Erie County Historical Society Board of Trustees, Officers and Mission Statement

Our Officers:

President                     Brent Gardner
Vice President            James O. Miller
Secretary                     Leslie Korenko
Treasurer                    Monty Kaufman

Our Board Members serve for three years effective on the date of the Annual Meeting:

Terms Expire November 2024:
Mary Ann Groot, James O. Miller, Chris Wime

Terms Expire November 2025:
Tom Horsman, Monty Kaufman, Leslie Korenko, John Lippus, Ann Marie Muehlhauser, Bob Speers

Terms Expire November 2023:
Zack Dolyk, David Biechele, Brent Gardner, John Hildebrandt, Jim Jackson

Our Mission

The Erie County Historical Society was established in 1955.

Our Mission:
The mission of the Erie County Historical Society is to tell the story of Erie County, Ohio, to residents and visitors.

Our By-Laws



David Biechele was born in Sandusky, Ohio. He graduated from Sandusky High School and Bowling Green State University. David is the founder of Vacationland Realty Inc. and is still active in the real estate business. He is married, the father of four sons, five grandchildren, and 13 great grandchildren. He has had an interest in Sandusky/Erie County History virtually all of his life. He has served as the local trivia person for the Sandusky Rotary for over 20 years and does the History Quiz on the ECHS website.



Zack grew up in Amherst, Ohio. He has a life-long interest in history. He graduated from Ohio Northern University with a dual English/History major. He received his law degree from The Ohio State University. He has lived in Vermilion since 1978 where he has his private law office. He is a partner with the firm of Kademenos, Wisehart, Hines, Dolyk & Wright. Zack was elected Judge of the Vermilion Municipal Court in 2007, a part-time position, where he currently still serves. In addition to serving on the Erie County Historical Board, Zack has been honored to serve as the Past President and Trustee of the Vermilion Chamber of Commerce, Trustee of the Ritter Public Library, President of the Ritter Public Library Foundation, Past President and Trustee of the Erie County Bar Association, Past President and Trustee of the Vermilion Rotary Club, Trustee of the Vermilion-on-the-Lake Historic Community Center, Past President and Trustee of the Vermilion YMCA, Trustee of the Sandusky Bay Chapter of the Archeological Society of Ohio (ASO), Trustee and Past President of the Amherst Historical Society. Zack and his wife Wendy reside in Vermilion where they enjoy living on Lake Erie.

Brent was born and resides in Sandusky, Ohio. Heis a graduate of Sandusky High School, and a Graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the Fisher College of Business. Brent is the President of Gardner & Strayer Insurance Group, Inc., Gardner & Lindsey Insurance Agency, Inc., and the Carabin Insurance Agency, Inc. Brent is married and a father of two sons and three grandsons. He enjoys spending time fishing with his family, ice boating, and visiting Civil War battle sites. He enjoys lecturing on Ice boating and the development of Sandusky through the 1930’s.



A native of Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood, John Hildebrandt spent 40 years working at Cedar Point. He started as a staff writer in the PR Department in 1974, rising to Vice President, Marketing, in 1993. He was transferred to Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom as General Manager in 2004. A year later he was transferred back to Ohio to serve as General Manager of Cedar Point. After nine years as GM, he retired following Cedar Point’s 2013 operating season.

Hildebrandt is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in English; he has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

He is the co-author, with his wife, Marie, of Lake Erie’s Shores and Islands, a history of the tourism industry in the Lake Erie West region, published in 2015. In 2018, Hildebrandt published a memoir of his time at Cedar Point: Always Cedar Point, a Memoir of the Midway.

A lifetime student of the Civil War, Hildebrandt has written articles on the war and has made presentations on Civil War related topics, including Erie County (Ohio) in the Civil War and Sandusky financier and native son Jay Cooke

In 2000, Hildebrandt received the Paul Sherlock Award from the Ohio Travel Association in recognition of his contributions to Ohio’s tourism industry. Hildebrandt served as OTA president 1996.

Hildebrandt was president of the Erie County Historical Society 2018 – 2020 is currently serving as vice president. He is also serving as a director of the Sandusky Library and the Sandusky Library Foundation and Follett House Museum, and the Sandusky Area Maritime Association.

Hildebrandt was involved in local health care governance for more than 30 years, serving as a trustee for Providence Hospital, Firelands Regional Health Center, and Providence Care Centers. He served as Board Chair for both Providence Hospital and Providence Care Centers.

He and Marie live in Sandusky. They have two adult children and four grandchildren (who love to visit in the summertime).


A native of Cleveland, Tom recently relocated to Erie County and now calls Sandusky home. Tom is a 2011 graduate of The Catholic University of American in Washington, DC, where he earned a B.A. in Politics with a minor in Philosophy. He later received his Master’s of Urban Planning, Design, and Development from Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs in 2017. Tom currently works for the City of Sandusky’s Department of Community Development and serves as the staff liaison for the Sandusky Landmark Commission.
        In addition to serving on the board of the ECHS, Tom is also Vice Chair of the board of All Aboard Ohio, a passenger rail advocate organization. Tom has a particular interest in Sandusky’s historic architecture, its city planning history, and history of transportation. 

Jim was born, raised and educated in Sandusky.  He was a 1965 graduate of Sandusky High School .  He attended Terra Technical College where he received his journeyman’s card from New Departure/Delphi.

     Jim served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1969 as a microwave technician where he was stationed in Thailand.  He was employed with New Departure/Delphi as a mill wright and retired in 2001 after 32 years of service.
     He was an avid audiophile which nurtured his interest in music.  This love led him to owning his own recording studio, JMJ Studios.  Jim produced and recorded several local talented artists. He also was the founder of the music group, The J-Markz, which performed throughout Sandusky and the surrounding area.  The J-Markz performed for many charity events donating their time and talents to such organizations as Serving our Seniors and Erie County Senior Citizens.  He is also the music director of his church men’s choir.
     Jim had a variety of interests that often led to many business adventures from owning his own music store, installation of music systems and photography.
     He is currently a member of the Sandusky Planning Commission and past president of the Sandusky National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and former treasurer.  He is currently serving on the NAACP’s Executive Board.  He coached the AMVETS Little League baseball and Adams little league baseball and girl scouts’ softball, YMCA basketball and flag football.
     His interest in local history was stimulated by the NAACP’s 100th Anniversary in his research for local African American history in Sandusky.  Upon researching at the Sandusky library, Ms. Molly Carver informed him there was very little African American local history available.  This led him to investigate and record life- long African American Sanduskians of their oral knowledge of their experiences and memory while growing up and living in Sandusky.  This eventually led to the compilations of these recordings and interviews into the NAACP’s event honoring those ‘First African American Trail Blazers’ in Sandusky at the State Theater.  (The ‘First’ African American Trail Blazers was based on the ‘first’ African American person to be appointed or held/venture into positions in the areas not previously held by an African American in Sandusky (such as, policeman, fireman, teacher, etc.).  There was such an overwhelming request for the written information, that we published a book with the information we had found.  This book has also been placed in the Sandusky Library.

Monty was born and raised in Sandusky, graduated from Sandusky High School in 1965 and Capital University with a major in history in 1969. He received his Masters of Divinity from Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in 1973 and was ordained at Zion Lutheran Church, Sandusky. From 1973 until 1976 he was the Assistant Pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Sidney, Ohio. His next parish was St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Prospect, Ohio, in Marion County, from 1976 until 1996. St. Paul Lutheran Church, Sandusky was Monty’s next call until 2000. At that time he went to St. Peter Lutheran Church, Blackberry Corners in Ottawa County where he served until 2012 when his retirement.
Monty married Suzie Boyd from Coshocton, Ohio in 1969. They have two sons, two daughter-in-laws, three granddaughters and one great granddaughter. He was asked to become the Treasurer of the Erie County Historical Society in 2014 and has filled that position since. He has been a member of the Sandusky Area Maritime Association since 1996 and a board member since 2013. He says It is his great joy to serve both of these organizations. 

Retired from the Federal Government, Leslie began writing grants for the Village of Kelleys Island, which led to an interest in the history of this small island community. She started exploring the old stories and discovered that the island’s history, as told through the words of its inhabitants, was surprisingly comprehensive and unexpectedly entertaining.

     Leslie began gathering information for her books 15 years ago and has published six volumes covering the Island’s history from 1810-1893. Leslie received the Henry Howe Award for outstanding Ohio history book at the Ohio Genealogical Society annual convention in Cleveland in April 2012. Leslie’s fifth book received honorable mention in the 2015 Independent Scholar Category for the Center of Archival Collections’ Local History Publication Award. Bowling Green State University wrote: [These] Kelleys Island [books are] highly recommended and [represent an] impressive regional history that could well serve as a template for similar local histories for other parts of the country.
     In 2001 Leslie initiated a project with the Sandusky Library and the Western Reserve Historical Society to preserve and microfilm the Islander, a hand written newspaper published on the island between 1860 and 1879. These incredible volumes, donated to the Society in the 1930’s, were available for viewing only by visiting the Society’s library in Cleveland. The addition of these volumes to the Kelleys Island Branch of the Sandusky Library enables anyone to research their families and explore life on the island during this pivotal time in its history.
     Leslie has written historical columns for the Black Swamp Trader & Gazette and the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly and authors the Kelleys Island News column in the Put-in-Bay Gazette. Her stories of Kelleys Island soldiers during the Civil War have appeared in the Ohio Civil War Genealogy Journal. Leslie appeared on the Robin Swoboda television show That’s Life, presenting a slice of the island’s history.
     She has worked hard to protect and preserve the island’s heritage. She served on the Underwater Preserve Planning Group, formed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to preserve several shipwrecks around the island. She was a featured speaker at the International Coastal Zone conference in 2001, sponsored by NOAA-Coastal Services Center. She has made presentations to several local groups including the Black Swamp Conservancy, area historical and genealogical societies and libraries, and regularly does presentations to visiting Road Scholars in conjunction with the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society. Leslie has been very active in local government, serving four years on Village Council and two years on the Planning Commission.

John Lippus is a native of Erie County, growing up in Sandusky, Ohio. He is a graduate of Sandusky High School and The University of Toledo, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in education.

       John is currently employed as the Vice President of Investor Engagement for the Regional Growth Partnership, a privately funded economic development organization serving the 17 counties in NW Ohio. Prior to that, he was President/CEO of the United Way of Erie County, following 10 years as the President/CEO of the Sandusky Main Street Association, specializing in historic downtown preservation and revitalization.
       John stays actively involved with leadership roles for a variety of non-profit and governmental organizations. In addition to serving on the Erie County Historical Society’s board, he currently sits on the board of directors for the Rotary Club of Sandusky, Perkins Township Zoning Commission, Kinship House, University of Toledo Greek Alumni Affiliate, and the Chuck Ealey Foundation. He was also a founding member of the North Coast Young Professionals organization and US Coast Guard 100 ton licensed Master.
       John and his wife Jennifer reside in Sandusky with their golden retriever Molly, and cat Scarlet Grey.

James O Miller –  James was born and raised In Sandusky. He grew up in the pharmacy business and went into banking after college. He retired as CEO of Civista Bank and remains its Chairman. James is involved in many local organizations including Firelands Regional Health System chair and trustee in many non-profits. He has a lifelong interest in local history and local maritime history and serves on the Board of the Erie  County Historical Society.


Bob was born and raised in Sandusky, enjoyed Cedar Point and learned boating on Sandusky Bay.  His ancestry in Sandusky goes back to 1848 when two great-grandparents emigrated from Germany (when a revolution failed).  That great-grandfather found work with the Mansfield and Sandusky City Railroad.  Other ancestors came from Scotland, pioneered through Pennsylvania, operated the ferry for pioneers across the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh.

After high school Bob joined the Army Reserves.  He earned the B. Sci. (physics) from the U. of Michigan, and the MSEE and PhD (engineering physics) from Ohio State University.  After graduation he did research and product development at RCA Labs in Princeton, N.J. and RCA Lancaster, PA.  In 1963 he married Martha Evans, a high school classmate.
In 1973, he and his family were able to return to Erie County where he brought modern electronics and physics programs to Firelands College of BGSU.  With the Ohio Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers, he established Physics Day at Cedar Point.  At the national level he was a member of the leadership of TYC-21, which modernized the use of computers and electronics in the physics curriculum.  He was a member of the community workgroup that oversaw the decommissioning of the nuclear reactor at NASA Plum Brook.
He and his family were avid boaters and sailors at Sandusky Sailing Club, where he was commodore in 1993 and a principal race officer for many years.
Ongoing research involves civic and economic development of the Firelands  region, War of 1812, Battle of Lake Erie, schooners, steamers, railroads, highways, airplanes, Civil War, nuclear reactors, solar and wind power, communication systems, Russia, China, and use of digital media to enhance knowledge of history.

A Sandusky High School graduate, Chris Wimer first became interested in local history by reading Helen Hansen’s and Virginia Steinemann’s From the Widows Walk series of history articles. A university educator with over 10 years of teaching experience, Chris joined the Erie County Historical Society after graduating college with both his Bachelors of Science in Business Administration and MBA degrees.
      As part of the society’s Board of Trustees, Chris has worked with other members of the group to research content for the organization’s website and to plan and develop several new historic markers throughout Erie County. Chris also is a member of the Sandusky Area Maritime Association.