(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.)
Ty Thorngate, Candidate, Ward 5
Ty Thorngate left Wheeling in 2006 to attend West Virginia University, but he made the choice to return to the Friendly City following his 2011 commencement with confidence he would find employment.
Not many young people have believed that about the Wheeling area for the past three decades, but he insisted to come home and do what he had to do to live here. Today, he is the marketing coordinator for the A&B KIA car dealership in Benwood, and in 2014 he was in charge of marketing for the Ryan Ferns for West Virginia Senate campaign in 2014. In both positions his objective was to deliver promotional messages using various different media outlets and community organizations, and he’s continued those duties with the dealership since 2012.
Thorngate has served on the Dimmeydale Community Association since returning from Morgantown, and he’s welcomed leadership roles with the organization, as well. He’s a 2005 graduate of Wheeling Park High School and now possesses five years of multi-platform marketing experience.
His father and brother have been employed by the city of Wheeling. His father, Roger, retired after 32 years as an assistant chief with the Wheeling Fire Department, and his brother, Greg, logged 25 years with the Wheeling Police Department before retiring as a sergeant last year.
The fourth and sixth wards border Ward 5, a district that includes portions of the Woodsdale, Springdale, Edgwood, Pleasanton, and Wheeling Park sections of the city.
Why have you chosen to run for City Council at this time?
For more than two years I’ve represented my neighbors as the Vice President of the Dimmeydale Community Association. During that time, I’ve not only learned what it takes to work with millennials and seniors but also what it takes to accomplish goals for the community as a whole. Although my time representing my neighbors in the Dimmeydale Community Association has been rewarding, there’s still a part of me that isn’t satisfied, and it’s that part of me that knew that a run for the Ward 5 city council seat was the next logical step in my life as a Wheeling resident.
Over the last six years, I’ve noticed that many of the problems that plagued our city when I moved home from college – lack of transparency; lack of true representation; zero focus on quality of life issues; and the need for a comprehensive 21st century vision – still plague us today. Those problems will continue to plague us if we keep electing the same people to government year after year. I respect the people who currently serve our city, but the time has come to turn the page on the Wheeling we knew. It’s time for a new generation of leadership to stand up and lead the people of this great city.
What do you feel are the most critical issues in your ward at this time?
Ward 5 is a great ward that has many established residents and families, but it is also a ward in transition. We’re starting to see an influx of younger residents moving into older communities and I want to make sure everyone is included and that all voices, both young and old, are heard. While Ward 5 doesn’t have many “surface issues,” during the last few months I’ve met with countless residents who have numerous issues with city government ranging from road and alley paving to tearing down buildings in downtown to petty crime. When I’m out meeting with residents, I make it a point to take notes and listen to their specific needs, and I can say unequivocally that the most prevalent concerns in Ward 5 are the following:
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Lack of affordable housing
Current city government ignoring the needs and wants of residents
Rise in drug addiction
Entrepreneurial growth and the need for more jobs
Recent increase in flood insurance premiums
4+ decades of population decline
How do you feel you can improve the city of Wheeling by representing your ward?
One of the biggest problems for a struggling community is hopelessness. After years of stagnation, people tend to give up on the political process. They no longer believe that things can change. My end goal for Ward 5 and the city is to break through that hopelessness and show the residents of our city that someone new is finally here, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make our city successful.
Over the last 50 years our city’s leaders have been good at two things: turning a blind eye to the problems that they know are coming, and thinking they know what’s best for the city and its citizens. For far too long, our city council has been built on the idea that you’re either with us or against us. The harder we pull in either direction, the less capable we are of actually solving our problems. The only way we’re ever going to truly improve Wheeling is make sure that we get both citizens and local government on the same page and let every voice be heard. It doesn’t take much to start a Renaissance, so let’s stand together and fight each issue head on. There will be nothing that we can’t accomplish!
If elected, how do you plan to communicate with your constituents?
According to Section 5 of the current City Charter, “Each member of Council shall hold a public meeting in the ward represented by that member not less than annually to hear concerns of residents of the ward.”
To my knowledge, Ward 5 has yet to have said meeting in over eight years. In 2016, communicating with constituents should not be an issue. Technology allows us to reach countless people at the click of a button. As a city council member, one of my first goals would be to repair the lack of trust and transparency between residents and local government.
I’d push to have city council meetings moved back to 7:30 p.m.. I’d like to see each council meeting live-streamed on one of the major social media platforms. I would also like to go a step further than the requirement of Section 5 of the City Charter and hold quarterly ward meetings plus monthly open office hours at the City-County building. In a local democracy, city council exists to serve the public and public officials are answerable to the citizens they represent.
What is the main message you wish to convey to the voters in your ward?
On May 10, you have the opportunity to take Wheeling in a new direction. After years of stagnation and “Good Ol’ Boy” politics, the time has come to turn the page on the Wheeling we have known. It’s time for a new generation of leadership to stand up and fight for our city’s future.
Are we currently meeting all of our obligations? Are we planning for the future, or are we accepting the status quo? Right now, there are two Wheelings … Wheeling as it is and Wheeling as it should be. As we move into a city of the 21st century, Wheeling as it is will no longer be good enough and WE have a moral obligation to take Wheeling to where it should be. I ask that each voter remember that the future will belong to those who have the passion and willpower to work hard and do whatever it takes to make our city better.