Editor’s note: Our series, “Wheeling@Work,” is an effort to provide readers with insight and information into our city government, highlighting the personalities, programs and processes at work within the City of Wheeling. It is our hope that readers gain a greater understanding of the opportunities and challenges we face in growing a Wheeling that is more forward-thinking and dynamic. Today’s story features Dave Palmer who represents Ward 6.
Ward 6 Councilor Dave Palmer is passionate about public service — and pickleball.
What exactly is pickleball, you ask? Palmer will be happy to tell you about it. If he doesn’t know the answer to one of your questions, his friend and fellow pickleball enthusiast Scott Hedrick does. Hedrick serves as the official USA Pickleball Association ambassador for the local region.
WARD 6’s UNIQUE SPORTS FACILITY
Hedrick explains that pickleball was created in 1965 by a couple of dads in Bainbridge, Washington, who devised the game as a new form of summer entertainment for their bored offspring.
The sport appears to be an intriguing combination of tennis and ping-pong, played on a court roughly one-quarter the size of a standard tennis court. Three years ago, there were 150 or so pickleball tournaments held annually in the United States. Today, there are over 2,500. “It’s one of the fastest growing sports in America,” Hedrick and Palmer tell Weelunk.
On a recent breezy, summer-like evening, the courts on Sycamore Avenue at the Patterson ballfield complex were packed with players. The local pickleball club hosts advanced matches on Monday and Wednesday evenings as well as on Saturday mornings during the summer months. Tuesdays, however, offer an option for novice players. “Tuesdays are free open play for anyone beginning at 5:30 p.m.,” says Hedrick. “We have paddles and balls for people to use and will provide instruction if needed. We only ask that people bring something to drink so they can stay properly hydrated.”
Pickleball is particularly attractive to older adults because of the small court size and the social aspect of the game. Residents who are interested in giving pickleball a shot or who would like more information about the sport are invited to contact Hedrick at 304-243-1901.
Local pickleball player Pat Carroll provided the initial funding to create the Patterson pickleball courts and will again assist financially to upgrade them in the coming months. In addition, Palmer hopes that, eventually, funding can be secured to upgrade a second existing tennis court into multi-purpose tennis/pickleball courts. If that were to happen, Palmer says, it would give the Patterson complex a total of six pickleball courts, the minimum number required to host its own tournament. Having the potential to do so could one day result in a direct economic boost to Elm Grove and surrounding areas. That possibility is one that Palmer would love to see come to fruition in the future.
“Outdoor recreation for adults is something we lack here, and something that this council has made a priority,” he says.
But long before pickleball came to Patterson, Palmer was committed to serving the Wheeling community.
A LIFE LIVED IN SERVICE
Palmer has lived in Elm Grove all his life, graduating from Wheeling Park High School in 1979. He resides near Pat’s Pickleball Courts with his wife Tammy and rescue dog, Reese Cup. Three adult children and two grandkids — plus one on the way in August — complete Palmer’s family.
In the early 1980s at the age of 20, Palmer began his legacy of public service. “I started with the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department, then transitioned to the Wheeling Police Department. Eventually, I joined the Wheeling Fire Department, where I retired after 25 years of service,” Palmer says. He then spent some time working for the city building inspection department and now works for the Ohio County Board of Education as a substitute bus driver. His career choices have allowed him to see our city operate from a variety of perspectives. “Believe me, it’s a lot harder on this side of things,” he says.
“Decisions are difficult for sure. I’d love to be able to provide fully paid health insurance and raises for all of our city employees, but it’s just not feasible,” sighs Palmer. He says that citizens often question where their tax dollars are spent. “About 72 cents of every tax dollar go toward personnel expenses,” he states. “That leaves 28 cents per tax dollar to run and manage the city.”
That’s not much money when there are roads that are crumbling, sidewalks that are cracking, playgrounds that are in disrepair — the list of areas in need of attention is lengthy. But despite the fact that money is always a concern, headway is being made on many projects. For example, Palmer says that more than 20 streets and most sections of the walking trail in Ward 6 have been repaved during this council’s tenure.
CONCERNS OF WARD 6
Paving, however, isn’t the only concern in “the Grove.” Ward 6, which consists of the entire Elm Grove area, shares some of the same infrastructure issues that plague other wards. The driving rains of recent years have wreaked havoc with the existing outdated storm sewer system. Flooding issues continue to be addressed along Kruger Street and in other areas of the ward.
Keeping the main business district of Elm Grove safe and clean is another ongoing project. Recently, the Central Catholic High School state champion boys’ lacrosse team assisted members of the Elm Grove Business Association in beautifying the stretch of road and sidewalk in front of Bridge Street Middle School. This area surrounds what’s left of the now-famous “Witness Tree” being cut down at Monument Place, a piece of which has found new life as a garden planter in Palmer’s backyard.
An ancient retaining wall in front of Wheeling Veterinary Associates was recently reinforced with a functional new concrete facade. According to Palmer, this renovation was a joint venture of Wheeling Veterinary Associates and the Elm Grove Business Association. In the next few months, the association will also be installing flower planters and colorful banners throughout the main business area.
“My biggest regret is that we haven’t been able to do some of the things we wanted to clean up the business portion of Elm Grove and take care of the vacant buildings,” states Palmer.
BUCKLE UP FOR A BUMPY RIDE (AND PACK YOUR PATIENCE!)
A major issue in Elm Grove right now is the backup of traffic because of the repaving of U.S. 40. Palmer says that although the traffic situation is certainly a nuisance, it will be finished this summer, and the result will be worth the headache. “We have to suffer a little if we want to reap the benefits,” he smiles. “We’re going to need patience. Lots of patience. We aren’t going to be able to go everywhere we want to go in 10 minutes like we’re used to.”
Along with the U.S. 40 road improvement project, major bridge renovations are in the works in the coming months. The historic “Hump Bridge” near Glo-Tone Cleaners and Elm Grove Pharmacy is set to be refurbished in 2020. Replacement of a number of bridges on Interstate 70 between the Pennsylvania and Ohio borders is also planned in the next year or so. This roadwork promises to snarl traffic not only in Elm Grove but throughout the city. Palmer says this project is a huge concern to him because of the lack of suitable alternate routes around the planned construction. He says that discussions continue on how best to navigate these upcoming projects in a way that minimizes inconvenience to citizens, first responders and others who will be adversely affected by them.
BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR
Palmer believes that dealing with the inevitable traffic jams could be made more pleasant if everyone would just take a minute to think of others. “Be neighborly,” he says. “And not only when it comes to driving. Check on your neighbors. Take care of each other. Look after each other’s kids. Pick up some trash when you’re out taking a walk.”
Being neighborly is what it’s all about for Palmer — it’s why he ran for city council in the first place.
“I get the satisfaction of knowing I’m making a difference,” he shares. “I do it for the betterment of our community. I was fortunate to make a decent life for my family working for the city of Wheeling. Now I have this way to give back.”
HAVE A CONCERN OR SUGGESTION?
If you would like to talk to Palmer about Ward 6 issues, call him at 304-234-3601 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does the future hold for Palmer’s career in politics? Will he run for re-election in 2020? He’s not ready to answer that question just yet. After all, as they say, man plans, and God laughs — the road of life is always unpredictable. Palmer loves doing what he believes is the next right thing for our city and will continue to do so as long as life’s twists and turns allow. “I don’t do this just to get re-elected,” he says with sincerity. “I do it because it’s what’s right.”
• Ellen Brafford McCroskey works in the Lawyer Development Department at Orrick’s GOC in downtown Wheeling, where she has been employed for seven years. A lifelong Wheeling resident, she is a graduate of Wheeling Park High School and Wheeling Jesuit University with a bachelor’s degree in human resources management. Her hobbies include writing, photography and crocheting. Her pet causes are educating others on the need for solutions to the opioid crisis and the need for equality for all people. Ellen resides in Warwood with her husband Doug, who is the Ohio County Dog Warden. Their extended family includes four adult children and their significant others; a number of biological and “adopted” grandkids; their dads; numerous in-laws and outlaws; and several rescued pets.