Chad Thalman learned three most valuable lessons during his yearlong campaign for the Ward 1 seat on Wheeling City Council:
- The people of the ward know the issues in the ward.
- The people of the ward have ideas and solutions for the issues.
- And the people of the ward do pay attention to their municipal government.
“I can tell you right now, I do not have all of the answers, but that’s where the conversations come into play. I can tell you that when I went door-to-door, I learned about problems that I didn’t even know existed,” Thalman said. “I also heard solutions that I had never thought of, too, and that’s why I feel it is important for us to bring in as many people as possible so we can see and hear as many different viewpoints as possible. If we do that, I believe we will be more likely to succeed, and Wheeling is more likely to flourish.
“I heard a lot of things over and over again from the people in Ward 1 like their wish for adequate police and fire protection; they also want the roads taken care of, and many people want to see the city beautified,” he reported. “And they want attention paid to the landlords in the city, and they hope that the playgrounds will be updated.”
Thalman began contemplating a council run well before he joined Mayor-elect Glenn Elliott and Councilwoman-elect Wendy Scatterday in May 2015 with announcing their intentions to launch campaigns. He also welcomed conversations with current Ward 1 representative, Gloria Delbrugge.
“I wanted to know exactly what I was thinking about getting involved with,” he said. “Now I have a pretty good understanding about how the meetings are structured and what the procedures are. I know that we want the Council meetings to be more informative than what they have been in effort to engage the public more.
“Then I announced I was running for City Council a little over a year ago so I could spend that year talking to as many people as possible in an effort to find out what their thoughts are at this time,” Thalman said. “I wanted to find out their problems so we could talk about solutions, and during the last few months of my campaign I spent a lot of time going door-to-door, and I was on every single street in the ward. I also attended almost every Council meeting during that year, too, and I also attended several committee meetings.”
Thalman has attended several meetings since he defeated John Bishop 979-374 on May 10, including with City Manager Robert Herron, and the city’s operations, finance and economic development directors. He, along with the other five new council members and the new mayor, soon will go on a tour of Wheeling’s seven fire stations.
“We have six new people coming in, so that’s why we are having as many meetings as possible so I can learn as much as possible before taking office,” Thalman explained. “Since Election Day we have met with a handful of department heads and with the city manager, so we’ve been working to talk to as many people as possible so we can hit the ground running. It’s important that we have a smooth transition once we are sworn in.”
One goal Thalman hopes to achieve soon after taking office is public engagement in an effort to attract increased attendance at Council’s regular meetings, and to grow the conversation so more people are involved in the process.
“There really is no easy answer as far as how to get more people engaged. I’m sure if there was an easy answer, it would have already happened by now,” he said. “I think we start by simply asking people to be engaged and involved so they can offer their opinions. I also believe that we can improve the council meetings by being open to more discussion than what has taken place in the past.
“I know it’s not going to happen overnight, and it’s not going to be easy, but I’m a strong believer that the more people we have involved to offer us their opinions and their advice that we will all be more successful.”
Thalman has spent the majority of his life as a Friendly City resident, and he has heard the stories about a bustling downtown, thriving industries, and a robust population. In recent years, though, he’s noticed a change.
“It’s an exciting time in Wheeling right now because the conversation has shifted. I’m 34 years old, and for the first 30 years of my life most people usually talked about the past of Wheeling. They always talked about how great things used to be,” Thalman said. “That’s what the conversation was in Wheeling, but now it’s about what Wheeling can be now and what Wheeling can be in the future.
“I no longer hear that our best days are behind us. Now I hear that people are excited about the present and the future, and I’m very happy to be a part of it,” he said. “The past is the past, but now people are looking toward the future so that the progress can continue for many more years.”
(Photos provided by Mr. Thalman)