Q&A with Councilwoman Rosemary Ketchum

Rosemary Ketchum

Councilwoman | Wheeling, West Virginia

Tell us about your background. What are the experiences, including education, that make up the person you currently are?

Growing up as a trans person, I didn’t see myself ever running for office. But after joining my college’s student government association I found joy in representing my student body. I soon discovered a love for activism and helping others. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Psychology, I continued to organize around issues like homelessness, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, and healthcare. These experiences lead me to believe that real change was possible and could be made if regular folks would run for office. It took some time to gain the confidence and chutzpah to run for office, but when I did, it turned out to be the best decision I would ever make.

What was your trigger moment and why this specific office?

I realized that it’s far easier to replace elected officials than to convince them. Local office provided a space for me to work on the issues that I cared about and could make a direct and immediate impact.

What made you feel qualified to run for office?

I didn’t initially feel confident while running. However, with my background in community organizing, I felt that what would make a good community organizer would also make for a good council member. Being accessible, having tough conversations, and feeling compelled to help others.

Do you work full-time or part-time?


Most people don’t know what their elected official does on a daily basis. What’s a typical day looking like for you?

The first thing I might do is check my emails. Responding to new ones and circling back on old ones. Next, I will check to see if I have any missed calls I need to respond to. Typically, I may have one or two committee meetings a week where we cover financials or other agenda Items councilmembers bring to the table.

Grabbing coffee with constituents to talk about specific issues in their neighborhoods and texting with other council members about different projects we have in the air happens weekly. Each day is different with many moving parts but that’s what makes it exciting!

Additionally, they might not know what their elected official is responsible for. What is your role in comparison to other elected offices on your level?

Our role as city council members is to ensure that our city and all of its moving parts function well in tandem with our city manager. From things like making sure garbage pick-up runs smoothly to hiring grass cutters in the summertime. The mayor and council are also in charge of advancing the overall big picture vision of the city by organizing community members, speaking with property developers, and engaging various stakeholders.

What do you think people would be surprised to know someone in your position does?

I think people would be surprised by how much cheerleading the job requires. I think a good council member is also a good cheerleader for their community. Empowering community members with the tools and the confidence to improve their neighborhoods. I think a lot of folks assume government is or should be in charge of everything when that isn’t and shouldn’t be the case. It’s important for us to provide opportunities for our communities to get involved and make a difference in collaboration with the government rather than against it.

What are 3-5 skills needed to be successful in the elected office you served in/are currently serving in?

Time management, kindness, patience, good humor, and self-awareness.

What’s the best part about serving in elected office?

Empowering community members to make changes in their own neighborhoods.

What has been the accomplishment you’re most proud of while in office?

Securing funding for an incredibly underfunded historically black city recreation center.

In terms of finances, how much money did you have to raise for your campaign?

Approximately $3,500.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who’s thinking about running for the position you serve/have served in their community?

Don’t let the belief that you are not enough prevent you from doing enough.