McGauley said previously.

David Zent will replace Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck, who announced in June he would retire at the end of 2018.

Zent, a Superior Court magistrate, was chosen in August by the Nominating Commission as one of three finalists. He will serve out Surbeck’s term, which expires in 2020. Holcomb made the announcement in early November.

“Succeeding someone of Judge Surbeck’s stature will be a challenge, but it’s one I look forward to,” Zent, 43, said at the time.

John Bohdan, a public defender, will replace Zent as magistrate in the court’s Misdemeanor and Traffic Division. A replacement for DeGroote has not been announced. 

GFW leadership

Greater Fort Wayne Inc. will have a new leader in John Urbahns.

The board of directors for Greater Fort Wayne, a metro chamber alliance, announced in December it selected Urbahns as its next chief executive officer. He replaces Eric Doden, who announced in May he would leave the organization as of Dec. 31.

“Allen County has come a long way from an economic standpoint, but we can’t get complacent,” Urbahns said when his appointment was announced. “Our job as an organization is to grow jobs, wages, and the economy, and as CEO, I plan to work harder than ever to accomplish those goals.”

A lifelong Hoosier, Urbahns was Greater Fort Wayne’s executive vice president of economic development the last five years. He previously worked for the city of Fort Wayne 18 years, including nearly seven years as director of community development.

Real footsteps

Second-generation Realtor Beth Walker of Fort Wayne will lead the Upstate Alliance of Realtors in 2019 as the profession continues to take on the changing conditions of a post-recession real estate market.


Walker, 59, spent some time in banking before returning to real estate by taking over as president and owner of Fairfield Group Realtors in Fort Wayne in 2004. The realty company was founded many years ago by her father, Phil Steigerwald.

And if that name sounds familiar, yes, Steigerwald was the original Wolf & Dessauer department store Santa : and the suit he wore has been preserved as a Fort Wayne icon at The History Center, along with other memorabilia donated by the family.

Walker said she won’t be following in those boot, er, footsteps.

But she does relish the idea of leadership, especially keeping her colleagues “actively engaged and informed about developments in the community, such exciting developments as Electric Works and the riverfront.”

In the year ahead, Walker envisions more people “moving here or coming back to Fort Wayne because of these developments.”

She added: “It’s an exciting time.”

NACS construction

Northwest Allen County Schools is beginning 2019 with construction of a new elementary school underway : the district’s eighth.

The growing school system celebrated the groundbreaking on a former soybean field at 2650 Hathaway Road before the winter recess.

Made possible by a nearly $34 million referendum last spring, the school will have more than 100,000 square feet and capacity for 500 to 600 students. It is expected to open August 2020.

“We’re proud to live in a community that invests in children,” Superintendent Chris Himsel said at the ceremony.

Security switch

Fort Wayne Community Schools will soon have someone new leading its security efforts.

Outgoing Security Director Dottie Davis’ last day was Monday. Her successor is Michael Manuel, who joined the district Dec. 17.

Davis, who had been in her role since 2013, plans to focus on the consulting business she has owned since 2000. The work takes her nationwide, she has said.

Manuel’s experience includes 20 years with the Allen County Adult Probation Department in Allen Circuit Court as the adult probation officer supervisor. He has also served as a security consultant and part-time security officer at social and extracurricular events for FWCS.

Law enforcement

Two sergeants and one trooper retiring from Fort Wayne’s Indiana State Police post will each begin a new role today : county sheriff.

Sgt. Max C. Weber, a 30-year veteran of the state police and Albion native, was recently elected as Noble County sheriff. Adams County residents elected Sgt. Daniel L. Mawhorr, a Fort Wayne native, as their law enforcement leader.

Trooper Kyle Dukes, an 18-year veteran, will be Kosciusko County’s newest peace officer.

Weber’s roles with the state police included crime scene technician in the laboratory division; district duty officer for the Fort Wayne post; and member of the tactical intervention platoon and the clandestine laboratory (meth) team.

Mawhorr also participated on the meth team and held roles including direct supervisor for troopers assigned to Adams and Wells counties and defensive tactics instructor.


Mike Braun will become Indiana’s junior U.S. senator when he is sworn in Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Republican Braun, an auto parts distributor and former state lawmaker from Jasper, defeated first-term Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in the Nov. 6 general election.

An ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, Braun unseated three members of Congress in 2018. He beat U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita in the Republican primary election six months before his victory over Donnelly.