(Editor’s Note: Five questions were distributed to each of Wheeling’s 23 candidates and incumbents running for a council seat or for the mayor’s position, and the men and women were invited to offer their answers for publication free of charge. As explained to them, the articles will appear in the order the replies were received.)
Gene Fahey, Candidate, Mayor
His dad was the mayor back in the mid-1970s, a time when the mall was coming, and downtown was going with it. Sears and J.C. Penney and National Record Mart vacated and moved west, and Stone & Thomas and L.S. Good established mall stores while operational still in Wheeling, but it didn’t last long.
During the days when Gene Fahey’s father, Jack, was mayor of Wheeling, the city was thriving in some ways but was truly surviving overall. The writing was on the wall, after all, because people suddenly became more mobile and willing to drive to the front door and shop inside instead of trekking outdoors from one store to another.
And the downtown has dwindled since while candidate Fahey grew up surrounded by it, and for the past eight years he has served as the representative for Ward 6, and he’s also filled the role as vice mayor. His day-job position is vice president and general manager for Altmeyer Funeral Homes & Crematory.
Fahey lives in Elm Grove with his wife, Candy. His son, Jamie, and his wife, Stephanie, have one daughter (Rylie), and he’s also a stepfather to Marcus, Kyle, and Alyssa and a step-granddaughter, Adara.
A lifelong resident of Wheeling, Fahey is a graduate of Wheeling Central Catholic High School, West Liberty University, and the Pittsburgh School of Mortuary Science. He has also served on various committees, commissions, and boards, and he is a member of many organizations, including the Knights of Columbus, the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, and the West Virginia Funeral Directors Association.
Why have you chosen to run for Mayor of Wheeling at this time?
I love the city of Wheeling. I have been interested in public service from a young age, and I have been involved in serving the Wheeling community in some capacity my entire adult life. I have served the citizens of Wheeling for the past eight years as city councilman and vice mayor. Additionally, I have served on numerous committees and boards both with the city and in the private sector, including the Finance Committee, where I acted as chairman, the Development Committee, and the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority. With my vast amount of experience, and with Mayor McKenzie reaching the end of his term, I felt it was the right time to run for mayor.
As mayor, I believe I can continue to build on the positive developments that we have initiated and brought about during my time on city council.
What do you feel are the most critical issues in the City of Wheeling at this time?
The most critical issue facing the city of Wheeling is our decaying infrastructure. A solid infrastructure provides the foundation of a great city and is not only crucial to the city’s daily functioning and the safety of the citizens, but it is important for economic growth, as well.
As a member of city council, I get to see firsthand how much attention some areas of our infrastructure actually need. The primary responsibility of city government is to provide city services and address issues such as infrastructure problems. I am proud to say that our city council is currently addressing some of these issues, but there is still so much more work to be done. From roads and bridges, to sidewalks and lighting, to water distribution and sewer lines, the need for infrastructure improvement is enormous.
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We need, as city government, to continue with all efforts until we are in a position of being proactive with our improvements rather than reactive.
How do you feel you can improve the city of Wheeling if elected Mayor?
With proven, responsible leadership. Under my leadership as vice mayor, no decision has been put off because of difficulty or controversy. A few of the improvements we have embarked on during my time as a member of city council include building a new state-of-the-art water treatment plant, saving the Capitol Theater, and helping to bring downtown to life again with new businesses, buildings, and residential living coming to fruition.
Also, the pensions for our police and fire service people have been restructured, saving the city from financial ruin. I plan to continue on this course of positive improvement using my experienced leadership over the next four years.
If elected, how do you plan to communicate with your constituents?
I understand that people are busy. City government has a responsibility to engage with its citizens in ways that are open, fair and convenient. I would continue to invite the citizens of Wheeling to come and participate in government meetings, but I know that it is also important as elected officials to reach out to our constituents and make ourselves accessible in a variety of ways.
As city councilman for the sixth ward, I have attended meetings where I am available to speak with citizens who wish to personally express their concerns, and I have also been open to receiving phone calls from my constituents. If elected mayor, I will continue this tradition of openness and accessibility. Additionally, I plan to communicate with the citizens of Wheeling through all forms of media, including newspaper, radio, television, and social media.
I will also continue the new tradition of the State of the City, which I recommended to Mayor McKenzie eight years ago. This public address has been extremely well-attended and informative. I am also considering publishing a monthly online newsletter concerning issues facing the city of Wheeling.
What is the main message you wish to convey to the voters of Wheeling?
I am without a doubt the most qualified candidate for mayor of the city of Wheeling. I have a record of leadership that speaks for itself.
You can physically see the changes that are currently taking place downtown and in other areas of the city thanks to the efforts of our current city leaders, myself included.
I believe I have proven myself to the citizens, the businesses, and the employees of our great city. I am a lifelong resident of Wheeling and have always supported its citizens and businesses and have always believed in the greatness of our city. I know that our city needs to stay the course at such a vulnerable time and not change the direction of clear progress.
Others running for this position have no record or experience in city government, let alone the knowledge and expertise to be mayor. It is so important to our city to continue with the positive improvements that we have seen over the last eight years, and I believe I am the most qualified person to do just that. Let my record and experience speak for itself, and I hope to get your vote on May 10.