By Steve Novotney
Wheeling residents will have the chance to engage three city officials and one Ohio County official this Friday during OV Connect’s second annual City of Wheeling Government Lunch.
The luncheon will be staged in the dining room of the Culinary Arts Department at West Virginia Northern Community College. The facility is located inside the Education Center on the corner of 17th and Eoff streets in downtown Wheeling. The event will get under way at11:45 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m.
Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie is set to attend, as are Vice Mayor Gene Fahey and City Manager Robert Herron. Ohio County Administrator Greg Stewart will represent the county.
“We’ll get lunch started, and then about 15 minutes in we’ll ask the city and county officials to address the audience to offer a summary of their positions,” explained OV Connect’s Russell Dunkin. “After that, the people in attendance will have the chance to ask them whatever questions they want.
“It should be really interesting because of the broadness of topics that can and will be covered,” he said. “I also think there’s a lot of confusion in the public as far as who takes care of what in Wheeling and Ohio County, so those who attend will be able to ask officials of both right there instead of having to call all over the place.”
Dunkin explained that both members of OV Connect and non-members are welcome to attend. Members of OV Connect, a non-profit organization designed to engage the valley’s 25-40 demographic, will pay $20 for lunch, and non-members will be charged $25.
“One question from the audience may involve what has been happening in the downtown, and the next question may be about what’s coming next at The Highlands,” Dunkin explained. “Anything is fair game, and this event will also give our local leaders the chance to work with citizens who may not be on their radar.
“I think there’s a lot of disgust in government these days, so this is an opportunity to get through that on the local level,” he said. “On the local level, people are much more passionate because it’s about where they live, and our leaders don’t duck the questions. It’s refreshing.”
The annual luncheon is held at WVNCC’s Culinary Arts Department in an effort to promote a program many may not realize exists in Wheeling. The department, in fact, is highly accredited and offers its students the same culinary education that can be obtained at much larger schools in many of the country’s bigger cities.
“We like to give the culinary department the chance to show off a little because they do a wonderful job and we want more people to know about it,” Dunkin said. “There are a lot of folks in the Valley who have no idea the program and the start-of-the-art facility are even there.”
OV Connect was founded by Justin Seibert in 2007, and the organization has held several events since, including the annual “Brew at the Zoo” fundraiser. While the membership consistently attempts to engage the valley’s young adults, no limits exist as far as joining.
“Our membership is fluid,” Dunkin said. “We’re open to anyone who wants to be plugged in, and that’s why we have members who are in college and who are in their 60s.
“And that’s why we have term limits for our officers. Three years and you’re out, and then we look to fill those positions with members of younger generations just so we continue attracting new members and new ideas,” he added. “When you are younger and looking to start networking, it can be pretty intimidating when you don’t know many people in the room. OV Connect helps make those introductions.”
Those interested in OV Connect can review its Facebook page here:
Those interested in attending the luncheon can register here: