Four Vie for Open 3rd Ward Seat on Wheeling Council
WHEELING — Four candidates are in a race for the open seat as 3rd Ward Wheeling City Council member.
The winning candidate after the June 9 municipal election will fill the council seat currently occupied by Councilwoman Melinda Koslik. In January of last year, Koslik was appointed to fill an unexpired term after Councilman Brian Wilson resigned from the position. Koslik did not file for candidacy to seek an additional term.
Those who did file in the 3rd Ward race include Rosemary Ketchum, Jerome “Jake” Henry, Erik Marple and Peggy Niebergall.
Ketchum, a resident of 14th Street in East Wheeling, works as a mental health professional at NAMI Greater Wheeling. She is a community organizer with a history of working on issues including poverty, addiction and civil rights at local and statewide levels.
“I am running to bring much needed attention to the critical problems of Ward 3,” Ketchum said. “Vacant properties, poor road conditions, drug activity, challenges facing small businesses, and other issues all require a strong and experienced advocate to build effective, community based solutions.”
Ketchum said she believes her experience as a mental health professional, community organizer and passionate volunteer makes her uniquely qualified to represent Ward 3 and the city as a whole.
“We have so much to be grateful for in Wheeling,” Ketchum said. “We have some of the hardest working, most compassionate people anywhere in the country, and our great history in manufacturing, culture and commerce gives us hope and a strong identity. I see these things to be some of our cities greatest and most celebrated assets.”
A growing opioid epidemic, poverty, an aging infrastructure, and a struggling small business environment, are among the challenges that lend to the frustrating uphill battle many people talk about when they think of Wheeling, Ketchum said.
“I plan to continue tackling these issues in collaboration with our state government, as I have done as an organizer, if elected as your Ward 3 representative,” Ketchum said, who said listening to the citizens is a key to success. “I’ve been talking to hundreds of constituents these past few months and so many folks talk about feeling unheard.”
Strong leadership, an unwavering commitment to bettering the community and working together will help elevate the city, she noted.
“I think accessibility and transparency are crucial in building trust and getting things accomplished,” Ketchum said. “That is why I share my personal cell phone number with every constituent I meet. “I plan to work hard in every neighborhood. East, South, Center Wheeling, and Mozart deserve an advocate and I am ready to be that person.”
Henry, a resident of Esther Avenue in Mozart, has been married for more than 32 years to his “best friend, Bonnie.” Together they have three children, one daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. Henry is the son of the late and longtime Councilman Robert “Herk” Henry. He currently is the trainer and a supervisor for the Ohio Valley Regional Transit Authority. Henry has volunteered at the 18th Street Center, is a member of the Knights of Columbus and serves as a volunteer at his church.
“I am running for council because I feel that the citizens of Ward 3 are not being heard,” Henry said. “As a lifetime resident of Ward 3, I have seen first-hand the many changes the ward has gone through. Watching and talking to my father daily while he was on council has given me an understanding of the job that I feel my opponents don’t have. Through his mentoring, I learned that listening to the people was the most important responsibility of a councilman.”
Wheeling has much to offer, according to Henry, who cited the city parks, museums, Heritage Port, the many festivals, recreational facilities, the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, and hiking and biking trails were among the most notable assets.
“While all that sounds good, our neighborhoods need improvement” he said. “Paving a few streets and fixing some sidewalks is not enough. We must focus on removing the condemned structures which are unsafe and bring down property values. Rebuilding our neighborhoods is what will bring people and prosperity back to our city. We must bring back livability to the ‘Friendly City.'”
Marple, a Wheeling native, has owned his home for the past 20 years on 14th Street, where he resides with his family.
“In my life I have served a great many roles, though first and foremost I am a devoted husband and father of four children,” Marple said. “During that time I have ascended from cub scout to paperboy, employee then manager, artist, performer, producer, property owner, taxpayer, residential and commercial maintenance man, mason and responsible gun owner. However, I will most be most notably remembered as a repair man. I fix broken things, I am not a politician, professional or otherwise.”
Marple said he aspires to be nothing less than an honest and genuine voice of the constituents.
“I am well-spoken and easy to work with,” he said. “I have no agenda of my own other than to serve at the will and pleasure of the people who I represent.”
Wheeling has many great assets, Marple noted, but said its greatest asset is the community.
“Sure, we have a tremendous history, but even more importantly, we have the future ahead of us that we can build together as we see fit to be the world we want to live in,” Marple said. “It is that simple, but we cannot do it alone without coming together. I can guarantee that I will fight for each of you every single step of the way. If elected, I will seek no payment or reimbursement for my services as I feel that representing you in a public office should not be obtained for material gain.”
Marple said he has no intentions of creating any new or additional organizations, committees or costs to the expense of the public. Regardless of the outcome of the election, Marple said he will continue to serve the community by continuing to do what he does, “simply fixing the things that break.”
Niebergall, of Park Road in Mozart, is a lifelong resident of Wheeling and a retired teacher.
“I am actively involved in organizations that improve and give back to the city through low interest loans, trail improvements, education and preservation,” Niebergall said, noting that she feels she is the best candidate for the position because she is vested in the 3rd Ward. “I attended school and church in Center and East Wheeling. My family is from South Wheeling and operated businesses there, and I have lived in Mozart for 35 years. I have proven to be a team member, confident in her voice at the table while listening and respecting others. I feel that 3rd Ward has been ignored for too long. Being a lifelong resident, I feel I am more aware of the issues and concerns of the 3rd Ward residents. Being retired, I have more time to devote to this position.”
Wheeling’s greatest assets are the hardworking diverse people of the valley with a strong sense of community, Niebergall said.
“We have beautiful family friendly parks and golf courses, outstanding architecture and historic buildings giving a sense of belonging, all nestled in the Ohio River Valley,” she said. “Wheeling’s greatest challenges are infrastructure, roads, abandoned and dilapidated buildings, drugs, homelessness, litter and safety. I also believe there is a need for recreational activities for the youth ages 15-21 years.”
Niebergall said she plans to overcome these challenges by reviewing, improving and enforcing the city’s ordinances. She said listening to residents and setting forth a prioritized lists of goals should be a focus of city council.
“I want attention given to buildings that have been abandoned for a year and work with the property owners to improve the building before it becomes a total loss,” she said. “Each year, I will pledge $5,000 of my salary for the stabilization, beautification and improvement of 3rd Ward. I hope to seek matching money to my pledge. My commitment is to 3rd Ward and this would give me the opportunity to give back to the community that has supported me and my family. I would like the opportunity to work with residents and make changes for the future of our city.”