by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
Recently retired Onaway city commissioner Bernie Schmeltzer has been selected and has accepted the honor of leading the Onaway Fourth of July parade as the 2017 grand marshal.
Schmeltzer stepped down from the commission as the longest serving commissioner in the city’s history. Originally from Marquette, Schmeltzer moved to Onaway to take a job at the school and made it his new home away from home.
Jessica Richards, Onaway Community Chamber of Commerce president said the selection of a grand marshal is not based on popular vote.
“We take a look at volunteerism, leadership, integrity, and the positive impact that the individual has had on our community,” said Richards. “Bernie Schmeltzer embodies our vision of what a grand marshal is. His volunteerism spans from working with our children to the citizens of the community.”
Schmeltzer said he was surprised and honored when informed of the decision.
“Onaway is my second home and I am honored that they thought so well of me to be considered,” said Schmeltzer. “I’m pleased.”
When Schmeltzer stepped down at the end of his term in December, then city manager Joe Hefele called him an “excellent community ambassador.”
Schmeltzer was hired as an accounting/typing/business/math teacher at the school in the fall of 1969 and worked his way through the ranks of the school.
Bernie was first elected as city commissioner in 1980 at the age of 34 and was re-elected two years later. The late Harry Moran was mayor, but stepped down to focus on other business ventures.
Bernie was appointed mayor for the five remaining months of Moran’s term before being voted in to run the meetings. He served three different stints: 1980 to 1987; 1989 to 1999; and 2002 to the end of this month.
He was involved in the construction of the sewer system and treatment plant; restoration of Chandler Park; and the unpopular decision to discontinue the services of its lone city officer and contract with the sheriff’s department.
Schmeltzer has served on the board of directors of Awakon Federal Credit Union (formerly Onaway Community Federal Credit Union) for 24 years, 21 as chairman.
Additionally, Schmeltzer, who became a member of the Knights of Columbus in 1968, was elected the first grand knight when a council was formed in Onaway in 1980.
He has held positions as deputy grand knight, trustee and treasurer.
He was St. Paul Catholic Church Men’s Club treasurer from 1973 to 2009. “We raised more than $600,000 for church and charitable needs during that time,” he said.
Schmeltzer also has been the longtime stadium announcer during Onaway High School football games and at the Onaway Speedway, and was the voice of the Cardinals on the radio when the football team went to the Silverdome in 1976 to play in the state championship game.
His involvement in sports extended beyond the booth as he was a registered official with the Michigan High School Athletic Association for 25 years.
The public spotlight has been a familiar place for one of Onaway’s adopted sons, but he will get a very special moment as the community’s honored citizen this summer.
During the 2017 parade, Albert Ellenberger Lumber Company will be the parade ambassador.