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Published: Friday, 6/25/2010

B.G. leader brought jobs, growth to city

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Wes Hoffman, a former Bowling Green mayor and city administrator who entered municipal service after a long military career, died Wednesday of complications of surgery in Wood County Hospital. He was 88.

Mr. Hoffman served two four-year terms as mayor, from 1992 through 1999.

He became the city's first administrator in 1974, when the municipal charter went into effect, and held the position through 1988.

In retirement, he continued to remain active on many boards, committees, and commissions.

"We're really going to miss him," said Bowling Green Mayor John Quinn, who succeeded him in the city's top elective office. "He's been such an important part of this community."

Mr. Hoffman underwent successful colon surgery Monday and seemed to be recovering well, his son-in-law, Brent Weinmann, said. He died unexpectedly.

U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), a former Wood County commissioner, said he worked closely with Mr. Hoffman during his tenure as mayor and had been Mr. Hoffman's campaign manager for his two mayoral races.

"He was truly a public servant who gave freely of himself and his time throughout his entire life," Mr. Latta said. "From his military career, to Bowling Green State University, to Bowling Green city administrator, and at last as mayor, Wes was always willing to lead."

Former Bowling Green Mayor Alvie Perkins called Mr. Hoffman "a godsend" to the Bowling Green community. "He became administrator while I was mayor. He was so gosh-darn talented," said Mr. Perkins, who is also a longtime Wood County commissioner.

As mayor and administrator, Mr. Hoffman worked to attract industry and expand the city's tax base, Mr. Quinn said.

"He understood that we were a university town where 35 percent of the land was tax exempt, that we really were a place that needed some private industry," Mayor Quinn said.

The Wall Street Journal's printing and distribution plant and Southeastern Container Inc.'s bottle-making facility are two businesses to locate in Bowling Green as a result of Mr. Hoffman's efforts, Mr. Quinn said.

"He also brought four Japanese companies here. All of them are still operating, but only one of them is Japanese today," he said. "Now we really are a major small-industry town. Southeastern Container makes a billion plastic bottles a year here."

Mr. Hoffman was a Republican but never let politics interfere with good governance, Mr. Perkins said, adding that some of his fellow Democrats pressured him to get rid of Mr. Hoffman as administrator because of his GOP affiliation, but he refused.

"Wes was just absolutely phenomenal. We worked together as a team like gangbusters," he said.

Mr. Hoffman was born and raised in Philadelphia. He was a student at the University of Pennsylvania when the Pearl Harbor attack occurred and enlisted as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Corps.

Commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant, he served a combat tour as a B-24 navigator in China and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal, both with Oak Leaf Clusters.

Mr. Hoffman remained in the military after the war. He graduated in the first pilot training class of the newly created Air Force in 1947 and spent 15 years in the Strategic Air Command, serving as commander aboard a B-29, B-50, and B-47.

He and his wife, Ruth, married in 1961. They arrived in Bowling Green four years later, when the Air Force put him in command of its ROTC program at Bowling Green State University. He retired from the service in 1969 as a lieutenant colonel with the aeronautical ratings of navigator and command pilot.

Michelle Grigore, Bowling Green's parks director, said Mr. Hoffman added levity to Kiwanis meetings by reciting a limerick he had composed about the guest speaker.

"He would write one up and we'd all just roar," she said. "This guy had such a quick mind. He was just so full of life and fun to be around."

Coming as he did from Philadelphia, Mr. Hoffman "had a very negative view of politics" when he arrived in Bowling Green, Mr. Quinn said. But this attitude changed over the years.

"I think when [his career] was all over, one of the things he was proudest of is that government really is for the people. There is a lack of corruption and he never had to do any shady deals," the mayor said.

Surviving are his wife, Ruth; daughters Gayle Hoffman and Holly Hoffman; three grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.

Services will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow in St. Mark's Lutheran Church. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. today in Dunn Funeral Home.

The family requests tributes to the Bowling Green Community Foundation, the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Foundation, the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club Scholarship Fund, or the Wesley K. Hoffman Aviation Studies Scholarship Fund in the College of Technology at Bowling Green State University.

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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