For the first time in nearly 15 years, Wapakoneta City Council Clerk Carlene Koch will not read Wilbur Wells name during roll call at the beginning of tonight’s council meeting.
He no longer is a public servant after deciding early last year that 2011 would be the last of his 14 years serving as a councilor-at-large, the last decade as chair of council’s Finance Committee.
“I will really miss just being in the loop, knowing first-hand what is happening with the city and knowing I would try to make decisions with the residents’ best interest at heart,” Wells told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “I enjoyed just being involved in the workings of the city.”
Wells, who worked 15 years at the Siemens Corp. in Bellefontaine and now has worked the past several years as an accountant for Cargill in Sidney, was first elected to council in 1997 while in his mid-30s. He said he always believed his primary responsibility as a councilor was “to protect the rights of the majority of Wapakoneta residents.”
As Finance Committee chair, Wells, who spent the past decade overseeing the city’s annual budget, said his primary responsibility as chair was to ensure residents’ tax dollars were spent wisely on necessary projects and items and to save money where necessary for future endeavors.
“I hope that I will be remembered as being tight but fair with the annual budgets and with each department’s budget,” Wells said. “I was proud of the fact the city was able to operate day-to-day without spending any of the rainy day funds. We were always able to pay for the items that just came up.
“It was very important to me to operate and still maintain or build the reserves,” he said. “I didn’t do this alone — it required the help of the mayor, safety-service director and the supervisors of each of the city’s departments.”
His approach to dealing with the city’s budget was based on advice he received during his first few years on council.
“I think the best advice I ever received was to ‘think of the city’s money as your own money,’ ” said the 1990 graduate of Bluffton University with bachelor degree’s in accounting and business management. “ ‘If you wouldn’t do it with your own money then don’t do it with the city’s money’ — I think we did that.”
Council President Steve Henderson, who served on council the longest with Wells and who assigned him to his committee including his chairmanship of Finance Committee, said he is the “reason we still have money in the bank.”
“I have always said there is no room for partisan politics at the local level, and while Wilbur put the ‘C’ in conservative and sharpened his pencil when it came to the city’s budget he always did what was best for the entire city,” Henderson said. “He did an incredible job leading the Finance Committee for the past decade and serving the city residents for nearly 15 years.
“I am very proud to have served with him and beside him and I have always had the utmost faith in his decisions and his leadership,” he said.
Henderson also credited Wells for working and for giving his input until the last day of his term. He took part in committee meetings after the final council meeting in December.
Mayor Rodney Metz described Wells as an “outstanding councilor, who always had the residents’ best interest as the basis for making his decisions.”
“He always had the city’s best interest at heart,” said Metz, who first served with him as a fellow councilor-at-large and then as mayor. “One of his most outstanding strengths is his financial expertise and the fact he could recall numbers from the budget, how they were laid out and set up without having to review the individual budget.”
In his newly found free time, Wells plans to concentrate on his fitness. He picked up running 5-k races a few years back and longer races in the past year. He also could be found playing tennis with his daughter, when she was a member of the Wapakoneta Redskins tennis team, and he plans to hit the court again.
Wells and his wife, Mary, have four children, Heather, Christopher, Kelly and Julie.
“I enjoy being active with the kids and look forward to getting into better shape,” Wells said. “I also looked forward to spending more time with my kids and my wife.”
Wells, who graduated from Elida High School in 1982 and moved to Wapakoneta in the early 1990s, decided to first run for political office to honor his father, Wilbur Wells II, whom he admired when he served on Elida’s city council.
“I just wanted to give back to the city,” Wells said. “My father served on council when I was a youngster and I remember how proud he was to do it and it seemed like a great way for me to give back to the city I have come to love.
“I think he would have been proud of how we did.”