A Year in a Bottle: David Pethtel
Before I began this series I pondered who I would ask for their views on the last year. I wanted people whose lives gave them a front row seat to many of the problems face by their communities, family and in their personal lives. And those whose careers gave them little or no choice but to step to the front when it came to helping others.
I decided one of those people had to be someone who’s position with the government gave them insight we could not see. Someone in state government. That led me to ask Delegate Dave Pethtel to be part of my series for this column.
Dave was born in Wheeling in 1951, to Forrest and Helen Pethtel. His father owned the Ford Dealership in Hundred for 40 years. Dave told me he very much enjoyed growing up in the small community. He remembers playing ball and spending time with friends. It was a tight knit community where most everyone knew everybody else. He laughed as he said, that by knowing it everyone also meant if you got in trouble, everyone knew. And by the time you got home your parents also knew.
After graduation from Hundred High School in 1969, Dave went on to Glenville State College and West Virginia University. He returned, met his wife Mary Ann Jones, who was from nearby Mannington. She worked in the Bank of Hundred where they first met. Shortly thereafter they were married. That was 47 years ago. They have two sons, Kevin and Eric.
Dave has spent his entire life in the community of Hundred. He spoke about a time when the town had two car dealerships, hardware store, Western Auto, 5&10 cent store, pharmacy, three grocery stores, dry cleaner, Don Belias Shoe Repair, three restaurants and Postlethwait’s General Store. You could at one time purchase most anything you needed. But those times have past. The gas and oil industry that once drove the local economy over the years moved on leaving the town behind.
Dave talked about a time when there were four schools in the area, Burton and Littleton Grade schools, Hundred Grade School, along with Hundred High School. Today there is Long Drain Elementary and Hundred High School. Dave’s career gave him firsthand knowledge of the school system on the far side of the county as he taught reading and health for 40 years.
In 1988 Dave decided to run for the House of Delegates. As a teacher he was always interested in politics. When he began teaching in 1973, he very quickly realized that a great deal of the legislation being passed affected students, teachers, school service personnel and administrators. His time in Charleston representing his district has rewarded him with being elected by the voters for 29 of the last 33 years.
I asked Dave how the pandemic affected his work as a legislator in Charleston. He began by explaining as the 2020 legislative session was coming to a close on March 7th, there was not much being said about Covid-19. He went on to explain that quickly changed as Governor Justice one week later issued a proclamation closing schools for a short period of time. That closure lasted the rest of the year. From that point forward the governor, his staff, and task force were in charge. Under normal circumstances Dave would return to Charleston four or five times a year to attend interim sessions. During that time he would meet with lobbyist and those wanting his help with a variety of issues. The interim session and meetings helps to give them items that need to be on the next session agenda. That did not happen in 2020. Throughout the year senators nor delegates had any say in the happenings coming out of the capital.
For Dave, 2020 was an election year. He explained that he very much enjoys going door to door, talking with voters and hearing of their concerns. That insight helps him with decisions he will need to make in the coming year. That did not happen for Dave or any elected officials due to the pandemic quarantine.
Dave gave a great deal of credit to the local health department for their work during this crisis. He explained they had to take the directives from the governor’s task force and turn them into actions in the community’s. Wetzel and Tyler counties has many rural areas and people don’t always have an easy way to be tested or get a vaccination. Over coming these challenges has been difficult for them. He told me that he believes the vaccine is important and necessary to protect people from the virus. At the same time he realizes, some people feel that vaccines nor Covid-19 is a real problem. For the health department they had to contend with all these factors while doing their jobs.
I asked about the map and the color coding for each county. He explained he felt the map of covid hot spots was a help. But, much of the data used to color the map came from testing and reports of illnesses surrounding those test. If there was any hesitation from people about testing, it affected those maps. Dave also gives credit to the governor and his staff for doing what they believe was in the best interest of the state and its citizens.
I asked, are we out of the woods yet. He explained that he did not think we are clear of this pandemic. The governor is warning of a new variant of covid that is more contagious. He explained the need to get more people vaccinated and tested before the fall season sets in. I believe from Dave’s explanation, he knows from the governors words there are still many unanswered questions about the current pandemic.
Finally I asked, what he would tell the future with his message in a bottle. ‘We survived this pandemic, but there were some that did not. I hope that those looking back will have 20/20 vision when looking at the year 2020.”
I will have to confess before our meeting, I had only met Delegate Dave Pethtel in passing. We exchanged a solid hand shake as we said, “How are you doing today.” After spending time with him, I have come to understand he is a man who has given his entire life to his family, education, along with helping to govern our state. He pointed out, “In Politics perception is reality.” My perception of Dave is, he understands the needs of his district and has worked to do all that he could during this time of pandemic, as history will remember Through the Lens.