Evolving City: The Woods and other longtime residents adapt to change in Westfield

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Throughout the 190-year history of Westfield, fields played an important role in the farming community. Today, some of those fields remain, growing corn, hay and soybeans, but some have become fields of a different kind — fields for baseball and soccer.

Along with those new fields has come a new kind of growth. With nearly 60,000 residents, Westfield’s population has almost quadrupled since 2000. Leaders in Westfield frequently tout its status as the fastest-growing city in Indiana and the sixth-fastest growing city in the United States.

“Some people call it progress,” lifetime resident Craig Wood said. “Some people call it a few other things, not necessarily so nice. And they’re both right.”

Wood was born in Westfield, when it was a town, his parents having moved to the town in their youth. After he graduated from Westfield High School, Wood looked at a variety of options. Ultimately, he decided to pursue an agriculture degree from Purdue University and to come back to manage the family farm. At its height, the Wood’s farm covered approximately 450 acres, most of it northwest of U.S. 31 and Ind. 32, all within a mile and a half of their home off 191st Street.

If that location sounds familiar, it’s because the Woods sold 150 acres of their farmland, which is now front and center in the Grand Park Sports Campus.

“We knew that at some point in time, the land around us and our land would be developed,” Wood said. “I sit on both sides of the fence on that. We see the upside and the downside.”

He said to be involved with the Indianapolis Colts, who conduct training camp at Grand Park, has been a surreal experience. The Woods never dreamed a U.S. president (Donald Trump) and two Indiana governors (Mitch Daniels and Eric Holcomb) would walk on the land that was once their fields. At the same time, he admits that he hated to see some of the downtown buildings and homes be torn down.

“That’s a part of our life and part of our heritage,” Wood said. “But you have to be adaptable. I understand people that don’t want to change. Hopefully, there are going to be a lot of good things coming along.”

Wood believes Grand Park is one of those “good things.” The Woods look out their dining room window and see the Grand Park Events Center every day.

“But I know what’s going to go on in that building, and I feel pretty good about it,” Wood said.

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Robin Luehrmann has been driving a Westfield school bus for 34 years. (Photo by Amy Adams)

Longtime Westfield resident Robin Harlan Luehrmann understands Wood’s mixed feelings because she grew up playing in the area that is now Grand Junction Plaza and riding her horse in the area that is now Chatham Hills.

“I know change will come,” Luehrmann said. “It is inevitable. It was extremely sad, though, to see them tear down the old pharmacy where my brother and I would sit at the counter and drink a chocolate soda,” Luehrmann said. “But I am also excited to see the growth of Westfield.”

Wood feels strongly that residents should be involved in their community.

“I have very little tolerance for people who sit back and moan and groan but won’t speak their piece,” he said. “My mom and dad were always involved in the community, both in the church and civically.”

Wood’s mother, Virginia F. Wood, co-founded the preschool and directed the choir at Christ United Methodist Church for years. In fact, the Westfield Early Learning Center now bears her name. Wood’s father, Bill Wood, served on the township advisory committee and the school board for years and helped start the Westfield Education Foundation.

“I had the opportunity to serve on that board, as well, which was the continuation of a legacy,” Wood said. “I also served on the Westfield Board of Zoning Appeals for 14 years.Be involved. Speak up, either for or against. Even if you’re not directly impacted, you need to show up and be involved so that you understand what’s going on and who’s doing what. If it looks good, support it, and if it’s something that doesn’t look good then speak up about that.”

As some have chosen to do, Luehrmann has moved to a smaller town. Yet, even though she now lives in Arcadia, she still drives a school bus for Westfield Washington Schools as she has for 34 years. She finds special joy in driving the WHS football team to their away games and watching them “fighting their way to the top.” That’s just what Wetfield is doing, Luehrmann said.

“Yes, change is inevitable,” she said. “But Westfield is still making memories for those who live there.”

Leading Through The Change

In 2024, a new set of leaders is stepping up to serve the city and lead it through rapid growth and change. Some of those leaders have moved to Westfield more recently than others. Mayor Scott Willis moved to Westfield 19 years ago to raise his family.

“Once my wife Stacey and I began having children, we started to look at communities through a different lens,” Willis said. “We ultimately settled in Westfield because we loved the small-town feel, being close to Carmel and all the amenities that came with it, and the quality of Westfield schools. I am not sure I ever envisioned Westfield growing like it has. However, after watching the demographic shift on the north side of Indy, I realized we needed to embrace it with a vision for the future versus pretending it wasn’t going to continue.”

Others, like Willis’ chief of staff, Danielle Carey Tolan, come from families who have been in Westfield for five generations.

“I really never left Westfield,” Carey Tolan said. “I feel rooted here for many reasons. My passion and love for this community run deep, and I am proud to have such strong roots here and that I’m also helping shape the future. It is a privilege to have such strong heritage in the place I grew up and still live.”


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