Surprise was the theme at Amelia’s Village Council meeting Dec. 18.
Anderson Township resident and local philanthropist Tom Riegel came to the meeting expecting to receive a service award; he left as the village’s annual ‘Citizen of the Year.’
“I was totally surprised,” he said. “And indeed, honored.”
In hand with a conspiratory invitation from the village, Riegel said that he was led to the meeting with the belief that his decade of professional work for the village was being recognized.
“Council’s plan worked perfectly,” he said. “It truly was a complete surprise, I admit I was taken aback. Around 25 family and friends were there and it was a nice party.”
"Amelia's citizenship award is presented annually to a single citizen who best exemplifies humanity, generosity, civic pride, and community service," the mayor said.
Retired from UPS since 1995, Riegel, 65, a grandfather, and a self-described 'small-town man," has spent the last 10 years as Amelia's maintenance supervisor.
Riegel, who holds close family ties to the area, is proud to be a part of the Amelia community. Crediting his generous nature to his family and community, he financed and established Amelia's Spencer Shank Memorial Park. Though deceased, local, respected, veteran philanthropist Shank is the uncle of Riegel's wife Lucy
"For his desire to create a tribute not for himself but for an uncle he greatly admired, he established Shank Park," said Menz. "Because of his generosity, children and families throughout the area will be able to enjoy this park as a living monument to Spencer Shank forever."
Riegel, who was raised in Greenville, Ohio, contributes time and money to many village initiatives. In addition to funding Shank (who his grandson is named after) Park, he has helped preserve the Hillcrest Cemetery in Anderson Township and coordinated the 9/11 fund-raising efforts of the American Red Cross. He has served on the Anderson Township Clean and Green litter campaigns and serves as a member of the Anderson Township Transportation Advisory Board. He also supports and is an active participant in Clermont 20/20, Inc.
Amelia Treasurer Kerry Schulze, who nominated Riegel for the honor, said that he has always been an "interesting character" and has been a most generous supporter of the village.
He would rather "give his money away than spend it."
During the surprise announcement, Riegel received a plaque while Mayor Menz read a proclamation.
Though honored, Riegle remains humbly content in the knowledge that he has helped nurture a whole community and lives a blessed life.
"As I said, this was all very nice, but some of this stuff is kinda overblown," he said. "I am most proud and thrilled that the village's maintenance department has grown over the years from just myself to four people (At one point -1996- Riegel was the only one on staff). It is time to welcome in a younger generation of leaders."
Riegel may be retired, but he shows no signs of slowing down.
"I had to retire," he said with a smile. "Benefits, you know."