Don’t dare her, not unless you’re ready to pay up because she will not stop until you do.
Diana Mey is a fighter who defends herself, her family, and millions more whom she’s never met, and she’s does this because someone has to. It really does not matter how ominous the task may seem to be either, and that’s because Mey has learned during her lifetime that the “bad people” couldn’t care less about her, her family, and the people who are harassed, insulted, frightened, and abused.
Mey is the mother of three grown sons, and she and her husband, Mark, will celebrate their 37th anniversary in October. After graduating from John Marshall High School in 1977, she was employed as a receptionist and medical transcriber until becoming a stay-at-home mother for more than a decade. Once it was possible, she enrolled at West Liberty University and soon graduated in 2007 with a Board of Regents degree after studying pre-law and communications.
Mey made local headlines when her youngest son, Nathan, addressed the members of Wheeling City Council at the age of 12 to request the construction of a skate park. Because of her son’s gumption and courage, she adopted the initiative and addressed every organization that would listen until she was successful in raising the $400,000 needed for the facility.
Then Mey made national headlines by doing something that simply seemed utterly impossible to the vast majority of Americans. She defeated the debt-collector industry, and it all started with a single phone call during which a foolish male offended her by using obscene language in an effort to frighten her.
She doesn’t scare easily, though, but she does get angry.
Mey has battled both the public and private sectors to change the rules and the laws that dictate the operation of school systems, government, and the telemarketing industries, and she is also in combat with drug abuse as a board member for the Unity Center in Center Wheeling. Her figurative fist fights always begin as personal issues, but then she sees the ripple effects and the impacts on the masses. Mey has documented much of her research concerning the telemarketing industry on the Internet – www.dianamey.com – for all to review and to utilize if and when necessary.
You see, she is a “David,” and she cares less about the size of the “Goliath.”
Novotney: Why do you do what you do for the people of Wheeling?
Mey: I ask myself that question a lot. I have asked myself where the passion I feel about some issues comes from. I’ve even looked in my family history trying to figure it out.
It’s a curse sometimes because I’ll latch on to an issue, and invariably it makes my life somewhat miserable in certain ways, but I can’t look the other way. The first issue that I wrote a Letter to the Editor about concerned unemployment benefits for honorably discharged veterans because the year my husband got out of the military just happened to be the same year the federal government halted those benefits. I didn’t believe that was right at all, so I went to battle over it.
Then as my children started tackling a lot of issues connected to their schooling, and there was also a city issue when we lived on Beau Street here in Wheeling. There was a young child that was killed in the early 1990s by a tractor-trailer, and they did not catch the person responsible for that tragedy. Those trucks would really fly through that area, so I went before city council and tried to get some things done to make that area much safer than it was.
Novotney: Tell me why you have adopted the issues you have over the years.
Mey: I think most of those issues have affected me, personally, in some way or another, but I also have soldiered along even though the issues have traveled beyond affecting me or my family.
The Wheeling Skate Park is a perfect example. Initially, my son Nathan was very passionate about getting a skate park for Wheeling, but after we formed the non-profit to raise the funds for it, he had lost interest in skateboarding. But I had started paying attention to the number of kids that were out on our sidewalks skateboarding, and then I realized there was a large ground of children that would benefit from having such a facility.
I felt like that was underrepresented, as far as facilities in the city, and that ended up being a six-year project before the park opened in Elm Grove. I felt I needed to stick up for the underdog.
Novotney: Is that what it is? Your motivation? Sticking up for the underdog?
Mey: It is for me.
Look at the telemarketing issue I got involved with for nearly 17 years now. It is unbelievable how people can be affected by the telemarketing and the debt collectors. I’ve come to the conclusion that the debt collectors are far worse than the average telemarketer. The debt collectors have affected people’s lives to the extent that now a lot of what they have done for years is now illegal.
What possesses a person to take a job like that as a way to make a living? They abuse other people.
I guess I am a “David” who is willing to take on these “Goliaths.” I enjoy that aspect of it because it lets other people know that they can stand up to these people.
Novotney: The Wheeling Skate Park opened in October 2007. What do you think of it today?
May: I would guess that it is one of the most used recreational facilities that we have in Wheeling, and it brings in people from out of town. When that happens, they are going to eat here; they are going to buy their gas here; it has had a lot of ripple effects, and I think that’s a good thing.
Novotney: One of the reasons why you became so involved with the issue concerning the debt collectors was that a man was profane with you on the phone.
Mey: Yes he did. He made a mistake doing that, but I’m still glad that it was I on the other end of the phone because I had the ability to take the call and to record the call so I could shine a light on how bad things were in that industry. If I hadn’t recorded that call, who would have believed me when I was telling them what that man said to me? Probably no one, but they also got to hear the man say what he said to me.
I think that goes on more than what anyone wants to believe, and that’s why I love being able to do what I’ve done because I’ve been able to contribute in some small ways to improve things for other people.
Novotney: There was a lawsuit, and in the end you were awarded quite a large sum of money, were you not?
Mey: I was, and it was a little over $10 million plus interest.
Novotney: Do you ever think you will see that money?
Mey: I think the chances are slim, but I’ve not given up because a month ago we got another judgment against the owner of that company. It was a personal judgment, but the appeal process has not started, but it’s still very significant because it brings to the liability to the owner who knew what was going on.
That’s a big deal because it domesticated the issue. It’s a long shot, but I have not given up hope.
Novotney: Why are you so willing to speak to the public concerning these issues?
Mey: I love empowering people with knowledge. I am blessed because my husband has a good job, and that allows me to be available when people wish me to speak to others.
Novotney: What is the one fact that people do not realize about telemarketers and debt collectors?
Mey: That they do not have to talk to them when they call. Everything has to be in writing to validate the debt.
Novotney: What will be next for Diana Mey?
Mey: I have become involved with the Unity Center in Center Wheeling because the drug addiction problem is unbelievable. It’s touched me personally, and it’s been the greatest turmoil of my life while trying to help my family member.
What I have discovered is that you can’t change another person; you can only change yourself. But today things are good. All you can do is pray because these drugs do not know boundaries. Anyone can be impacted.
(Photos by provided by Diana Mey)