Editor’s note: Our series, “Wheeling@Work,” is an effort to provide readers with insight and information into our city government, highlighting the personalities, programs and processes at work within the City of Wheeling. Today’s story features City Clerk Brenda J. Delbert.
Transparency is a word that gets thrown around a lot. So much so, that Brenda J. Delbert hesitates to use it when talking about her role with the city before taking a step back to realize that it’s exactly the word she wants to use. Transparency is the hallmark of her job as city clerk.
“When people just use it as a buzzword and don’t follow through,” she said of her initial worry about that pesky word. “I love transparency. It gets citizens and governments on the same page and working together.”
Better known as “B.J.,” Delbert has served as city clerk for about two years now. She holds a master’s degree in business administration from West Virginia University and grew up both in Woodsdale and Elm Grove.
As one of two appointed city employees, Delbert reports directly to the mayor and makes sure the administrative needs of city council are met from agendas to committees.
“I do a lot of the communication, so I have been putting everything on our website to allow citizens to see it,” Delbert said.
“We have launched a new website, so we have meeting calendars for literally everything. Every board and commission has their own meeting calendar. I can upload PDF links to show what council is going to vote on, or they can see the minutes from a prior meeting. We’re really trying to get the facts out there.”
Delbert said the intention of getting each motion and minute of council happenings online is part of a larger effort to foster understanding of how city council works and why things often take time to happen.
“Most things have to go through council for two reads. It’s presented at the first, they vote on it at the second, and then action can take place,” Delbert explained.
“Things don’t just happen because someone brought it up at one meeting. They meet in committees, and then they hash out a game plan, and then the decision goes to the full body of council.”
Delbert said it can be frustrating for the average resident to have to wait on change but understanding the process creates a more holistic picture.
“We want to explain the why behind things,” she said. “Why things take so long and why decisions are made, so people are seeing the bigger picture and not just a snapshot.”
Dealing with the public is nothing new for Delbert. Before coming to the city, she had worked at the Ohio County Circuit Clerk’s office, and before that, she managed a handful of Bath and Body Works stores. Looking back, she said her experience in retail has enriched the job she does now.
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“You kind of have this mindset of, ‘I have my MBA, and I work in retail,’ but you learn how to deal with the public, and complexities of staffing, and how to manage people,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t see it but after, I think I took a lot more away from it than I did when I was there.”
Moving to a fulltime job downtown has enabled her to cut her commute short and spend more time with her husband Tony and children, Gracie, 4, and Anthony, who is 2.
“Chasing toddlers is my hobby,” she joked.
While the family makes their home in Bethlehem, their shared love of the outdoors brings them into the Friendly City in search of trails and waterways whenever they get the chance.
“We do a lot of hiking. We love to kayak. We’re big on the water when we can and when there’s enough rain. We stick to trails, and the kids love it because they love to explore. We stay local because then you can only go as far as their little legs will let you,” Delbert said. “Wheeling means more to my family than just my job. That’s where we go for something to do, whether it be hiking in Oglebay or Waterfront Wednesdays or other family-focused events.”
With all that getting out and doing in mind, Delbert says she hopes residents will follow her family’s lead when it comes to approaching the city with their concerns.
“The city really does care. Even if they don’t agree with a certain concern, they do care. It’s been a little bit of a struggle to get people off the internet and get into face-to-face meetings — but come on in. Even if it’s negative, we’ll figure it out,” she said.
“If you want to reach your council member, come on in and talk; I promise it will get to him or her. I don’t have a vote in any matter; I’m a liaison. My door is always open. We get a lot of info through Facebook, and while we try to say that’s not a great means, that’s the world we live in. Call me, send me an email, come to my office, and we will listen.”
• Cassie Bendel was born in Wheeling and raised in Bellaire. A graduate of St. Vincent College, she began her writing career as a reporter with The Times Leader and the Steubenville Herald-Star before writing content for SiriusXM Satellite Radio and a national faith-based consulting company. After more than a decade in Pennsylvania, she has moved back to the Ohio Valley with her husband and two sons.