Mayor: ‘Real Structural Changes’ Coming to City

WHEELING – Those who come to hear the State of the City address Tuesday may be in for a surprise or two, Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie said.

McKenzie will deliver his yearly message to residents, business leaders and city officials at noon Tuesday from the Capitol Theatre ballroom. It will be his fourth such address, and the first since Wheeling residents elected him to a second term last year.

Although he declined to give specifics, he said it’s likely the address will contain a few significant announcements.

“I think there’s some real structural changes that we’ll be pursuing over the next four years. … You can’t continue to do what you’re doing and wonder why you’re not succeeding,” he said.

McKenzie plans to touch on accomplishments made since he took office in 2008, discuss the condition of Wheeling today and set a course for the remainder of his second term in office. As in previous years, he also will recognize community leaders for their investments and positive impacts on the city.

One thing residents definitely should not expect, McKenzie said, is a regurgitation of prior State of the City addresses. He said in preparing his remarks for Tuesday, he didn’t even dust the others off to look at them.

McKenzie added that unlike the president’s State of the Union addresses, which he said are carefully crafted by trained speechwriters and often contain appealing but unrealistic ideas, the State of the City address is a direct communication designed to set achievable goals.

“These are my words – these are my goals … that I lay before council for their approval,” he said.

The past year has seen significant changes in Wheeling. Among those changes that have taken place since McKenzie’s last State of the City address include the demolition of most structures in the 1100 block of Main and Market streets, the removal of about two dozen houses in East Wheeling to make way for the future J.B. Chambers Recreation Park and the repeal of a controversial law that had forced the city’s police chief to assign two officers to a patrol cruiser for the past 40 years.

“I like change. We’ve not shied away from controversial issues,” said McKenzie.

There is no cost to attend the speech, but a catered lunch from WesBanco Arena may be purchased for $10 and will be served at 11:45 a.m. Call city Marketing Director Allison O’Konski at 304-234-6432 for lunch tickets.

McKenzie delivered his first State of the City address in 2010 at the urging of Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey, who pointed out it’s an established tradition in many of West Virginia’s larger cities. That event took place at WesBanco Arena before moving to the Capitol Theatre ballroom in 2011, where it’s been held since.

“It really gives the general public the opportunity to hear directly from their elected officials … where we’re headed as a community,” said McKenzie. “What more can you want – food, drink and a great speech.”