Since serving as mayor from 1988 to 1999, Paul Helmke has been a consultant and the head of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C. Last month, the ex-mayor and Indiana University announced Helmke will teach at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and direct its Civic Leaders Living-Learning Center in Bloomington.
Helmke, 64, is keeping his Fort Wayne house as a home base, even as he will spend much of his time in Bloomington.
The Helmke announcement brings to mind others who formerly made news in the city but decided to launch or expand careers elsewhere. Here are updates on a few.
Rev. Ternae Jordan
During his 15 years in Fort Wayne, Jordan was pastor of Greater Progressive Baptist Church – and much more.
When violence in the city’s southeast side spiked during the 1990s, Jordan became a civic activist, working publicly against violence while less visibly helping residents one at a time. When police harassment of blacks escalated, it was Jordan who became a leading voice for civil rights. His Stop the Madness program became a beacon for justice and non-violence, even as his son, T.J., was struck in the head by a stray bullet.
But when Mt. Canaan Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., called him to be its pastor in 2004, he welcomed the opportunity to return to his hometown, succeed his father as pastor at the church and help his aging parents.
Not surprisingly, the church’s membership has grown significantly, causing Mt. Canaan to move its services to the auditorium at Tennessee Temple University while the congregation seeks a new permanent home. Jordan, 57, has revived Stop the Madness as a national program. He’s been a consultant for the Department of Justice, participating in a data-driven program to fight crime in cities; currently, those cities are Memphis; Youngstown, Ohio; and Fort Myers, Fla. And he began the Servant Leadership Christian Fellowship, which includes about 70 pastors and ministers who serve Chattanooga in social service and spiritual ways.
Jordan’s wife, Angela, and children are all involved in Stop the Madness; T.J. – Ternae Jordan Jr. – is the program manager as well as associate pastor at Mt. Canaan. T.J. and his wife, Demetria, are expecting their first child – and Rev. Ternae Jordan’s first grandchild – in a few weeks.
It is a joy to be back in Chattanooga, where I grew up, Jordan, The Journal Gazette’s Citizen of the Year in 1996, said by email. I am now able to serve both my family and community that meant so much to me during my childhood.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Simon was a key city official and businesswoman, serving as city controller under Mayor Win Moses and as an executive with Lincoln National Corp. It was in her role as controller that she made history as the city’s first – and, so far, only – female mayor, albeit for only 11 days as interim mayor.
She left Lincoln – and Fort Wayne – in 1995 to lobby for a health insurance trade group but returned to Lincoln in 1997 while based in New York. When Lincoln sold its reinsurance division to Swiss Re, Simon followed and now is now in charge of Swiss Re’s government relations for the U.S., Latin America and Canada, working primarily from New York and Washington, D.C.
Simon, 59, still has family in the area. I recently had Casa’s chicken palermo for the first time in 15 years and they haven’t lost a step! she said in an email.
I love Washington but really miss the Fort’s less frantic pace. I miss how easy it is to get together for dinner with friends during the week and the fun of Crooked, Adams and Clear lakes in the summer. And I have to mention the sautéed perch at Paula’s and the enchiladas at La Margarita.
From 1986 to 2003, Goldner worked for the city to attract quality jobs, encourage development and build the economy. She then went on to do similar work for local private-sector consulting companies, including FourthWave and Ruffolo Benson.
Then Goldner, 49, decided to enter the political arena. In 2007, she defeated the 37-year incumbent Don Schmidt in a heavily Republican City Council district. While serving on the council, she became known for her dedication to constituent services. She also played a crucial role in developing the garbage and recycling contracts that called for a profit-sharing agreement for the city, led to a significant increase in the city’s recycling rate and reduced the city trash fee.
But she lost her re-election bid in 2011.
In October, Goldner left her position as interim president of Bowmar, a local defense and aerospace manufacturing company. The company, which is more than 60 years old and is best known for making the first hand-held calculator, was overseen by Ruffolo Benson. Goldner took over leadership of the company to help it overcome some growing pains and to lead the search for a permanent president.
She left Fort Wayne in November with few definitive plans other than the desire to have an adventure – and to blog about her experience. The Nebraska native spent the holidays with her family in Omaha then plans on heading south.
Since it will be January, the only sensible direction is south, Goldner said. And at that point the plan gets more vague. I just wanted to be on an adventure and to me if you know how it ends it’s not an adventure, it’s a vacation.
What she misses most about Fort Wayne is her friends. But Facebook and her blog, The Driveabout, are helping her keep in touch.
Headwaters Park not only protects downtown Fort Wayne from flood damage, it acts as the community’s gathering place. Kuhne is largely responsible for the design of the beloved park.
Kuhne, 61, is a New Haven native who worked in city planning from 1973 to 1975 under Mayor Ivan Lebamoff. He worked on the city’s first downtown development plan, which included the park plan.
Kuhne left Fort Wayne in 1981 to pursue a master’s degree at Princeton University. But in 1982, a few days after President Ronald Reagan visited to see flood damage, Kuhne flew back to Fort Wayne at the request of Mayor Win Moses. City leaders wanted to move forward with building the downtown park.
It was one of those classic moments where great political leadership intersects with great urban design, Kuhne said.
Kuhne, now an internationally known architect based in London, credits Headwaters Park with launching his career. His design firm, CivicArts, works on multimillion-dollar public projects around the world. The most recent is the RMS Titanic memorial in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
There was immense civic pride in Fort Wayne, Kuhne said. Even though it was a midsize city, it would just jump on every improvement opportunity it had. It was not monetary wealth that allowed that; it was a wealth of city pride.
He said what he misses most about Fort Wayne is the rivers. When he lived in Fort Wayne, he owned a house on Edgewater Avenue and would row on the rivers as often as possible.
Both Fort Wayne’s faith and education communities benefited from contributions Gubitz, 61, made to the city in his 22 years here, including his work as executive director of the Fort Wayne Jewish Federation. Longtime residents might remember him from his first job here – as an employee of the former Dickers Plumbing and Hardware Store on Clinton Street or through the family’s volunteer work through the boosters program at Weisser Park Elementary School, the fine and performing arts magnet school his three children attended. Son Ron and daughter Leslie are now teachers, in New Orleans and St. Louis, respectively; and daughter Jennifer is an assistant rabbi in Wayland, Mass.
In 2007, Gubitz and his wife, Charlene, returned to Knoxville, Tenn., where he is executive director of the Knoxville Jewish Alliance, overseeing the Arnstein Jewish Community Center. Its varied programs include a preschool, summer day camp, swimming pool, 13 acres of sports fields and woods and a social services unit.
Knoxville’s Jewish community numbers about 2,000, compared to about 750 in Fort Wayne. Gubitz continues the work he did here in social justice and interfaith programs, speaking to churches and civic organizations about the Holocaust and Jewish customs and beliefs. He also works with a local FEMA group that allocates federal dollars for food, shelter, utilities and emergency assistance.
I really enjoyed living on my corner on the south side, Gubitz said in an email. We chose the location because we wanted our kids to attend Weisser Park and were really taken by the whole diversity and magnet school concept. I do miss my many Fort Wayne friends, both professional and personal that made Fort Wayne a great place to live.
J. Webb Horton
Few transplants to Fort Wayne have had careers has varied as Horton, 65, who moved to the city in 1970 from Erie, Pa., to be deputy director of the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission. He later worked for Fort Wayne Community Schools as director of human development in the wake of desegregation.
An active tennis player and coach, he served stints as tennis coach at Saint Francis College and IPFW’s men’s and women’s teams. Along the way came moves – and returns – to Chicago and suburban Cincinnati, where he was tennis coach at Northern Kentucky University.
Since 2001, he has been at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, coaching tennis for 10 years and now serving as the assistant director of community outreach. He also offers commentary in broadcasts of university basketball games.
There’s a real sense of community in Fort Wayne, he said. Horton remembers when the city’s high schools were desegregated, but desegregating elementary schools came years later with the creation of magnet schools. Look at the things the community has done. How we desegregated schools was the right way, although at the time I didn’t see it.
Gerald J. Prokopowicz
He came to Fort Wayne in 1993 to be a caretaker of one of the community’s most treasured historical assets: The Lincoln collection. Prokopowicz, who received his doctorate in history from Harvard University, served as a Lincoln scholar and director of academic programs for the Lincoln Museum until he left in 2003.
He then moved to Greenville, N.C., and is chair of the history department at East Carolina University. The Civil War expert is also the author of several books, most notably, Did Lincoln Own Slaves? And Other Frequently Asked Questions About Abraham Lincoln published in 2008. Much of that book was based on questions he was asked by museum patrons.
Prokopowicz, 54, is editing the diary of Dr. Charles Taft, who was a Civil War doctor and contemporary of Lincoln.
His fondest memory of Fort Wayne is the community feeling. The kids could play down the block without worry. It’s how it was when I was growing up. We don’t have that where we live now. We don’t have that anywhere.
He said constructing the exhibits for the museum’s opening in 1995 is still the most challenging and fulfilling thing I’ve done as a historian.
The dismantling of the Lincoln Museum is easily the worst memory I have of Fort Wayne, he said.
For 25 years Taviano served on the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, she began her career as a confinement officer and moved her way up the ranks to become the director of training.
Then in 2006, Taviano decided to run for Allen County sheriff as a Democrat against then-chief deputy Ken Fries.
It was one of the most expensive and competitive races for sheriff the county has ever seen. Taviano, unlike Fries, was a determined proponent of consolidating the city and county emergency dispatch centers.
Despite raising more money than Fries, she lost the race.
And in 2008, she retired from the sheriff’s department and was hired by the city as director of communications, overseeing the city’s 911 call center, radio shop and records division.
Taviano, 52, left Fort Wayne and became chief of emergency dispatch for Lee County in 2010 and lives in Fort Myers, Fla.
I do miss the seasons somewhat, she said. I miss decorating the blue spruce in front of my house.
It’s hard when all you can do is wrap lights around a palm tree.