LANCASTER – Superintendent of the Fairfield County Developmental Disabilities Commission, John Peeker has enjoyed a 50-year career serving people with developmental disabilities. But that career will come to an end when he retires on Friday.
Pekar, 71, took office on July 12, 1999, and said that now seemed like the right time to retire because the figure of 50 is an approximation. Aide David Wool will replace him.
“I was one of those lucky people who worked for 50 years, but didn’t really have what you think of as a job,” Pekar said. “It’s really been a vocation and a journey. When you’ve been doing this for 50 years, it just doesn’t seem grounded in reality to stop doing it and never do it again.”
Originally from Akron, Pekar started his career in January 1973 as a part-time residential assistant in a group home. Until 1991, he was the CEO of several non-profit organizations in northeastern Ohio. That’s when former Gov. George Voinovich asked him to serve as deputy director of the state’s Department of Developmental Disabilities, where he spent about six years before he moved here in Franklin County where he served on the DD board. I moved.
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“My first thought was to move back to Northeast Ohio and become a superintendent in Summit County, Akron, or Stark County, Canton.” That was my career path I figured out. .”
However, he said working with Fairfield DD was a good fit and took it.
“I think my plans were still there when I was able to go home to northeastern Ohio,” Peker said. I didn’t want to leave, in fact I was offered one of those jobs about 12 years ago and turned it down.”
After 23 years in Fairfield County, Pekar has many fond memories of leading Fairfield DD. One of them, he said, is the ability to expand the agency to increase the number of people it serves.
“This includes educational opportunities, employment opportunities,” he said. “This includes a project search at Fairfield Medical Center. This includes Eastland/Fairfield Career and Technical School, Ohio Opportunity Agency for Disabled, Fairfield Medical Center, and Fairfield DD’s It was a collaboration between, essentially offering a year-long internship to people in the fourth grade of a high school embedded at Fairfield Medical Center.”
Another achievement came in 2010, according to Pekar, when Fairfield DD acquired Art & Clay on Main at 150 W. Main St.
“Downtown was pretty dead back then, with a lot of empty stores and not a lot of life,” he said. “When I heard that Art & Clay on Main was shutting down, I figured I had to do something about it.
“We also felt downtown that we couldn’t put another nail in the coffin with another empty storefront… We had to maintain some kind of balance until things started to pick back up. For Fairfield DD A company that has been successful for over 10 years.”
Another achievement, according to Pekar, was the removal of the yellow school bus that Fairfield DD’s clients use to attend various programs.
“It’s not inappropriate for children to ride the yellow school bus,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s inappropriate for adults to ride the yellow school bus. It doesn’t, so we ended up with a contract with Lancaster Public Transport to provide transportation, which was typical transportation available to everyone.”
Mr Pekar said the move also allowed the LPT to expand and become the Lancaster-Fairfield Public Transit Authority.
Another significant moment in his career was helping the county convert Farrifield DD’s former building on Coonpass Road in Carroll into the Fairfield County Workforce Center, where Fairfield DD’s clients were out of the program there. He said it was a guarantee to make a profit.
Pekar may have wanted to return to Northeast Ohio at times in his career, but not now, he said. He and his wife plan to continue living here.
“My wife and I have talked about doing a little bit of traveling,” he said. I’ve already had a few calls asking for I think it will take a couple of months I’m going to start doing nothing and take it easy a little bit and then start actively working on something in the developmental disability field I can’t imagine stopping it .”
Pekar started playing bass guitar a few years ago and hopes to form a band playing Americana-style music by the spring.
“Think Tom Petty, John Prine, the Traveling Wilburys, The Band,” he said. “That’s the direction.”
Pekar also said it is forging a relationship with the Lancaster Performing Arts Consortium to bring some kind of performing arts venue to the city. He also plans to continue his involvement with Lancaster Playhouse and Garrett Players.