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“I loved doing it and decided to make a career out of it,” he said.

That career has led Wheeler, 44, to Corvallis, where he is the new supervisor of the Osborn Aquatic Center. Wheeler started work Jan. 16 and on Friday there still were balloons and streamers in his office from a welcome event at the center.

Wheeler learned a lot about the passion that community members have for the pool at the meet and great. Retired employees came by to say hello as well as high school athletic directors, next door neighbor Clay Higgins of the Boys Girls Club of Corvallis and residents who live near the center. Even Albany pool officials came by.

“This facility is really important to the community,” Wheeler said. “They are passionate about it.”

Wheeler replaces James Mellein, who ran the facility for 10 years before being promoted to assistant director of the Parks and Recreation Department. Wheeler, who worked most recently in Helena, Montana, and Westminster, Colorado, said he always thought about coming back to Oregon after stints in the Eugene area.

“The job was very attractive to me,” said Wheeler of the position at Osborn. “It’s one of the nicest facilities in the state of Oregon and has a high level of community support. The staff is great. I believe we have the resources here to do really exceptional work.”

The pool is popular for school and club swimming meets because it has both short course (25 yards per lap) and long course (50 meters per lap) capability. It also features the outdoor Otter Beach pool.

“We can do a lot of programs with the amount of water space we have here,” Wheeler said. “We pack people in here at night. It’s a multipurpose facility. We can program in multiple generations. A lot of competitive pools can’t do the volume of community programs we do. That’s unique about this facility.

“I see swimming pools as a great equalizer and community meeting space. People of all ages and abilities can all use the pool and interact with each other.”

Wheeler said he doesn’t anticipate any major changes because “we’re already doing things that top tier facilities are doing. We have a full slate of programs and services in place. Where would we find the pool time?” for expanded programs.

“We’d have to not offer something we have been offering to offer something new,” he said. “We have to be careful. You don’t want to negatively affect your bread and butter programs that are already well attended.”

Wheeler praised the city for installing energy efficient lighting and pumps, which have resulted in both electricity and natural gas savings. But he also noted that the pool is 40 years old and will need a new pool liner at Otter Beach as well as some roof work and other projects that might require $1.5 million in capital expenses in the next 10 to 15 years.

“We need to start talking with the community about the lifecycle costs of the pool,” said Wheeler, who noted that costs have been a factor in many pool closures nationwide.
ugg knitted slippers New boss at Osborn Aquatic Center