Elliott, Hamm, Domenick Seek Wheeling Mayor Post
WHEELING — Three candidates vying for mayor of the city of Wheeling each presented their vision for the Friendly City.
Incumbent Mayor Glenn F. Elliott Jr. is facing opposition from fellow Wheeling residents Tony Domenick and Chris Hamm in the June 9 election.
This weekend, each of the candidates responded to questions about their background, what they believe are the city’s biggest assets and biggest challenges, and what they proposed to do to move Wheeling ahead into the future.
Elliott, of Market Street, is a Wheeling native and graduate of the Linsly School. He earned degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University Law Center. He returned home to Wheeling in 2009 and started three small, yet active businesses — a law firm, a property management company and a real estate firm. He is also restoring the historic Professional Building downtown with his fiancee, Cassandra Wells.
“Just as in 2016, I am running for mayor because I believe that through my Wheeling roots, my professional background, and my passion for historic preservation and economic revitalization, that I am well suited to help Wheeling capitalize on its strengths and compete for investment and human capital in the 21st Century.” Elliott said. “But unlike 2016, I now have four years of actual experience serving as mayor to help me guide the city forward.”
He touted his work on several projects, such as new public safety facilities, the downtown streetscape project and renovation of the Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Building. During his time in office, Elliott said he has gained invaluable experience working with our partners at the local, state and federal levels.
“Through my service on board of the West Virginia Municipal League, I have built valuable relationships with elected officials across the state and helped bring positive attention to Wheeling. I also have acquired many ‘lessons learned’ from my time in office — what I have done well and what I could have done much better.”
Elliott said the city of Wheeling is blessed with a very favorable geographic location — in the heart of a tri-state region, on a major highway system, on a major river, and within 500 miles of more than 60% of the U.S. population. Among challenges, Wheeling has been losing population steadily since the 1940s, with most of this loss coming from younger generations seeking greener pastures elsewhere, Elliott noted.
“A common concern I have heard when pitching Wheeling to outside companies for investment is that we lack the skilled workforce to fill the types of jobs that would be created,” he said.
To compete, cities have to meet the quality-of-life expectations of today’s workforce, Elliott said.
“That means urban living options, vibrant neighborhoods, engaging parks and recreational amenities, a proven public safety record, and, of course, a surplus of good-paying jobs,” Elliott said. “Over the past four years, I have worked with city council to move Wheeling forward towards each of these ends. But that work is not done.”
Elliott said during the past four years, he has made some decisions that are popular and some that are not, noting that he has faced “difficult and unexpected challenges” on numerous occasions.
“If it is true that adversity does not build character but instead reveals it, let the way I have performed my duties under a variety of adverse conditions speak for who I am,” he said. “In making decisions I have always put what I believe to be Wheeling’s best interest first and foremost and have gone to great lengths to explain my reasoning — especially to those who disagree with me.”
Domenick of South Wabash Street on Wheeling Island is a military veteran, a former coal miner, a former sales representative for a national company, and currently, is employed at a hardware store in Pennsylvania.
He is a graduate of West Virginia Northern Community College, West Liberty University and Mountain State University with degrees in criminal justice, psychology and legal studies.
“I previously taught as an adjunct professor at West Virginia Northern Community College and have been a Wheeling resident for 35 years,” Domenick said. “I have over that time heard of many visions and many broken promises to the residents of the city of Wheeling, and I’m confident I bring a different set of values to the table. I am beholden to no organization or entity other than the residents of the city.”
The greatest asset of the city is the resiliency of the people in general, Domenick said.
“It is a crossroads for millions of travelers every year and has the ability to be a focal place for living and working,” he said.
The biggest challenge Wheeling currently has is the challenge of creating a quality of life that “any person would want to be part of and envious of,” he noted.
“This quality of life is not part of a vision or listening but derives solely from involvement with the citizens and hard work, neither of which I would shy away from,” Domenick said. “If elected, I plan to address the homeless situation, the crime situation, the OVMC issue, the flooding issue in residential areas and the quarry mining issues.
“I advocate restoring faith in government through transparency, communication and above all, taking action for the health safety and prosperity of all Wheeling citizens and businesses,” Domenick explained. “I will put the needs of the citizens of Wheeling first and foremost and no longer will The Appeals of the citizens go unheard or unheeded. That is my oath.”
Hamm, a Mozart resident on Frazier Run Road, was born and raised in Wheeling, one of 12 children. He and his wife, Ellen, have three adult children: Brooke, Trevor and Kylie. Through the years, Hamm has worked in sales, construction and management.
“We both have businesses we own and run within the city,” Hamm said of his wife. “I’m a Christian by faith and always standing by my conservative values.”
Hamm served as chairman of the Wheeling Traffic Commission for a number of years and spent years serving on the board of the now New Life Church in Fulton.
Wheeling’s greatest assets are its people, its location and its history, Hamm said. The downtown area has so many historic places to see, Hamm said, along with many downtown restaurants and shops, especially around the historic Market House area.
“I believe once someone knows and sees what Wheeling truly has to offer, they will make it a destination and will want to see more of it,” he said.
As for Wheeling’s biggest challenges, Hamm posed these questions: “How do you run and manage a city without over taxing its people and businesses and yet provide good roads and services for its residents? How can we make it easier for smaller businesses to start up without so many hoops and added costs to jump through? And how can we get a grip on all the transients setting up camp, along with the many opioid overdoses throughout our city?”
Hamm said as a starting point for moving forward, there needs to be a clear vision of all city finances to see exactly where the city stands now and where finances are expected to be in the coming months.
“Right now, the city — like all other cities in America — are in unknown territories when it comes to their finances.” Hamm said. “With COVID-19 challenges and state and federal mandates, income for the city will take a big hit when it comes to tax revenues collections. And there isn’t an exact time frame on when it will get back to normal. So now we have a real and bigger new challenge.
“So my first plan would be to hold off on any major spending before we get to the point of having to furlough areas of the workforce. With no guarantees of what COVID-19 relief monies will be coming our way, we just have to do with what we have and stop any unnecessary spending.”
Hamm said the last thing anyone in Wheeling wants is to find the city in a place months from now where residents are asked to pay more taxes.
“I will not let that happen,” he said. “So a spending freeze should be in effect.”
Hamm said it will take a lot of work and help from local and state programs to resolve the homelessness problem in Wheeling, and the same goes for the opioid situation, which he said was a problem that reaches far beyond the borders of the city.
“I will say this to the voters: If you want someone who has an open door, conservative, common-sense approach to leading this city, then please vote for me,” Hamm said.