Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

UP: To the Red Cross, its volunteers and everyone in the Mid-Ohio Valley who have donated money, time or items for the victims of this past Monday’s tornado in Moore, Okla. Once again the caring people in this area do not hesitate to come to the aid of others in need, even when those in need are approximately 1,500 miles away.

DOWN: To the Washington County Common Pleas Court for giving such a “slap on the wrist” to the former Marietta City Schools assistant treasurer who stole $145,000 from the school district over a five-year period. One hundred twenty days in jail, three years community control and being given three years to repay the funds is far too lenient.

UP: To the Memorial Day weekend, for most, a three-day weekend and while still spring, the unofficial beginning of the summer season.

UP: To all of the people responsible for putting on the W.Va. State Softball Tournament, held this past Wednesday and Thursday at Jackson Park in Vienna. Employees with the city of Vienna work long hours making sure the two-day tournament runs smoothly, and even the rain on Thursday did not slow things down. Congratulations to everyone who helps make this a wonderful two-day event for these athletes and their families.

UP: To the 21 local residents who graduated from the Citizens Police Academy. The residents met weekly for the past 10 weeks to become familiar with responsibilities faced by police officers every day. The class culminated Thursday with a mock trial. Another academy is being planned for the fall.

UP: To Williamstown High School eighth-grader Iram Kingson who will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee next week in Washington, D.C. It will be her second trip to the spelling bee, which is televised on the ESPN network. Congratulations to Kingson for the hard work that earned her this opportunity.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

UP: To all of the participants in the annual Relay for Life fundraiser that began on Friday evening and winds up today at noon at both City Park in Parkersburg and Civitan Park in Belpre. The participants are taking part in the American Cancer Society’s fight against cancer. More than $3 billion has been raised for cancer research by these participants since Relay became an annual event in the mid-1980s.

UP: To Washington, W.Va., resident Roger Davis,whose photo of his grandchildren was chosen as the cover shot for the June issue of Wonderful West Virginia magazine. The photo, one of two taken by Davis and his wife Julie, was part of a “Day in the Life” issue that features about 100 photos from readers, chosen by the magazine staff from more than 5,000 entries submitted by 1,000 photographers. The requirement was that each photo be taken on Sept. 15 and capture a moment of West Virginia life.

DOWN: To Ember S. Stafford for making false reports to the Wood County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation into the death of Jaleayah Davis. Stafford’s unfounded claims and counterclaims forced detectives to expend time and resources to track them down and added greatly to the social media rumors surrounding the death. Stafford pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of making false statements and was sentenced to six months in jail and fined $500.

UP: To Dara, a 2-year-old female German Shepherd, who became the newest member of the Wood County Sheriff’s Department this past Thursday. Dara and her handler, Deputy Zach Schaad, become the department’s second K-9 team, joining Deputy Mike Deem and his 4-year-old male German Shepherd, Benji. Schaad and Dara were sworn-in after completing a a six-week training course.

UP: To Dillon Muhly-Alexander, of West Union, a student at Doddridge County High School, who was among five West Virginia students named as West Virginia University Foundation Scholars. Muhly-Alexander, the son of Matthew Alexander and Linda Muhly, is the first Foundation Scholar from Doddridge County High School. He hopes to study International Studies at WVU. The Foundation Scholarship is the top award offered by WVU’s undergraduate scholarship program. Students must be from West Virginia, possess a minimum 3.8 GPA and achieve a minimum composite score of 30 on the ACT or 1,340 on the SAT college entrance exams. He will receive full tuition and fees, plus room and board and books for four years.

UP: To all of the area high school seniors who will be graduating in the coming days. We hope they are all successful in fulfilling their dreams and wish them luck. Congratulations.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

UP: To Wood County Sheriff’s Deputy R.A. George whose devotion to his job led to the arrest of a man wanted for stabbing two people. George, who was off duty at the time, noticed a stolen vehicle he had taken a report on the previous day. He followed the vehicle, a 2002 Ford Explorer. When the SUV turned into the parking lot of a golf club, George blocked the suspect and detained him until deputies arrived. The suspect turned out to be Ira Blair Hyde, who had been on the run since allegedly stabbing his neighbors the previous week. Congratulations to Deputy George.

UP: To Mountwood Park’s stunning new website that not only gives potential visitors a guide to what the park has to offer, but through some wonderful photography shows the beauty to be found within its borders. The website,, was developed by Trevor Feight with Whitecaps Creative Group.

UP: To PDC Energy, a Colorado-based oil and natural gas drilling company moving into the area. The company recently donated $5,000 to upgrade the baseball field at Waterford High School. This was a generous gesture by the company.

UP: To Parkersburg City Council’s Financial Committee for its unanimous approval of a land swap that will give the city a piece of property at Point Park. The property, owned by businessman Jim McCutcheon, sits inside the floodwall near Point Park. Mayor Bob Newell says the property could be used to develop a market shop where space could be leased out to vendors, similar to Capitol Market in Charleston. If that happens, it would greatly add to the city’s riverfront area. City council will vote on the measure during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

UP: To Shalin Gandhi of Parkersburg High School, Matthew Zlatkind of Williamstown High School and Allison Walker of Parkersburg South High School. The three high school juniors were among 56 students from across the state who recently received U.S. Attorney’s Ambassadors for Justice. The award, presented by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, honors high school juniors who have shown outstanding leadership skills and a commitment to social justice.

DOWN: To the increasing incidence of drug activity in Wood County. This past Thursday, Parkersburg police officers wearing hazardous materials protection gear sorted through trash after being alerted by sanitation workers about some suspicious items that had been picked up. The items were later determined to be part of a mobile meth lab. Fortunately none of the sanitation workers or the police officers involved were injured; however, this activity is dangerous for everyone involved.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

UP: To the opening of the summer tourist season at Blennerhassett Island. This past Wednesday was the opening of the island and the mansion to tours and 58 visitors rode the paddlewheeler from Point Park to the island. The opening of the island is always a sign that summer is on its way.

UP: To Sue Patalano, who has served as not only the administrator for Wood County Project Lifesaver since its inception in 2005, but as the state coordinator, as well. Patalano announced this week she will retire by the end of the year. Project Lifesaver assists families and caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s, Autism, Down Syndrome and other cognitive disabilities who are prone to wander. A radio transmitter on a bracelet allows clients to be tracked if they do wander away from home. Project Lifesaver has helped find several missing people since the program’s inception. Wood County Deputy Sheriff Brian Swiger, who will assume Patalano’s duties upon her retirement, said she has been “the heart and soul” of the program. Congratulations to Patalano who helped bring this lifesaving program to Wood County. Since its inception here, it has spread to 40 other counties in West Virginia.

DOWN: To the two people arrested for the beating and attempted robbery of a 79-year-old man on Thursday. Matthew Edward Depew, 21, and Amber Nicole Pickens, 27, are accused of trying to rob 79-year-old-old Homer Wilson. Wilson suffered severe injuries in the beating and is recovering at home. Depew is no stranger to trouble. In 2011, he was charged with possession of a gun taken from the Veterans Museum of the Mid-Ohio Valley. In February, Depew was granted a motion to modify his bond on the charge by being removed from home confinement. If found guilty of this abhorrent crime, these two should be put in prison for as long as the law allows.


To West Virginia poet laureate Mark Harshman’s visit Tuesday as part of West Virginia University at Parkersburg’s sesquicentennial speaker series. Harshman, who has been the state’s poet laureate since May 2012, said the reading was set up to honor, in part, his appointment as poet laureate and for him to speak with area school children in writing workshops and a professional writers’ critique group.

UP: To Williamstown, which on Tuesday celebrated its 29th consecutive year as a member of Tree City USA, the longest consecutive period for any city in West Virginia. This past Tuesday, city officials and several local residents gathered to plant a new dogwood tree in the 500 block of Cherry Avenue in honor of the event.