With 2018 coming to a close, the time has come for the editorial staff of the Kokomo Perspective to select its finalists for People of the Year. The designation is bestowed upon those who made headlines over the past year and left a mark on Howard County.
The caveat is that it doesn’t necessarily mean news surrounding these individuals is all positive. Making a difference in the community can be for the better or the worse.
Those included on this list appear strictly in alphabetical order, and in the coming weeks winners will be rolled out and profiled at greater length. Next week, those ranking 10 through five will be announced, and the following week will bring the announcement of those who garnered the top spots.
Not everyone listed here will make the final cut; we have 16 nominees. Who will land the top spot?
Joey and Darcy Bennett
The Bennetts stepped up to do something about the drug epidemic in Howard County. Over the past year, the couple has sent more than 30 people to a rehab facility in Mississippi while fund raising to open one of their own in Howard County.
Firefighters Local 396 President Chris Frazier
Frazier made the rounds through the news earlier this year in a smattering of spats with the city of Kokomo administration. Primarily, Frazier’s battle with the city centered on contract disputes that arose during negotiations between Kokomo Fire Department firefighters and the city.
This precocious 6 year old from Kokomo made statewide headlines several times this year with his lemonade stand, Malachi’s Magnificent Lemonade. His lemonade sales went to help families of officers who died in the line of duty.
Judge George Hopkins
Hopkins’ unexpected passing left a hole in the local judicial system and left the community mourning a man who dedicated his life to public service. Prior to his passing, the judge pushed for positive reforms to the local work release program.
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight
Goodnight’s aim of readying the city of Kokomo for the future continued on in 2018, and through his administration, economic development continued to blossom within the City of Firsts.
Kokomo Police Department
This recognition differs from most in that it targets an entire unit of individuals. The local police force made big moves this year in busting an inter-state drug ring with the help of multiple law enforcement agencies.
State Rep. Mike Karickhoff
A top-ranking member of the Indiana General Assembly, the District 30 rep may play a central role in helping Howard County progress toward several goals in the near future. Most notably, he’s carried legislation at the behest of local leaders in attempts to increase the local innkeepers’ tax and also aided in the local judicial system’s search for a judicial magistrate.
Already a three-time IHSAA State Champion basketball coach, Kathie Layden led the 2017-2018 Class 3A Northwestern Tigers to the school’s first-ever state championship in history. Throughout the championship run season, Layden and the Tigers managed to stay ranked number one in the state and went 29-1 on the season.
This Kokomo High School graduate made a name for herself this year by winning top honors. She garnered the title of Distinguished Young Woman of America this past summer, becoming the first woman from Indiana to garner the title.
As the director of Kokomo Urban Outreach, Newton made big strides this year in moving the community forward, starting with its youngest generations. Through programs such as ManUP, StepUP, and Mini-ManUP, Newton is teaching children and teenagers life skills he hopes will set them up for success and keep them off the streets.
As the president of the Howard County Veterans Memorial Corp., Paul always has an idea up his sleeve for an initiative aimed at honoring veterans or benefiting the community. Early this year, he was granted permission to erect a women’s legacy memorial on the courthouse square, and more recently, work wrapped up on Kokomo’s historic tank.
The president of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance played an integral role in ensuring Kokomo’s next big development sees the light of day: a hotel conference center. Sparks has been championing the endeavor for some time. He also earned statewide recognition after being named one of eight people who has had the greatest impact on economic development in Indiana in the last 50 years.
Judge Doug Tate
Tate chaired the Howard County Community Corrections Board this year, leading the local justice system forward in multiple key initiatives. Efforts are underway to cut down on the county’s jail population through a case reallocation amongst the area courts, and Tate helped get the work release program off the ground at the beginning of 2018.
It was a huge year for the Kokomo Humane Society, and its director, Karen Wolfe, steered the ship. With Wolfe at the helm, the new state-of-the-art animal shelter opened in June, and the Cat Cafe opened shortly after. Both have been successful in drawing in new adopters, donors, volunteers, and visitors.
Councilman Mike Wyant
Wyant maintains a long-standing seat on the Kokomo Common Council, but his work outside of local government has garnered much attention this year. Wyant’s efforts on the popular We Care Park have created sizable contributions to nonprofits over the years, but 2018 brought the program to new heights and national attention.
Commissioner Paul Wyman
Wyman remains a central figure in Howard County government, and his work over the last year paved the way for the launch of a local drug addiction treatment program, Turning Point Systems of Care. He also played a key role in area veterans getting a VA clinic in Kokomo, albeit to mixed results. The commissioner’s push for a work release facility also came to fruition in 2018.