March 28, 2012 - She's been a fixture on the Leonard Village Council for two decades and helped create the popular Polly Ann Trail.
After living in Leonard for nearly 36 years – 20 of which she served on the village council – Pauline Blanka is leaving for Kentucky. She’s holding two plaques she received last week in recognition of her efforts to create the Polly Ann Trail. Photo by CJC. (click for larger version)
But now it's time for Pauline Blanka to say good-bye to Leonard and hello to Kentucky.
"I've loved living in Leonard," she said. "We have wonderful neighbors. I feel very sad about leaving. It's a nice rural community and there are a lot of dear people here. I'm going to miss them."
Blanka, who's lived in Leonard since 1976, recently resigned from the village council after 20 years of faithful service. During that time, she also served on Leonard's planning commission for 19 years, spending 16 of those years as its chairperson.
"Time goes by so quickly," she said. "I'm glad I was able to serve. I'm glad people voted for me. I always tried very hard to do that which was right and honorable."
As a trustee on the council, Blanka was well-known as a budget hawk.
"I always tried – not always successfully – to keep the costs down," she said.
She's proud of the fact that during her tenure, village council members never received a pay raise.
"This is about service, not making money," Blanka said.
But her proudest accomplishment was helping to transform the old, overgrown railroad corridor into the modern Polly Ann Trail, a non-motorized path that spans 14. 2 miles and runs through Oxford, Addison and Orion townships as well as the villages of Oxford and Leonard.
The trail is now used daily by hikers, runners, bicyclists and equestrians.
It was Blanka's love of horseback riding that first spurred her involvement with a private group of trail supporters back in the 1980s.
Later, she worked with other local officials in the 1990s to help form the Polly Ann Trail Management Council (PATMC), which consists of representatives from each community who help oversee and fund the path's development, maintenance and special events.
"It wasn't easy to get all the communities to agree," Blanka said. "It was a tremendous amount of work, but I was happy when they finally came together because that meant we would always have this trail."
For her tireless efforts in helping to transform the trail from dream to reality, Blanka last week was presented with a plaque from the PATMC and a proclamation from Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.
"It was pretty nice," she said. "I didn't expect this."
Blanka and her husband George, who owned B&B Well Drilling, will be living in Mt. Eden, Kentucky, which is halfway between Louisville and Lexington.
Blanka indicated she has no interest in getting involved in local politics down there. She plans to spend time with her family and perhaps take up horseback riding again if her health allows it.
Although she'll no longer live in Leonard, she'll always call the quaint village her home.
"I have nothing but good memories," she said. "It's just a wonderful place."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.