EAST TAWAS – Led by retired elementary school teacher Jane Ruster, a group of East Tawas residents gathered at the city council meeting on Aug. 5 to seek the support of city officials to honor retired Air Force Four Star General Earl T. O’Loughlin. 

According to biographical information provided by Ruster, O’Loughlin graduated from East Tawas High School in 1948 and from Bay City Junior College in 1951. He enlisted in the Air Force in February of that year as an airman, became an aviation cadet, and was commissioned a second lieutenant upon graduation from pilot training in June, 1952.

O’Loughlin is a highly-decorated combat pilot whose military career includes 29 missions over North Korea and Arc Light B-52 missions during the Vietnam War. He also served as an aircraft commander, instructor pilot, standardization evaluator and squadron operations officer. His administrative duties took him to Vietnam and Thailand, as well as several stations across the USA, including Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda. 

His U.S. Air Force biography states that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters among his many other decorations and awards. O’Loughlin was promoted to general Nov. 1, 1984, and retired from military service in 1987.

Referring to O’Loughlin as “our hometown hero,” Ruster suggested that a sign or plaque honoring the general could be placed in Harbor Park under the flagpole. She also noted that O’Loughlin, 89, has remained in the area since his retirement, and has been an inspiration to local youth.

Councilman Craig McMurray supported the proposal, saying that O’Loughlin is well-respected, helped kids and has been involved in the community. “This is the type of person we should do it for,” he said. 

Councilman Dave Leslie added that he “completely supports” the proposed honor. Mayor Bruce Bolen encouraged Ruster to organize and submit a formal proposal for the project, and suggested that she work with City Manager Brent Barringer to finalize its details. The mayor also expressed an interest in recognizing others who have served the community.

In other matters before the council:

• DPW Director Rodney Collier updated the council on the progress of the public restroom construction and bathhouse construction projects, and reported that he expects asphalt paving on Evans Street to be completed shortly.

• Zoning Administrator Stephanie Loew outlined her work regarding enforcement of the property maintenance code, noting that she has been in contact with property owners on an individual basis to encourage compliance.

• Tawas Police Authority (TPA) Chief Mark Ferguson said that the opening for an officer in that department has been reposted.

• Ferguson also informed the council that his department would be participating in an all-day training event on Aug. 7 at Tawas Area High School where several agencies would focus on active shooter situations.

• Members discussed the issue raised at their July 15 meeting regarding the electronic message sign ordinance. Barringer updated members on conversations he initiated with planner Don Wortman and a vendor who has sold some of the signs currently in use which were found to be non-compliant with the ordinance. Barringer reported that Wortman took no issue with the color of the text messages. The city desires to avoid distractions for drivers and color, frequency of message changes and the size of text lettering that can potentially create such hazards. Upon completion of the discussion, Bolen announced that there were no objections to referring the matter back to the Planning Commission.

• Designated McMurray as voting delegate to the Michigan Municipal League (MML) and Leslie was named as alternate.

• Approved the closure of State Street between Newman Street and Sawyer Street on Sept. 13 for an annual customer appreciation event.