Palenchar’s spotlight moment

Anybody who knows Dave Palenchar couldn’t have been surprised at how the word came out this week of his retirement as El Pomar Foundation’s chief operating officer.

No hoopla, no media event, no staged announcement.

Just a short and simple, four-paragraph news release from El Pomar, saying he was stepping down as COO. Yes, he’s staying on as president and CEO of the Colorado Springs World Arena, Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts and the Air Force Academy Foundation. He’s also continuing as the longtime chairman of the Colorado Springs Sports Corp.

In other words, Palenchar isn’t moving to a place somewhere far up in the mountains.

And that’s tremendously good news for Colorado Springs.

This is just a 65-year-old executive retiring from his “day job” but not from the many other commitments that make him one of this city’s most valued — despite being so intentionally low-key — civic leaders.

Just last week, Palenchar as always stood quietly but comfortably in the background as the Sports Corp. staged its 14th Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet, filling the World Arena floor as it has each autumn since 2000. Actually, with so many other prominent local people in the audience, that night of Oct. 29 would have been a totally appropriate time to have announced Palenchar’s departure from El Pomar.

But that would have forced Palenchar to stand in the spotlight for what certainly would have been a well-earned standing ovation. Many of us might have liked that, but not Palenchar, because for him it has never been about public recognition. Never.

He’s not the first former Air Force Academy graduate to move back to Colorado Springs after retiring from military service. He had served as a pilot during his time as an Air Force officer, earned a master’s degree in national security affairs and Asian studies from the Naval Postgraduate School, and eventually he taught college classes in political science and international relations as a member of the AFA faculty.

But you’d never know any of that from talking with him, because Palenchar doesn’t talk about his own accomplishments — except perhaps for an occasional old story about life as an Academy cadet. He also wouldn’t tell you about his additional board involvements, including the Central City Opera, Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, and representing this congressional district on the Great Outdoors Colorado board of trustees.

Certainly, many of you are thinking, he should come up for some kind of special honor. He already has been named the city’s Business Citizen of the Year, back in 2007, by the then-Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. And if you asked him, he’d tell you that was more than enough of an award for him. He also would add that nobody should be making a big deal about him now, and in fact he’d prefer that we talk more about Kyle Hybl becoming El Pomar’s new COO.

Sorry, but we beg to differ. We’ll have many more opportunities in years ahead to recognize Kyle Hybl as El Pomar — and much of the city’s nonprofit and sports-oriented community — transitions toward being led by a new generation.

Today, though we realize Dave Palenchar remains a major presence on the Colorado Springs scene, we can’t let his retirement from El Pomar go by without acknowledging 23 years of a job superbly done.