TAMPA, Fla. - Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie views the Republican National Convention as a great opportunity to meet people from across the country and learn about the issues their communities are facing.
He said Wednesday he believes this will help participants make some "tough changes" he believes will improve the economy of the nation, the state of West Virginia and the city of Wheeling. McKenzie is one of 31 convention delegates from the Mountain State. All 31 cast their votes for Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee on Tuesday, with Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney speaking on their behalf.
"It's been very interesting, very informative, a great opportunity to meet people from around the country," McKenzie said. "It's a chance to talk about issues, what's important to their state. It's amazing the diversity of issues across the country, and this event gives us an opportunity to get a better understanding."
McKenzie said he believes the nation is in "big trouble," and that leaders will have to make cuts or changes that "may not feel very good" to repair the economy. McKenzie said he enjoyed listening to remarks by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who already has had to make "a lot of really tough decisions."
And McKenzie was looking forward to hearing Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, speak on Wednesday evening. He said those at the convention seemed very positive about Ryan as the GOP's choice for vice president, noting many "die-hard Republicans" were looking to fill that slot with a "true conservative."
"Paul Ryan definitely fits that bill," McKenzie said.
The mayor said he has seen no protesters at the convention. He added that other than a rule change Tuesday, the entire event has been well organized.
McKenzie said people may wonder why the mayor of a city like Wheeling would care what is happening at the convention. But he said what happens at the federal level eventually "trickles down" to the state and local levels, having a real impact on the city.
He pointed out the sluggish national economy and high unemployment rate are reflected in the Ohio Valley.
"We're in the worst recession since the Great Depression," he said. "We've lost major employers in Wheeling the last four years."
He cited the bankruptcy of RG Steel, portions of which were formerly Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, and the looming layoffs at Ormet Corp. in Hannibal as examples.
McKenzie and all the delegates from West Virginia are attending the convention at their own expense. And as the event draws to a close today, McKenzie said they all are looking forward to getting back home and getting to work in their communities on behalf of Romney's campaign.