Thallemer sees Tech Park as most gratifying accomplishment

Mayor Joe Thallemer discusses his decsion not to seek re-election. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding.
By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — After deciding to not seek a fourth term in office, Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer chose to wing it when talking to three reporters on Monday.

Thallemer started the day by sharing the news with his department heads and then informed Kosciusko County Republican Chair Mike Ragan before inviting the media into his office.

He offered no formal statement on the milestone and instead, matter-of-factly said he felt the time was right to step aside.

Much of the reason, he said, had to do with his family, which will soon welcome his seventh grandchild. At the age of 67, he didn’t want to commit to another four-year term.

The decision coincides with changes in his optometry business which was sold a few years ago and is now known as Reinholt & Thallemer Eye Care Associates. Later this week, the new owner will celebrate the change with a ribbon cutting, but Thallemer said he’ll continue to have a presence in the business.

Ultimately, his decision to step down as mayor was a desire to slow down. He called it an agonizing decision.

“I don’t want to get to the point where I don’t have the energy to do a very demanding job. This has been a very demanding job. And I feel like I’ve worked very hard at it. But that’s because I like it,” he said.

Thallemer got involved in city government 29 years ago when Mayor Jeff Plank asked him to serve on the plan commission. He then served three terms on city council before running for mayor in 2011.

During his tenure, he’s served as the president of Accelerate Indiana Municipalities and is the chairman of the US 30 Coalition which is working to see the highway eventually converted to a limited-access freeway across almost the entire state.

His administration has focused on growth and worked in various ways to set the stage to meet the demand for more housing. The city made a concerted effort to help establish several low-income housing projects and numerous subdivisions that are currently moving forward.

His administration has worked to remove some of the few blighted properties in the city while also putting an emphasis on quality of life by expanding bike trails, building a robust parks system and establishing public art in the downtown.

Development of Warsaw Tech Park along US 30 has been his most gratifying accomplishment, Thallemer said, because it was one of his first initiatives.

The park is becoming a hub for orthopedic companies, three of which call it home. Last year was a standout year for local medical device companies in terms of start-ups and mergers and the tech park had a role in some of that.

“We’ve put some great partners in there. And I think we’re getting ready to put some more in,” Thallemer said.

Thallemer was quick to credit a long list of entities in the community that all seem to be in sync with making the city a better place to live.

“It’s it’s not about boundaries,” he said. “It’s about what we have here. We grow because we’ve got an industry that other communities in the whole country would die to have. We have to understand what our role is as leaders because folks have great opportunities in this community.”

The biggest challenge of his administration, he said, was the pandemic — “without a doubt.”

When COVID surfaced in March of 2000, the city found itself in a position to keep the public informed through its recently upgraded online communications that made Warsaw the only area city capable of hosting online meetings and even news conferences on short notice.

Council chambers in City Hall became a hub for weekly news conferences featuring Thallemer and officials with the county health department, Warsaw Community Schools and Bowen Center as they provided a wide range of information ranging from policy changes, immunization schedules and even where to pick up masks.

In many ways, it was uncharted territory for elected officials, families, schools and businesses, Thallemer said.

“That was –- I wouldn’t say difficult –- but it was just a time when there was a lot of anxiety. No one quite knew the right answer. But I think that folks really relied on someone telling them what to do. And we tried to do that with our press conferences and I heard a lot of people thank us for that,” Thallemer said.

Thallemer repeatedly impressed the importance of relationships he built over the years with a wide variety of people.

“I feel like what I’ve done has been relationship-based and I just really enjoyed it. It’s just been a great job. So that makes it difficult to say I’m done,” he said.

Mayor Joe Thallemer is pictured in May 2021 during a ceremony for the opening of the Buffalo Street plaza at Center Lake Park.
warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer is pictured in May of 2022 at the groundbreaking for a new apartment complex on Durbin Street.