By LANCE MIHM
Joe Lenhart will walk out of his office Friday and flip the switch to turn out the lights. The next time the office opens, he won’t be the person turning them back on for the first time in 11 1/2 years.
A retirement party was held for Lenhart on Friday, his last official day in the office as Auglaize County administrator. A mixture of current and former elected and hired officials from a vast area of county offices showed up to pay respect to a man that served in county positions for 28 years.
“I have known Joe for years,” Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon said. “The biggest thing about Joe was that his heart was in what he was doing. He juggled a lot of things and took care of all of us the best that he could.”
Lenhart said he was happy so many people from so many different organizations showed up to wish him luck during his retirement party held at the commissioner’s office at Auglaize Acres. Also included in the crowd were several family members.
“Its very nice seeing the big cross-section of people,” Lenhart said. “It show that they appreciated what you did and how you did things.”
Lenhart first began serving the county as a corrections officer at the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office in 1983. In 1991, he was hired as the Auglaize County Veterans Services Commission director and served that position until he took over as the county administrator in 2000.
Former county Commissioner Hugh Core recalled the hiring of Lenhart.
“Right away I felt comfortable with Joe,” Core said. “I always felt complete confidence in his abilities and his devotion. He was good for the county.
Auglaize County Solid Waste District Coordinator Dave Reichelderfer said Lenhart took an interest in everything when it came to the county.
“I communicated with him three or four times a week,” Reichelderfer said. “We will miss him. He was an intricate part of what we did.”
Auglaize County Prosecuting Attorney Ed Pierce said what he will most remember about Lenhart was his common sense.
“Joe had the market on common sense,” Pierce said. “I am honored to call him a friend.”
Lenhart oversaw the building of the new Auglaize County Administration Building and the current reconstruction of the county courthouse as two of the major projects that the county took on during his tenure. The courthouse should be completed in June.
“The administration building was a giant step for the county,” Lenhart said. “I was at that building every day of the week including Saturday and Sunday. I will always remember it because we started with gravel.
“The courthouse was a completely different experience,” he said. “We experienced different problem we had to tackle because we were renovating rather than building. We had to move everybody out.”
Lenhart will still serve the county by volunteering to help see the courthouse through to its completion.
Lenhart said he will miss the people the most.
“I always tried to show everyone they were all important,” Lenhart said. “From housekeeping to the commissioners. They were all the same to me. I will miss just coming into the office and saying, ‘Hi.’”
Lenhart said he plans to volunteer in various aspects with his new found free time, including several veteran organizations and the Armstrong Air and Space Museum.
“We do not have any earth-shattering plans,” Lenhart said. “We may do a little traveling.”
Lenhart succeeded Kurt Kuffner in June 2000.