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‘Drinking the Kool-Aid’

Businessman credits influence of mentor for commitment to community 

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FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Logan County Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Benedetti holds up a memory board for Richard J. Rupp Leadership Award recipient Kim Wagner, who is battling cancer, during Wednesday’s annual meeting. ABOVE: Karen Medaris, left, and Sally Robb sign the memory board. BELOW:Logan County Area Chamber of Commerce outgoing chairman Peter Stolly presents awards to, from top to bottom: Henry Weisz, Special Achievement; Anita Ricketts, Ambassador of the Year; Jason Duff, Entrepreneur of the Year; and Robinson Investments, Integrity in Business. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | REUBEN MEES)

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Logan County businessman Kim Wagner drank the Kool-Aid and he’s not ashamed to admit it.

Although the video made by Mr. Wagner, who is battling cancer, for the Logan County Area Chamber of Commerce’s 72nd annual meeting could not be played for the audience at Wednesday evening’s event because of audio issues, the emotional speech to accept the Richard J. Rupp Leadership Award is now on the Internet.

“I humbly accept this award and am eternally grateful to have it,” Mr. Wagner said in the interview that was taped a few hours before the event.

“Dick Rupp was a special person to me and many others, whom without his pushing, prodding and cajoling that we become better men and women in our community, makes me a better man than I ever was or thought I could be. But now that I am before you, I am thankful that he was there as I know so many others are also.

“Looking back, many of us drank Dick’s Kool-Aid because he recognized the need for young leadership in our county and community that needed to come from our level, from the chamber of commerce level, from our home level, that level of youthful leadership that would bring the magical combination of people, plans and projects together that makes ours a great community. That was part of Dick’s plan to see Logan County grow as it should be part of our plan.”

He went on to thank his wife Tara, who accepted the award at the event on his behalf, before urging the local community to commit to convincing the potential young leaders who leave the area to return home.

“Our CEO Paul Benedetti is working very hard, but it is us, our membership who must build up, must cultivate new leadership,” Mr. Wagner said in the video. “Our young leaders are leaving home and not returning home and if they do, they want to live in Dublin or Powell where the action is. I understand.”

He went on to describe his early years working for Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. as a photographer during racing events. But when Firestone withdrew from the Formula 1 racing series and his job ended, he “came back to Logan County because it was home.”

And despite the shiny new buildings and other amenities offered by the Columbus suburbs, he said our youth will eventually realize home is where the heart is.

“My point is, Logan County is our home, where you stood atop a stage to receive your diploma, where you shined brightly on the field of athletics, that dance where you met your future mate ... it beckons you home,” Mr. Wagner said. “Your home needs you; your family needs you; the church you grew up in needs you; your moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandmas and grandpas, they need you; we need you. Your grandmas and grandpas want you to be the proud next recipients of the Logan County Area Chamber of Commerce’s Richard J. Rupp Leadership Award.

“Believe me, he made a great batch of Kool-Aid.”

During the annual event, awards were presented to Anita Ricketts, Ambassador of the Year; Henry Weisz, Special Achievement Award; Jason Duff, Entrepreneur of the Year; and Robinson Investments Ltd., Integrity in Business Award.

Outgoing chairman of the board Peter Stolly handed the gavel to incoming chairman Ron Zimmerly, who spoke briefly about the year ahead.

“The past several years have been very interesting for the chamber and the economy as a whole,” Mr. Zimmerly said. “When you look at Logan County and the vast agricultural and manufacturing industry, we are blessed with the progress we have made here.”

He said unemployment has dropped from slightly more than 10 percent a year ago to just over 7 percent in July, before discussing the future.

“Over the next year, it’s important that we remain focused on downtown restoration, tourism and economic development countywide. We need to look for new industry to come to Logan County because our opportunities are amazing.”

He and Mr. Benedetti also introduced a Buy Local campaign that will begin this year and will involve Bellefontaine High School’s DECA program in selling and promoting a coupon book supporting local businesses.

Mr. Benedetti ended the night by thanking the local business owners for their investments in the community.

“Remember, you did build it and we want to thank you for being a part of Logan County,” he said.

Watch Mr. Wagner’s full speech here.

 

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