Award Winning City

2022 Innovative Award

The Superhero 5K received the 2022 Innovative Event Award for being the best in the State. Assistant Superintendent Karla Fritts and Sports Coordinator Laurie Baumgartner teamed up with the maintenance crew to create exciting challenges that tested the skills of participating families to bring out the superhero in all of us.

2022 Distinguished Citizen of the Year

The 2022 Distinguished Citizen of the Year, was presented to Park Board President John Gerber. John has dedicated 27 years to the Bluffton Parks and Recreation Board, guiding our department in creating and renovating numerous parks.

2021 Indiana Park and Recreation Association

At the IPRA Conference in Indianapolis, Bluffton Parks was given the Most Innovative Program in the state of Indiana for their Power wheels in the Park and Kids’ Bikefest Event.  This two-in-one event for ages three and up gave children the opportunity to drive through an obstacle course that included tunnels, rumble strips, arches, ramps, a car wash tent, and finish in a huge pile of foam.  After completing the challenge, the kids received a finishing medal and driver’s license.  Not only did this free event capture the attention of smaller children, but adapting it for bigger kids allowed for twice the fun as they competed in slow roll challenges, races, and various game stations.

FULL Turnaround Awards 2020

2020 Indiana Park and Recreation Association

At the IPRA conference in November the Distinguished Citizen Award went to Rick McEvoy, who has dedicated the past 30 years serving on the Bluffton Parks and Recreation Board.

2020 Indiana Park and Recreation Association

The Creative Event Award went to Bluffton’s Park and Recreation Department for their Clue Parks Edition game. During the uncertainty of the COVID19 pandemic, the Bluffton Parks Department brainstormed fun activities to keep residents active, involved, and most importantly safe.

2020 Indiana Park and Recreation Association

And finally, they were honored with the Outstanding Agency Award. Our Parks Department strives to provide quality parks and innovative programs for the community and works hard to offer over 250 annual events.

Parks Department, February 2019
The Bluffton Parks Department attended the Indiana State Conference where they were awarded the Most Creative Program in the state of Indiana for the Yarn Bomb Bluffton Event! These awards are highly competitive and this year alone there was a 55% increase in nominations.

This award belongs to all the hardworking artists in our community, who for the last 4 years put in a lot of hours creating beautiful sweaters to cover our parks. They were also invited to give a presentation during the conference to explain this program.  They hope that other City’s will be taking this idea home and spreading this program across the state.

Tamara Runyon, City Clerk Treasurer, earns Advanced Certified Public Finance Administrator
Association of Public Treasurers of the United States and Canada awarded the  professional credential of Advanced Certified Public Finance Administrator (ACPFA) to Tamara D. Runyon, Clerk Treasurer of Bluffton Indiana.  The Association presented the ACPFA credential and plaque at the 2018 Annual Conference during the Awards and Installation Banquet on July 24, 2018.  Tami is the 6th individual in the United States and Canada to receive this certification.

IPRA’s Elected Official of the Year – Council Member John Whicker
The Elected Official of the Year Award is presented to an individual who provides exemplary support to parks and recreation. This individual has made significant contributions to parks and recreation field through active participation, advocacy, or through policy and legislation. This individual can be at the local, county, regional, state, or federal level.
Park Superintendent Pam Vanderkolk nominated Whicker for several reasons:  His support in the Kehoe Concert Series program, His support of what has been name Whicker Field and Playground and His support in phase 2 of the interurban trail.  He sees, supports, values and promotes the importance of the quality of life that parks and recreation bring to a community.    Awarded in January 2018.

Outstanding Professional Award
The Outstanding Professional Award was presented to Pam Vanderkolk for her exceptional impact on the field of parks and recreation. Nominees should have a record of noteworthy and special contributions to the parks profession, demonstrate leadership and advocacy, display remarkable service to their agency, and be a source of professional guidance and inspiration. Must be an IPRA member.  Awarded in January 2016.

Bluffton becomes Indiana’s first Gigabit City.
Bluffton has become Indiana’s first “Gigabit City,” with universally available internet speeds up to one hundred times faster than a typical residential broadband connection.
The term “Gigabit City” had its genesis in Google’s effort in Kansas City to ensure universal access to ultra-high speed broadband.
The system upgrade is the result of a public-private partnership with locally-based Adams-Wells Internet Telecom TV to offer gigabit capacity to throughout the entire city.  (9/2015)

“Bluffton” named best place to start a Business in Indiana
The northeastern Indiana city of 9,616 has the second-highest average revenue per business on the list, and its 1,003 businesses have an average revenue of $5.06 million. Bluffton residents benefit from affordable housing: With a median monthly housing cost of $571, Bluffton ranked as the second-most affordable place for housing of all of the locations we analyzed. The city also has a high percentage of businesses with paid employees (36.39%) and businesses per 100 people (10.43). Local businesses are served by the Wells County Chamber of Commerce, which provides workforce development, networking and marketing opportunities through numerous events and programs throughout the year. The ISBDC, Indiana Small Business Development Center, has a nearby office in Fort Wayne. (read more)

2014 Volunteer of the year
Rachel Makowski is named Volunteer of the year by the Indiana Park and Recreation Association in January 2015.  Rachel earning her Girl Scout Gold Award raised money to fund a Dog Park.  The K-9 Kommons is at the corner of Indiana and Market Streets.  Pictured at the INPRA’s ceremony with Rachel is Mayor Ted Ellis and Park Superintendent Pam Vanderkolk.

2014 Best Agency of the year
The Parks Department received several awards by the Indiana Park and Recreation Association in January 2015.  Not only were they named the best agency in the state they also received Best Health Program for the “Rough & Muddy and Soggy Jog” and Best Family/Youth Program for “Foam Party” event.  Pictured holding the award is Mayor Ted Ellis, Pam Vanderkolk; Park Superintendent and Laurie Baumgartner; Sports Coordinator.

Bruce H.

Sagamore of the Wabash Honor
Officer Bruce Holland was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash at the 2014 State D.A.R.E Conference in Indianapolis.   Michael Ward, Executive Director of D.A.R.E, made the nomination and presented Bruce with the honor. Bruce has worked over 25 years with D.A.R.E and credits his wife and co-workers for their on going support. He has worked at the local, state and national level not only teaching students, but training officers as well.  He also received a certification of Congratulations from Senator Travis Holdman.


“The Call that starts it All”
Dispatcher Mike McBride was awarded “The Call that Starts it All” award by  Bluffton Regional Medical Center.  The Lutheran Health Network recognizes dispatchers who have made a difference in patient care through the relaying of pre-arrival instructions to emergency personnel.  Mike was nominated by coworker Adam McCarthey and is the first local recipient of this award. (7/2014)


2014 IPRA Award of Excellence
The Bluffton Parks & Recreation Department was honored at the 2014 Indiana Parks & Recreation Association annual conference with an “Award of Excellence” for their Chicks Run event that was held in June of 2013. This award recognizes parks and recreation agencies that are providing enriching and engaging programs and events for improving the quality of life and promoting a fun and healthy lifestyle.  Pictured accepting the award is Pam Vanderkolk, Park Superintendent and Laurie Baumgartner, Sports Coordinator.


Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence
In Oct. 2012, Officer Jason Baker was awarded the recipient of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence law enforcement officer of the year.  He was nominated by Robin James and Chief Tammy Schaffer. Nomination


President of National League of Cities
Mayor Ellis was elected President of National League of Cities in November 2011.

Center for Non Violence
Chief Tammy Schaffer was recognized in October of 2011, by the Center for Non-Violence during their annual luncheon. Plaque states “For her commitment to ending domestic violence in our community”.

Frank O’Bannon Sunshine Award
Former Indiana First Lady Judy O’Bannon, left, presented Bluffton Mayor Ted Ellis with the Frank O’Bannon Sunshine Award in recognition of his efforts to promote open government. The award is an annual selection made by the Hoosier State Press Association and was presented to Ellis in Indianapolis as part of the HSPA annual meeting.


Outstanding Special Project
The Bluffton Parks & Recreation Department was presented with the 2010 Outstanding Special Project award at the annual Indiana Parks & Recreation Association (IPRA) conference in Indianapolis on Friday, January 21st. The award was for their “Dog Days of Summer” program. The award was under the promotional tools category for their innovative approach to not only promoting Pickett’s Run Park, but local businesses as well. The Parks Department greatly appreciates the assistance of Patti Langel from Pampered Pets who assisted them in organizing the event. They’d also like to thank all the other pet-related businesses and individuals who participated and attended the event and look forward to a bigger, better program this August!


INvision Award
Fire Chief Bob Plummer awarded this honor in September of 2010.
Long before the term “interoperable communications” became the buzzword for effective public safety, Bob Plummer was working towards the goal. He stepped up to the plate early on, serving as a member of several statewide interoperable communication groups, including the IPSC Policy Subcommittee, the Statewide Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP) Executive Committee and the SCIP Implementation Committee. His consistent support of improved interoperable communications in his community and the state is well known, and as a result he is sought out by many of us for his opinion and guidance.


Outstanding Service Award
The 2009 Outstanding Service award was presented to Mayor Ted Ellis by the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association.  Bluffton Park Superintendent, Pam Vanderkolk, presented the award at the annual State Conference held in West Lafayette. The award recognizes the many ways he has assisted the parks department over the years.


Outstanding Special Projects
Park Superintendent Pam Vanderkolk and her assistant Brandy Fiechter were awarded the Outstanding Special Projects award for the Destination Recreation Weekly newspaper column that runs in the Bluffton News-Banner.  This article is used to keep the residents informed of the many activities sponsored by the Parks Dept.  The award was given out at the 2009 State Conference in West Lafayette.


D.A.R.E Agency Head award for the State of Indiana
Chief Tammy Schaffer was selected for this award after being nominated by Officer Holland. Chief Schaffer is a strong supporter of the D.A.R.E. program, locally and statewide.  She also continues to teach as a D.A.R.E. officer just completing her 20th year.  (August 2009)


Treasurer of United Cities and Local Governments
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) is an international association representing local and regional governments and their national associations. During its annual meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, Mayor Ted Ellis was elected to serve in the position of Treasurer for the UCLG.


President of the Indiana Association Chiefs
Police Chief Tammy Schaffer is the first woman to serve as president of a state chiefs of police association.  Tammy has been a member of the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police for many years.  She will work closely with the organization’s director to help benefit the association.
The mission of the Indiana Chiefs of Police is to promote professionalism, training and networking for the law enforcement executive and to enhance public awareness of law enforcement and public safety issues.


“Outstanding Program”
Fireman Bradley Evans, Park Superintendent Pam Vanderkolk and Fire Chief Bob Plummer are shown with their award for “Outstanding Program” from the Indiana Parks & Recreation Association at the annual conference in Indianapolis. The award was presented for this cooperative program entitled “Fire & Ice (cream) Social. This was held in October. Fireman Evans gave a fun, yet informative presentation of the proper use of fire extinguishers and other fire safety tips. All participants were given the opportunity to practice putting out a pan fire. Ice cream sundaes were then enjoyed following the demonstration.


Parks Department wins National Park and Recreation Awards
Pam Vanderkolk and Brandy Fiechter of the Bluffton Parks & Recreation Dept. are pictured here sharing with Mayor Ted Ellis and Rev. Cindy Osgood of the First United Methodist Church the awards that they were presented at during the “POW” (Programming Our World) conference. This annual conference is a National Parks & Recreation Assoc. sponsored event that is hosted by the Michigan Parks & Recreation Assoc.  This is the 6th year that Bluffton Parks Dept. has been fortunate enough to be honored. This year’s award winning programs were:  “Senior Exploration” in the Senior Programming Division and “Pumpkin Launch” in the Adult Programming Category.


America’s D.A.R.E. Office of the Year.   Officer Bruce Holland received the D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year award after attending the National Conference in Nashville.
Bruce has been training new D.A.R.E. Officers for the past 14 years.  He is a past president of the Indiana D.A.R.E officers association and a member of the D.A.R.E. Indiana advisory Board.  In 1993, he was recognized as the Indiana D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year.
Today, Bruce serves as the resource officer for Bluffton Harrison Schools.  The D.A.R.E. program here, under Holland’s leadership, has worked with literally hundreds of children and youths steering them toward drug-free substance free commitments.

State Honors  The Bluffton Parks and Recreation Department along with the VFW Post 2809, Angel of Hope Park and Bluffton Police Department were recently honored by the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association at the State Conference held in Indianapolis. The groups were nominated by Pam for their hard work and dedication to Bluffton and the Parks Department.


The VFW Post was honored with the “Essential Service:” award. This award is for those groups and individuals who unselfishly support their local parks. Accepting on their behalf were Bill Hansen, Elmo Riddle, Butch Werling, Lawrence Dubach and Jerry Lockwood.


Angel of Hope Park committee was awarded “The Facility Award” for the beautiful gift they have so kindly dedicated to the community. Accepting on behalf of the committee were Jane Searles, Pam and Kurt Gentis.


“Best Program Award” went to the Bluffton Police Department for the event Boot Camp.


Brandy Fiechter & Pam Vanderkolk (front L – R) are pictured here sharing with (top row L- R, Sgt. Jim Mettler, Assistant Police Chief Nathan Huss, Officer Mike Miller, Chief Tammy Schaffer and Mayor Ted Ellis) the awards that they were presented at the National Recreation & Parks Association sponsored programmers conference.  The award winners were in the Camp Division for the “Bluffton Boot Camp” and in the Youth Division for “Fear Factor”.


Building an inclusive community.
Our community believes that every person has value. We are committed to making certain that every person feels included whenever possible.  In its simplest terms, “inclusiveness” is a commitment by our community to include everyone as we make decisions, conduct business, hold events and educate our children.
Bluffton was featured in a recent USA Today article about its Inclusiveness Agenda:


Best Practice by FEMA Planning is Key to Mitigation – Success Achieved by Community
The Wabash has overflowed its banks many times since the Great Flood of 1913. The floods in 2003 and 2005 forced residents to evacuate and encouraged them to consider steps they could take to protect themselves and their property in the future.


Pam Vanderkolk and Brandy Fiechter of the Bluffton Parks & Recreation Dept. are sharing with Mayor Ted Ellis the awards that they were presented at the National Recreation & Parks Association sponsored programmers conference, “POW”. This is the fourth consecutive year that they have been honored for their innovative programs. The award winners were in the Youth division for the “DinoMite Dinosaur Dig”  and in the Pre-school division, they won for the “Winter Wonderland” Christmas program.


Mayor Ellis receives IACT Russell G. Lloyd Distinguished Service Award The Russell G. Lloyd Award is given to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to local government.  Nominees for this award must display accomplishments beyond their community, including contribution to IACT and public service, leadership and personal initiative.  Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson at the Annual IACT Banquet presented the award.


Parks Superintendent Pam Vanderkolk and her assistant Brandy Fiechter were awarded the following awards at the annual POW (Programming Our World) conference, a division of the National Recreation & Parks Association. Bluffton Parks & Recreation Dept. won for the Best Arts Program for their “Ooey Gooey Art Day” held at Washington Park in August and for the Best Inclusion Program for their “Art in the Park” cooperative week of art with Joseph Blaizer of CreArt and many Bi-County clients.


Bluffton’s Finest are now America’s Finest. The Bluffton Police Department has been honored with selection as the Best Dressed City Police Department in the United States with departmental size under 200 members.


Innovative Use of Communication Award The award was presented for the cooperative public relations plan of Mayor Ted Ellis and County Assessor Connie Prible which informed the property owners of the new assessment standards. This plan was developed to not only provide the history of the court ordered reassessment but also to inform property owners of how these changes would affect their property bills.


Annual Indiana Association of Cities Towns Conference Mayor Ellis and Mayor Jim Trobaugh of Kokomo. Mayor Ellis takes the gavel to serve as President of the Association for 1 year.


The Local Government Cooperation Award Given by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns to one city in Indiana for its cooperative efforts with other units of government. The City’s SOS (Student Out of School Suspension) Program gives students an opportunity to complete lessons and perform community service under the supervision of the Bluffton Police Department as an alternative to suspension.


Indiana’s Outstanding Officer of the Year Against Domestic ViolenceAwarded to the Police Chief Tammy Schaffer for her leadership in chairing the Wells County Domestic Violence Task Force.


National Parks Best Overall Program Awarded for the Junior Forensic Day program of the Bluffton Parks and Recreation Department.

National Parks Best Inclusion Program Given for the Special Needs program led by Angie Sissons for the Adams-Wells Special Services Cooperative through the Bluffton Parks and Recreation Department.

National Parks Best Art Program Awarded to the popular Mystery Dinner program of the Bluffton Parks and Recreation Department.

National Parks Best Youth-Teen Program Awarded to the Junior Forensic Day program of the Bluffton Parks and Recreation Department.