Several of Wheeling's public safety employees received new titles Thursday, including two who can now add that long-awaited "retired" in front of their names.
Thursday was Wheeling fire Lt. David Palmer's last day on the job as he ended a nearly 26-year career with the Wheeling Fire Department, and the Wheeling Police Department also said goodbye to Lt. William Piccard after 20 years on the force.
Palmer joined the fire ranks after a two-year stint as a Wheeling police officer and eventually was named chief fire investigator. Fire Chief Larry Helms recalled that he and Palmer both joined the Wheeling Fire Department on the same day in October 1986.
Noting that firefighting is in Palmer's blood, Helms said he recently realized that when he retires, it will be the first time in 57 years the fire department will be without someone with the last name Helms.
Piccard joined the Wheeling Police Department on July 5, 1992. Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said he's been on the job less than three months and didn't have much chance to work with Piccard before his retirement, but noted the admiration displayed by his co-workers speaks volumes.
"Twenty years of service in any public safety capacity is quite an accomplishment," said Schwertfeger.
With Piccard's retirement came several holes up and down the police department's chain of command, resulting in the promotion of several officers, including Phil Redford, to lieutenant; Micah Zinn, sergeant; Jason Chambers, corporal; and Robert Safreed, patrolman first class. Eric Burke also was sworn in as a probationary police officer.
On the fire department side, David Nelson was promoted to captain; Tadd DeLuca, to lieutenant; and Nicholas Brown, Charles Ransom and Michael Topfer, all to fire engineer.
City Manager Robert Herron made closing remarks, thanking all for their attendance
"Our fire and police departments are outstanding ... they may well be some of the best in the country," Herron said.
Schwerfeger also took time during the ceremony to recognize several of his officers for high quality police work, in some cases going "above and beyond the call of duty":
- Pfc. Sarah Dent, Pfc. Ken Parker and Sgt. Ken Prager were honored for their actions in responding to a report of child neglect at the Eagle Park Apartments on May 17. There, they discovered a 7-month-old infant who had been born with narcotics in his system and within 24 hours obtained felony warrants for the parents and worked with the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure the child was removed to a safe environment.
- On June 8, officers Sean Michael and Sean Brantley stopped a vehicle on Bethany Pike for an expired inspection sticker. But upon observing suspicious behavior, they investigated further and with the assistance of K-9 officer Pfc. Bryan Hails recovered 42 grams of cocaine and three scales.
- Cpl. Ulrich Utt and Pfc. Jason Martin were recognized for their work in investigating a report of a man firing a rifle into a South Wheeling residence on July 1.
- Officer Bryan Wilson was recognized for helping to save the life of a man suffering a heart attack at the Wheeling Park tennis courts while off duty Feb. 27.