America in Bloom

MANSFIELD -- Professional volunteer judges from the America in Bloom  national awards program will visit Mansfield on July 25-26.

This is Mansfield’s third year as an America in Bloom participant, and it is one of the many proud and passionate communities across America working on local revitalization programs.

Participants experience better cooperation among municipal, commercial, and residential sectors because everyone works toward a common goal.

In addition to receiving a detailed written evaluation from the judges citing strengths and opportunities for improvement, participants receive a special mention for what the judges deem to be an extraordinary project or program. Additional awards that can be earned includes:

-- Population category winner

-- Outstanding achievement award – the “best of the best” over all participants in each of the evaluated criteria

-- Special awards

-- Community Champion

-- YouTube Video

Judges will evaluate community efforts in the areas of flowers, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, celebrating heritage, community vitality, and overall impression.

The judging team members are Linda Cromer and Tim France.

Cromer has served her community in Greendale, Ind., in a variety of political positions, including Planning Commissioner, Chairperson of the Park Board and Tree Board, and Housing Authority Commissioner.

She sits on the executive boards and plays an active role in the efforts of several national and state non-profit organizations dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

Cromer, who received a fine arts education at the University of Kansas, learned to love gardening at her grandmother’s knee. Owner and operator of a floral shop and greenhouse for over a decade, she has spent the bulk of her professional life traveling as an international representative for a labor organization and has used those travel opportunities to audit design and horticulture classes at a number of universities, and to study the diversity and individuality of public gardens and the communities where they are located.

She is past president and active member of the local Garden Club and spearheaded her community’s first participation in the America in Bloom Program in 2005.

France has served as the Coshocton (Ohio) Municipal Court Judge (an elected position) since 2006, currently serving his third, six-year term. He has been involved with the community in various capacities, including serving on the Board for Coshocton Community Housing, which provides homes for people with developmental disabilities. He is president of Coshocton is Blooming, a non-profit board established to participate in America in Bloom.

His talent for planting and nurturing flowers began about 20 years ago when his daughter’s junior high track boosters raised funding by planting flowers in the 30 downtown planters. The planters were planted in May and were dead by July.

He realized that someone needed to take more responsibility, so he hauled water in the back of his truck to keep the plants alive all summer; however, they were not thriving. The next year, he convinced the local Rotary Club to donate different flowers and the City of Coshocton to allow usage of their spigots and City water. He completed the Master Gardener Program through the Ohio State University Extension Office.

He has personally designed and planted the Courthouse and City flowerbeds and helped Coshocton is Blooming obtain planters for every intersection in the City. Finally, he piloted a program to replace the old containers on Main Street to enhance the architecture of the City buildings. The planters have grown from 30 to over 400 which includes 96 hanging baskets.

To date, more than 250 communities from 45 states have participated in the program and more than 22 million people have been touched by it. Awards will be announced Oct. 3-5 at AIB’s National Symposium & Awards Celebration in St. Charles, Ill.

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