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 Solicitor Rosemary Humway-Warmuth.
“It sounds like a lot of work but if you love what you do and you’re a dedicated municipal practitioner, then it’s not only manageable but it’s a wonderful job,” Rosemary Humway-Warmuth said.
What does a chili cookoff and the city’s legal department have in common? In Wheeling, they’re both headed up by a person with a lifelong love for the place she was born. That person happens to be Rosemary Humway-Warmuth, city solicitor.
In the office, Humway-Warmuth oversees the City of Wheeling’s legal department. Outside of it, she proudly created and organizes the annual Wheeling Feeling Chili Cookoff with her husband Brian Warmuth. Together, the roles provide a peek into the passion Humway-Warmth holds for her hometown.
“Every department in the city has a connection with the legal department, and the duties of the legal department do touch pretty much every facet of the local government in regard to opinion and advice and all the commissions and boards of the city,” she said. “Every day, no matter what, the job is going to be different.”
The best way to think of the legal department, Humway-Warmuth said, is like an in-house attorney. On Aug. 15, Humway-Warmuth celebrated 22 years in service as the city solicitor. She also serves as president of the West Virginia Municipal Attorney’s Association and has a position on the board of directors for the International Municipal Lawyers Association, making her one of less than 100 municipal attorneys nationwide to be certified as a municipal law expert.
“I really try to do the best that I possibly can for the city for my City Council and the administration as well as the community,” Humway-Warmth said of bringing all her expertise together at work. “I try to use every bit of knowledge to do the best thing I can for the people I serve. I absolutely love the people I work with.”
A graduate of both Central Catholic High School and Bethany College, Humway-Warmuth briefly left her lifelong home to complete her law degree at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. While assisting the West Virginia State Attorney General’s office by specializing in higher education law, Humway-Warmuth met her husband Brian who had worked at West Liberty University.
“I was there just less than five years when the opportunity here became available,” she recalled. “I was hired as the assistant and then as the city solicitor once Ron Musser left to resume his private practice.”
At home in the Woodsdale section of Wheeling with Brian (“We have no dogs, no cats, no kids, no parakeets — therefore no worries,” Humway-Warmuth said with a laugh), she enjoys spending time outdoors with the occasional picnic at Oglebay. The couple maintains the Humway family home, the Lang-Hess house at the corner of 17th and Wood streets in East Wheeling. Built around 1865, the unique sandstone structure was the creation of Andrew Lang, a builder and quarry owner associated with the construction of the Suspension Bridge.
“It was in the Hess family, and then the next owners were my grandparents. I was raised there,” Humway-Warmuth said of the house. “It’s cut and formed out of the same sandstone as the Suspension Bridge.”
Together with Brian, Humway-Warmuth has cultivated The Wheeling Feeling Chili Cookoff, an annual gathering that celebrates a love both for chili and community. The cookoff takes place each June at Heritage Port and benefits the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley. Looking at the event from the inside, Humway-Warmuth says it’s fun to see visitors admiring the city and enjoying the event.
“People get a real good flavor of Wheeling and in that light, it’s used as a development tool,” Humway-Warmuth said. “It’s benefited the United Way from day one and we just broke [the] … $112,000 mark throughout all our years, and this was our 18th year. We have people come in from Canada, California, Vermont, D.C.; people that may not have ever stopped here otherwise. The comments we get is that everybody is so nice, the town is so pretty, there’s so much to do. It’s wonderful to hear that from people in larger or more cosmopolitan communities. Hopefully, God-willing, we’ll keep going for another 10 years.”
Whether it’s keeping a tradition alive or keeping a historic home updated, the care and commitment Humway-Warmuth has shown her city is something she says is typical of her fellow city officials.
“So many people have a long tenure with the city,” she said. “I think that is very telling that people like what they do and are pretty dedicated to the element of public service. You have to be dedicated to public service to be in any of the positions from the City Council members to a clerk in the water department or any of our building code inspectors. You have a level of expertise with the people you’re dealing with, that they have a great historical knowledge, and I think they’re more than willing to share that to the community’s spirit.”
• 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.