November 26, 2014

Elyria
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35°F
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15 Minutes: Meet businessman and volunteer Tom Lahetta

Tom Lahetta
Age: 55
Occupation: President of the North Coast Building Industries Association
Lives: South Amherst

Why are you cleaning up — volunteering — on South Maple Street on such a nice day?

My brother, Phil, happens to be the chief building official for the city of Elyria and when they talked about revitalizing this neighborhood — I don’t know whose concept it was — he came before the BIA board and spoke and was able to drum up quite a few volunteers. Certain things we couldn’t get into as deep as we would like to with the lead-based paint abatement. Certain porch repairs may have incurred tearing out lead-based paint on the floors, so we couldn’t do that.

As it turns out, I do home building and remodeling, but I’m doing landscaping today. Being president of the North Coast BIA, we try to do volunteer things once in awhile, the best we can. Our remodelers often will build a dugout or concession stand for a little league. We try to participate in something once a year and do our share. Leppert Roofing is out here, too.

What is your ‘weapon’ of choice today?

A weed-wacker and my lawn mower. We were able to knock out quite a few lawns (Friday). Between Gates Avenue and South Maple we probably cut 25 lawns.

Who does the yard work at your house?

I do. I kind of enjoy it. It’s therapy.

Does your wife have to get after you to do it?

No, but she doesn’t mind when I do it.

Talk more about your work.

I do custom homes and remodeling, I’ve been in business since ’78. Before that, my father was a builder, too.

Do you think the neighborhood looks a little bit better now?

Yeah, I think so. I don’t know if you’ve been to Gates, it was a little rougher looking. We were able to get in there and take care of a lot of things.

Do you have any hobbies?

Gee, work is like my hobby. I do have a couple of ’Vettes, a ’62 and ’77. I enjoy working on those and driving them as well.

What about your family?

My wife is Chris, Matt is 31, and Danielle just turned 27.

Let’s talk about volunteering. You could have been at home or working at your business …

You know, with the time restraints now, you wear a lot of hats. You might be making less money and doing less work, but you’re busier because you’re getting by with fewer people. I’m trying to do everything myself instead of subbing out different things. Everybody that owns companies knows it takes away from your job or business, but it’s well worth it to know someone’s benefiting by the time you’re giving. I think the city of Elyria might try to do this again.

Have you received any feedback from anyone?

Oh yeah, a lot of the neighbors on both streets came out and helped work. They are really happy with things that happened here. It would be nice to take another couple of days now and then and do another street or so.

What does Elyria charge to cut a lawn if one is in arrears?

Yeah, they do charge, I don’t want to imagine, but two were city properties that I cut. They’re homes that they’re knocking down.

Chronicle photographer Chuck Humel shines the spotlight on the people of Lorain County each week. Know someone worthy of 15 Minutes? E-mail chumel@chroniclet.com.