State of City Address Set for Tuesday

By Steve Novotney

For the sixth consecutive year Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie will present his “State of the City Address” today during a luncheon set to begin at noon at the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack.

State of the City

The venue was altered on Monday by city officials because of a water issue in the Capitol Theatre Ballroom, the venue in which the first five presentations have been staged. The luncheon will take place on the hotel’s second floor inside the “Showroom.”

Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie
Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie

“Thanks to our local media outlets and the use of social media, we’re confident that those planning to attend this event will change their travel plans and make it to Wheeling Island,” said Vice Mayor Gene Fahey, who also represents the city of Wheeling’s Sixth Ward. “I just want everyone to remember that the Wheeling Suspension Bridge was re-opened yesterday afternoon after a lot of work over the weekend.”

The annual State of the City Address in Wheeling was Fahey’s idea. During a business trip to the Virginia Beach area, he saw an advertisement for a similar function that was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. He returned to the Friendly City with the information and presented it for McKenzie’s consideration.

“I was confident that we had a lot of people in our city who simply want to be ‘in the know,’ and this event has been well received since Mayor McKenzie decided to start doing it in 2010,” Fahey said. “People care in Wheeling, and this kind of presentation allows them to see a snapshot of the past year and what to expect in the year to come.”

Vice Mayor and Ward Six Councilman Gene Fahey
Vice Mayor and Ward Six Councilman Gene Fahey

Fahey expects much of the same when McKenzie takes to the podium today.

“I’m sure Mayor McKenzie will spend some time discussing the past year because we were very busy as a council with several significant developments pertaining to the pension funds for our police officers and firefighters, the future finances for the city, and the long-overdue construction of a new water intake facility in the Warwood section of Wheeling,” he said. “I believe he will also highlight the fact that we have witnessed more business opportunities being undertaken in our downtown in the past six months than we have seen in the last six years.

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“But the State of the City of Address isn’t about the mayor or about the members of council,” he said. “It’s about the people whether they choose to attend or not. I believe we have more people in Wheeling today who want to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.”

Ward Five Councilman Don Atkinson admitted that he enjoys the mayor’s annual review not only because of the review of accomplishments over the past year, but also because McKenzie always includes a list of goals for city government.

Ward Five Councilman Don Atkinson
Ward Five Councilman Don Atkinson

“There’s plenty of good news to talk about, but everyone realizes there’s still plenty of work to do,” he said. “The goal is always to move forward. The goal is always to take an honest look at the present and to the future so we can continue taking care of a lot of things that have been avoided in the past, for whatever reasons.

“I believe over the past year especially we have tackled several of the problems that the mayor mentioned last year during the State of the City Address, so he’s not up there just talking. He’s informing the people of this city what has been recognized as priorities, so I encourage as many people as possible to attend.”

David Miller, Ward Four’s council representative, said he is confident the most important accomplishment during the course of the past years involves the attention paid to fiscal responsibility.

Ward Four Councilman David Miller
Ward Four Councilman David Miller

“I believe the mayor and council have set the table for the future leadership of this city by addressing many important issues concerning finances,” he said. “If they do not now, I think the people of this city will come to realize how important it is to address the police and fire pensions and the size of government in the future.

“But we have also addressed an aging Wesbanco Arena to make updates to improve the fan experience, and we have watched as a new water plant is being constructed,” he said. “In the future, I think our biggest challenge involves our infrastructure and working with state and federal officials so we can be sure we address what is most important at this time.”

McKenzie has consistently cited several of the city’s business leaders in past addresses, and he has honored one citizen each year as the Wheeling Community Spirit Award winner.

“The mayor is always very inclusive because he realizes that it takes engaging the people of Wheeling for the city to move forward,” Miller insisted. “For many reasons, it’s my belief that we, as a city, have bounced off the bottom and that we are now moving forward toward a better future.”