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. It is our hope that readers gain a greater understanding of the opportunities and challenges we face in growing a Wheeling that is more forward-thinking and dynamic. Today’s story features Melinda Koslik, who represents Ward 3.Melinda Koslik, Wheeling’s newly appointed City Council member, is passionate about Wheeling in general and about Ward 3 in particular. She fell in love with the Centre Market area during childhood visits and dreamed of living and working in that area when she was older. Fast forward to 2019 — her childhood dream has now become reality.
“People always ask me if I’m ‘from’ Wheeling,” Koslik laughs. The answer is yes and no. She was born in Wheeling and lived in the Fulton neighborhood for several years, where her mother and grandparents were long-time residents. Her grandfather was employed by the Blaw Knox foundry on the far side of the nearby creek. Eventually, her father’s career path led to Ohio, where the family lived for the remainder of Koslik’s time at home. Though they were no longer Wheeling residents, Koslik’s family made frequent visits back to spend time with relatives. She has fond memories of visiting the Paradox Book Store and other shops in historic Centre Market. It was during these visits that she became enchanted with the quaint district and hoped that one day she might return there.
Koslik is a talented designer with a graphic arts degree from Pittsburgh Technical College. After graduation, she lived and worked in Pennsylvania as well as in South Carolina. Though she enjoyed her time away, Koslik still heard those country roads of West Virginia calling her home.
“I saw a job opening at Orrick and applied,” she says. “I was offered the position and was so excited to come back to Wheeling.” She has been designing marketing materials for the international law firm now for nearly eight years.
Eventually, Koslik purchased a home in her East Wheeling ward, where she resides with her beloved dog Cosmo. Her home was built in the late 1800s, and she is slowly working to update it to current-day standards while maintaining its historical integrity and appearance.
Koslik and Cosmo live an incredibly active lifestyle and enjoy intense physical activities such as long-distance hiking and running. An avid bicyclist, Koslik rode her Timberline GT bike 335 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., over a three-day period in 2016. (Cosmo, however, sat out that rain-soaked excursion, opting instead for the dry, warm comfort of his bed.) Koslik has also competed in a number of mud runs and other corporal challenges. In addition to her physical fitness pursuits, she enjoys worldwide travel when her hectic schedule allows.
Last year, former council person Brian Wilson asked Koslik if she’d consider serving as the Ward 3 councilor when his work necessitated a move out of state. After learning more about the requirements of the position and giving it a great deal of thought, she decided it might be a good way for her to give back to the community she loves. She applied for the position and was appointed in January to fill the remainder of Wilson’s term.
Will she run for election to the position in 2020? “I’m undecided at this point. But I am giving it a lot of consideration,” Koslik says thoughtfully.
BAPTISM BY FIRE
Only a handful of months into her council position, Koslik tells Weelunk that she is always busy learning something new.
“It’s been a definite learning experience,” she said. “I’ve had to learn who to talk to, the history of various buildings and projects — the list is endless.”
She anticipates that she will continue to expand her knowledge of the workings and processes of our local government until her term expires in May, 2020. She also came on board during a particularly stressful time during which council is dealing with several controversial projects as well as internal personnel matters. But Koslik views these situations as simply another part of the learning curve.
Councilors are required to serve on numerous subcommittees in addition to their primary council roles. Koslik has been appointed to several internal committees, including the Public Safety and Public Works committees. She is also the City Council representative to the Wheeling Heritage board and the Wheeling Arts & Cultural Commission. Koslik already served on the boards of Show of Hands and the Wheeling Arts & Cultural Commission prior to assuming her role on council and still holds those positions at the present time.
CONCERNS OF WARD 3
Ward 3 is comprised of East Wheeling, Center Wheeling, South Wheeling and Mozart. “Three of those neighborhoods — East, Center and South Wheeling — are low- to moderate-income areas,” said Koslik. This reality means that they face a similar set of hardships.
Homelessness here is a major concern. “East Wheeling is home to a number of social services organizations such as the Winter Freeze Shelter and others,” Koslik noted. “The proximity of these services means that the homeless population is very visible in our ward, more so than in some other neighborhoods.” Vacant buildings, overgrown and trash-filled lots and prostitution are other common concerns Koslik hears from her constituents. She addresses these concerns as she receives them, escalating them to the appropriate departments — yet another step in the learning process.
On the other hand, East Wheeling has seen a recent influx of new residents who view the area as a trendy and affordable housing option despite its rough edges. A nice mix of both multi-unit rental properties and single-family homes and townhouses frame the streets of East Wheeling.
This pretty little destination for residents and out-of-town guests alike is known for her crown jewel, the Centre Market house and shops. However, outside the immediate market area, homelessness is an issue here as well. A number of homeless camps co-exist with restored Victorian homes in this neighborhood, often just out of the line of sight of pedestrians and traffic. “Helping the homeless is such a complicated task,” Koslik said. Doing so successfully hinges upon a social service and mental health system that lacks resources, and that makes permanent solutions difficult. Area agencies do their best to fill the gap and assist as best they can.
Not quite downtown Wheeling, not quite Benwood, South Wheeling has a tendency to be overlooked unless you happen to be a DQ fan or a frequent Lowe’s customer. South Wheeling has its own historic significance and charm as well as a unique concern — flooding.
“The potential for flooding can make it difficult to market this area to developers,” admits Koslik. But South Wheeling also has a dedicated group of residents who are constantly at work behind the scenes, making their community a better place to live. The South Wheeling Preservation Alliance strives to make the rest of the city aware of South Wheeling’s importance. According to its Facebook page, this group seeks to identify, preserve and promote the unique spirit of South Wheeling and seeks to encourage a deeper appreciation of the neighborhood’s role in our city’s industrial, economic and cultural development in order to foster the stability and vitality of the neighborhood.
There is also a South Wheeling history museum located inside the SWPA center at 3501 Jacob St. (For more information about the museum, call 304-233-8917.)
The Pulaski playground on 47th Street is an ongoing concern for South Wheeling residents. Good news — Koslik said that this playground is on schedule to be renovated this calendar year.
Mozart, which straddles the Ohio/Marshall County line, is somewhat self-contained. Koslik says this area’s main concerns are generally related to road conditions. In the past, the condition of the playground there had been an issue, but that playground was replaced last year.
UPCOMING CDBG FUNDING
Koslik shares that the annual Community Development Block Grant funding amounts will be announced soon, and she is hopeful that areas in her ward might benefit from that grant money. She looks forward to putting these funds to good use should they be awarded to Ward 3. One of many projects Koslik would like to see this money used toward is the renovation of the sidewalks on 15th Street in East Wheeling.
HAVE A CONCERN OR SUGGESTION?
Koslik says she endeavors to be available, accessible and open to the residents of Ward 3. The ward has a Facebook page that is checked on a regular but infrequent basis. “For concerns requiring immediate attention, please use the new Wheeling 311 site,” Koslik advises her constituents. As always, true emergencies should be reported by dialing 9-1-1. Social media pages should be used solely for community activities and events and as a way for neighbors to stay connected. Koslik reminds citizens that emergencies and other time-sensitive matters should always be handled through the proper channels and not via social media.
If you’d like to reach out to Koslik, she can be contacted via email at email@example.com or by phone at 304-234-3601. Residents should note that email is her preferred method of contact and will generate a quicker response than a phone message.
Jumping into this position has been its own kind of voyage for Koslik, who’s a true adventurer at heart. This quick study is up to the task ahead, however — it’s clear that she’s a woman who thrives on challenge.
• A lifelong Wheeling resident, Ellen Brafford McCroskey is a proud graduate of Wheeling Park High School and the former Wheeling Jesuit College. By day, she works for an international law firm; by night, (and often on her lunch breaks and weekends) she enjoys moonlighting as a part-time writer. Please note that the views expressed in her writing are solely her own and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else, including her full-time employer. Through her writing, Ellen aims to enlighten others on causes close to her heart, particularly addiction, recovery and equal rights. She and her husband Doug reside in Warwood with their clowder of rescued cats, each of whom is a direct consequence of his job as the Ohio County Dog Warden. Their family includes four adult children, their spouses and several grandkids.