Rosemary Ketchum has just become the first openly transgender person elected to office in West Virginia.
Ketchum was elected to the Wheeling City Council Tuesday, besting three others in the nonpartisan race, local TV station WTRF reports. She will represent the city’s Ward 3, where incumbent Melinda Koslik did not seek reelection.
Ketchum is associate director of NAMI of Greater Wheeling, an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She is a member of the Wheeling Human Rights Commission and the board of directors for the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia.
Her priority issues include advocating for affordable housing, addressing homelessness and the opioid crisis, and improving infrastructure.
“I feel excited to represent inclusivity — but I’m not making my campaign about my gender identity,” she told local newspaper The Intelligencer last year. “We have too many systemic problems we have to address, including homelessness, including addiction, including disenfranchisement. People don’t feel like they are part of their community, and one of the things we have to focus on is why people are not feeling like part of the change.
“There are folks who were born in the city and can no longer afford to live here. There are folks living on our streets and under our bridges who don’t have access to public restroom facilities. We have folks looking for work but don’t have a car and our public transportation system doesn’t run past 6 p.m.”
She has lived in Wheeling for nearly a decade. She grew up in a blue-collar family in Ohio who were displaced when their home was destroyed by fire in 2010. A first-generation college student, she graduated from Wheeling Jesuit University in 2019.
In addition to being the first out trans person elected in West Virginia, when she takes office, Ketchum will be one of only four people from the LGBTQ+ community as a whole to hold public office in the state.
She had the endorsement of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which issued a statement from its president and CEO, Annise Parker: “Rosemary has shattered a lavender ceiling in West Virginia and will join the growing number of out trans elected officials serving nationwide. Trans people are severely underrepresented in elected office — with just 26 out trans officials anywhere in the country — so Rosemary’s victory will resonate well beyond her state. We know Rosemary’s race will inspire other trans people from conservative states to consider a run for office in their communities — and then those candidates will inspire others as well. That virtuous cycle is the key to building trans acceptance and political power long-term.”