‘Improve the quality of life’ legacy of New Haven’s oldest politician

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NEW HAVEN, Ind. (WANE) – Councilman Terry Werling is the oldest politician in Allen County and is currently serving his 9th term.

Werling is now the Councilman-At-Large for New Haven, and has been serving the New Haven community since the 1970s.

Werling explained that he stumbled into politics. He used to accompany his soon-to-be wife Carolyn to the DeKalb County headquarters, where her father was the chairman for the GOP. To help out he started sweeping the floors and emptying the waste baskets and eventually Carolyn’s dad took notice.

“All of a sudden, I got wrapped up in the party,” said Werling. “Her father told me to run for precinct committeeman. I didn’t even tell my family I was running, I just put my name on the ballot I got beat by one vote. My family didn’t even vote for me and I got beat by one vote.”

Despite not winning, Werling continued working with the GOP and building relationship. He continued working with planning and commission boards and his hard work didn’t go unnoticed.

“The mayor at the time said ‘Terry you should run for office,” explained Werling. “I thought no, I don’t need to run for any political office, I am not a politician.”

Werling did eventually run for office and in 1975 he was elected as councilman for New Haven’s 3rd District. Three years later, former New Haven Mayor Herbert Brudi had to resign due to health reasons, leaving his seat vacant.

During this time, Werling was a state delegate and was in Indianapolis for a convention. During this time, cellphones, emails and social media weren’t a thing and people had to get their news a different way.

“The car radio was on, and it come across that Terry Werling is the next mayor of New Haven. I said ‘WHAT?’. The precinct committee members that I was chairman of elected me to be their next mayor.”

In 1979 he was elected as mayor of New Haven.

“I think one of the biggest things I received from politics is the respect from my fellow people. I know I worked with Mayor McDonald. I always respected him.” 

The feeling is mutual. Former New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald said that Councilman Werling is not just a coworker in local government but a friend and mentor and someone he has looked up to for all of his professional career.

Werling said during his time in politics, he wanted to improve the quality of life for his constituents.

“Terry has always been one of those guys who have been a real champion in public safety in our community as well,” said McDonald. “It’s something we just can’t overlook. Public safety, fire and EMS, to make sure the public safety officials have the best equipment, best training, we all know training is crucial.

Former Indiana Governor Robert Orr presented Werling with the Sagamore of Wabash award, which is the highest honor a person can receive in the state of Indiana.

Despite being 81-years old and having his foot amputated, Werling currently serves as Councilman at-large and still works at Macy’s department store.

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