Mayor Glenn Elliott Suggests Holistic Approach to Wheeling 250th

Mayor Glenn Elliott on Wednesday charged the Wheeling 250 Committee to outdo the bicentennial celebration of 1969, by taking a holistic, honest look at the city’s history while looking ahead to its future.

The citizens’ committee, chaired by Jay Frey, held its first meeting at the Ohio County Public Library Wednesday. The group is tasked with coordinating events to mark the city’s 250th anniversary in 2019.

“It’s a big deal — 250 is a big number,” Elliott said.

Noting that a year-long observance was offered in 1969 for Wheeling’s 200th anniversary, he said, “Can we outdo what was done in 1969…but it is worth trying.”

The mayor suggested the city’s history be examined “in a much more holistic manner and be honest about it … Wheeling was a slave city in a slave state. We need to be honest about that,” he added.

Elliott urged the committee “to think outside the box,” to celebrate the good things in the city and take stock of the community going forward.

While the city will contribute money for the celebration, Elliott said one of the committee’s charges is “to find some private money to pay for a lot of what we’re going to do” and “to get some buy-in from private and nonprofit (organizations).”

The committee reached consensus that it favors holding a year-long series of events, activities and programs to mark the 250th anniversary. Members discussed several possible options to pursue.

Committee member David Javersak, who has studied celebrations, said the U.S. centennial in 1876 was forward-looking, but the bicentennial in 1976 was all past-oriented. He said, “We’re at the period in Wheeling’s history where we can see that the future is brighter than Wheeling’s recent past.”

Javersak suggested the celebration could “spotlight positive changes in Wheeling — new construction, redevelopment projects, along those lines.”

Frey said the committee should identify community partners and reach out to them now to assist in planning and coordinating events for the celebration. For instance, he said, committee member Gary Timmons can work with Fort Henry Days organizers regarding the legacy of early settlers and native Americans.

Committee member Erin Rothenbuehler, coordinator of adult programming and archives at the library, said the 200th anniversary of the National Road’s completion will be commemorated this year during a Festival of Books and History in November. Frey said the National Road celebration could serve as a kickoff to the city’s festivities.

Other committee members attending the meeting were Brother John Byrd, Linda Comins, Jeanne Finstein, Travis Henline, Steve Johnston, Debbie Jones, Bekah Karelis, Olivia Litman, John Mattox, Jesse Mestrovic, Susie Nelson, Allison Skibo and Joan Stamp.

Also named to the committee were Reno DiOrio, Hydie Friend, Wendy Hodorowski, David H. McKinley, Randall Reid-Smith, Debi Smith and Erikka Storch.