Valley views ups and downs in ’09

Buzz Pishkur Leaves Forum

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Walter “Buzz” Pishkur, Forum president and chief executive officer, has resigned his post effective today.

Ed Port Neurofibromatosis

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By Denise Dick

The community pitched in to build a new house for robbery victim and former KFC manager Joe Kaluza.

From a CEO with a meteoric rise and fall to a mayor to a little boy struck in the head by a baseball, the top newsmakers of 2009 hail from all walks of life.

Walter “Buzz” Pishkur became president and chief executive officer of Forum Health in September 2008 after three years on its trustees board.

He tops the list of 10 2009 newsmakers as compiled by Vindicator reporters and editors.

“When I went to Forum, I was so impressed with the people there and the importance of that institution,” Pishkur said. “Part of my goal was to raise the profile of the institution and to make people aware of what their friends and neighbors do there.”

The troubled hospital system filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2009, and Pishkur resigned about six months later under pressure from creditors.

Hospital trustees proposed paying Pishkur $9,000 a week as a consulting fee at the same time 52 employees were laid off, drawing criticism from one of the unions representing employees at Northside Medical Center.

Pishkur initially accepted the consulting fee but later rejected it. He has said that he originally believed he would be able, as a consultant, to further the reorganization plan developed under his leadership.

He said it later became apparent that his position as consultant would be minimized, and he believed Forum couldn’t afford to pay him the fee with employees making concessions and being laid off.

Early this month, the hospital board asked the bankruptcy judge for permission to pay Pishkur $18,000 in severance.

Other newsmakers rounding out the 2009 list:

Jay Williams

Youngstown’s mayor continued to make headlines this year. While easily securing re-election, Williams negotiated a land-tax deal with Girard officials to make way for a potential expansion at V&M Star Steel. The $970 million expansion would create 400 jobs.

The mayor traveled throughout the state, speaking against a November ballot initiative to allow casinos in four Ohio cities.

Joe Kaluza

The tragic story of the former KFC manager left paralyzed after being shot in a robbery drew the community together more than a year after the crime.

Kaluza’s sister and other supporters launched a campaign at the Canfield Fair to raise money for a new home for Kaluza, his wife and two special-needs children. That effort raised $37,000 and a pledge to build the home by Core Six Plus One, a group of seven area businessmen.

Henry Nemenz

The grocery store owner battled pickets at his Poland Save-A-Lot store who were protesting because the store was nonunion. To thank customers who supported the store, last July Nemenz offered free hot dogs, water and soft drinks. The store, though, closed in November.

Bruce Zoldan

The fireworks magnate folded one hockey team and started another, the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms. The team, of which Zoldan’s son, Alex, is president, plays at the Covelli Centre.

Tim Ryan

Ryan helped negotiate the V&M Star Steel deal with Youngstown and Girard and conducted a telephone town hall on health care.

Lloyd McCoy Jr.

The 11-year-old boy was shot and killed in April while at his sister’s Wick Street Southeast home in Warren. One Health Ohio’s new medical/dental clinic in southeast Warren was named after the boy earlier this month.

Luke Holko

Another youngster touched the hearts of many Mahoning Valley residents this year, too. Luke, 4, was hit in the head with a baseball at a September Mahoning Valley Scrappers game in Niles.

Luke suffered a fractured skull and brain injury. People donated $24,000 at ballparks to help the family pay medical bills. He spoke his first words since the accident this month.

Ed Port

Austintown resident Port, 39, suffers from a rare disease that causes severe facial tumors, but he hasn’t been able to have the surgeries he needs covered by insurance. Several organizations including the Knights of Columbus have conducted fundraisers for Port this year and a Los Angeles-based production company is filming his story for a possible documentary.

Judge Mark A. Belinky

Judge Belinky of Mahoning County Probate Court made news this year when he filed a mandamus action in the 7th District Court of Appeals against county commissioners to get them to increase his court budget. The suit was settled when commissioners added $200,000 to the probate court budget.

Judge Belinky also opted to expand from three to five the number of Mill Creek Park board commissioners. The judge said he wanted to diversify the geographic representation on the board.

Judge Belinky last month requested less money for his court’s 2010 budget than it received in 2009.

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