photo by: Warren Scott
As one of many attending a groundbreaking ceremony Sunday for the latest addition to the park behind the Village Building, retired Wintersville police chief Ed Laman received a big surprise.
In addressing the many gathered under a tent on the building’s parking lot, Mayor Mike Petrella said the decision was made to name the park in honor of an active community member, adding the choice of whom to dedicate it was quite easy.
Petrella said Laman came easily to mind because of the impact he’s had not only to the village but the entire county.
Several others voiced the same sentiments during the event, which served to celebrate the upcoming addition of a dog park to the rear of the restrooms on the 13-acre site.
Petrella said the village soon will be advertising for a contractor for the park, which will include drinking fountains for the dogs and benches for their owners, with other features to be determined.
He acknowledged the JB Green Team, which awarded a grant for the benches; the Jefferson County Commission, which allocated $10,000 from its recreational fund for the park; and state Rep. Ron Ferguson, R-Wintersville, who secured $100,000 in State Capital Budget funds for it.
Petrella said he and others will pursue additional funds for other additions, such as a small amphitheater and man-made pond for fishing and paddle boating.
He noted he is among area officials working with the county commission to pursue funding through the state’s Appalachian Community Grant program for a variety of projects, and Wintersville’s focus is on the park.
Last year, village crews cleared an access road to the park, which includes playground equipment donated to the village by the Indian Creek School District.
When Petrella revealed the park will be named in honor of Laman, the retired police chief received a standing ovation from many in attendance.
Village Administrator Jesse Kosegi said naming the park for him was “a small token of thanks” for the many ways in which he’s served the community.
Petrella noted his 44 years in law enforcement — most of them in Wintersville, where he served as a part-time auxiliary officer before becoming a detective and juvenile officer and from 1997 to 2015, its police chief.
Village Administrator Jesse Kosegi recalled years ago being a police officer under Laman’s charge and the concern he showed for all of his department.
“Someone said, Chief kind of treats us like his kids, and it was true,” he said.
Current Police Chief Lou Vandeborne, who worked with Laman for 30 years, said, “He lived by example every day. He was the first to arrive and the last to leave. If there was a power outage and the (traffic) lights were out, he always took the busiest intersection (to conduct traffic control.”
Vandeborne recalled responding with Laman to an armed man who had barricaded himself within a structure.
When they heard a shot fired and knew they had to go in, the two briefly argued about who would be the first to breach the door, he said.
Vandeborne said it wasn’t unusual to call Laman late at night for direction and for the chief to answer on the first ring.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla Jr. said he was among many area officers who learned from Laman through the 46 years he’s served as instructor in the state police academy program at first, Jefferson Community College, and currently, Eastern Gateway Community College.
Abdalla said he was told in advance that Laman was a strict but fair instructor, and it proved to be true, but he also learned he treated his students with respect if they came to the program for the right reasons.
“If you got into law enforcement because you wanted to help people, because you wanted to serve the justice system, he treated you great,” said Abdalla.
Wintersville Magistrate James Abrams said Laman’s reputation for being fair and strict extended to his role as police chief, and he was respected by his officers and others.
“He ran a tight ship, but he ran a good ship,” he said.
Wintersville county court Judge Michael Bednar said his concern for others also went beyond those in his department, as he’s often seen him perform acts of kindness for community members behind the scenes.
“I can not think of a better person to receive this honor,” said Bednar.