Councilwoman Catches Calif. Student’s Attention
By Zoe Woodrick
Editor’s Note: Wheeling Councilwoman Rosemary Ketchum has attracted national attention by becoming the first openly transgender person elected to public office in West Virginia. The story caught the eye of an eighth-grade student in Los Angeles, California, Zoe Woodrick — who wrote online about Ketchum. We thought you’d enjoy reading Woodrick’s impressions of Ketchum:
Meet Rosemary Ketchum, a city councilwoman, who has made history in West Virginia as the first openly transgender elected official with plans for her community.
“I did it because I love it”
Rosemary Ketchum, a Democrat born in Ohio, has been elected as a new city council member of Wheeling, West Virginia in the non-partisan position. She has recently made history becoming the first openly transgender elected official of West Virginia. Though believing that West Virginia is facing an identity crisis in terms of a political party, Ketchum believes it’s more about the ideas and community than the party.
Ketchum has stated she didn’t run for office to make history, but she has done so.
Ketchum’s first act of duty was to declare racism a public health crisis. During an interview, Ketchum said, “We believe in racial justice, maybe not how we get there, but we believe we should have it.” Ketchum has shown that she is a big advocate for equality and justice.
Being in “The Friendly City,” Ketchum has tried to have Wheeling live up to its name. While speaking on this, Ketchum said “half the battle is mindset.”
“I feel born and raised in West Virginia.”
Ketchum was born in East Liverpool, a small town in Ohio with a population of 10,713 as of 2018, where she lived until the age of 16. Her family got by, with her dad working at a local factory and her mom as a part-time waitress. Her mother home-schooled Rosemary and her two brothers. In 2010, she had experienced a house fire, which destroyed her home. After living with their neighbors for a while, they decided to move to Wheeling where Ketchum’s sister lived at the time.
Some of Ketchum’s inspirations growing up were Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, and Taylor Swift, who have all helped her find calm in chaos, saying they’ve gotten her through some tough times. Inspired by Taylor Swift, Ketchum learned how to play the piano and guitar.
“We don’t see the political system the way our parents or our grandparents did.”
Ketchum has voiced strong political opinions in the past. During an interview, Ketchum stated that though she is pro-choice, she sees where people who are pro-life are coming from. Along with that, Ketchum said men shouldn’t be telling women what to do with their bodies.
As a self described progressive Democrat, many of the people Ketchum works with are not. She has stated she is not the stereotype and that presents an obstacle along with an opportunity. When asked about the Trump administration’s recent plans to remove LGBT health care protection, Ketchum had not been surprised by this. “It is unfortunate, and I think tells a story about our country that just isn’t true,” she said, going on to say, “I think every person in the United States has a right to affordable health care.” Stating that this is our most conservative Supreme Court of our lifetimes, and they passed a law that gave the transgender community workplace protection.
“While we still see deaths rising, cases rising, people seem to be taking it less seriously.”
She has only been an elected official during the COVID-19 outbreak. “I hope to be grateful for what it (COVID-19) will teach me,” Ketchum said. Working closely with the health department, Ketchum has been trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 in her city. Promoting cautionary measures in Wheeling, like washing hands, social distancing, and wearing masks, for which Ketchum is a big advocate. It’s been a struggle for Ketchum and her co-workers trying to get citizens to take this virus seriously. With Ketchum showing what we need to do, she is trying to set an example by hosting Zoom meetings and posting photos on social media of her wearing a mask. One of her main priorities is to get students back in a safe classroom.
“I wanted them to know who I was.”
Before becoming a city council member in Wheeling, Ketchum worked as a community organizer.
Ketchum saw politics as a very muddled job, always believing that elected officials and community organizers were very separated. Ketchum said one of the best things about being a community organizer was that she got to instill fear in other elected officials in her area. Not because she was scary but because she wanted them to listen to her opinions and ideas. Later, trying to tackle some tough issues in her community, she realized that the city councilors held the power and decided. “I ought to run for office.”