Rosemary Ketchum, a newly elected council member in Wheeling, West Virginia, is shattering stereotypes typically associated with her state. A resident of Wheeling since her high school days, the 26-year-old first-in-her-family college graduate is the one and only openly transgender elected official in the state’s history. As such, she has been featured nationally on MSNBC and the TODAY show, Time Magazine, CBS and CNN.
Ketchum will talk about her experiences and ambitions as keynote speaker tonight at a Gender and Sexual Minorities and Allies celebration, sponsored by the James Farmer Multicultural Center. The event is free, but registration is required.
“West Virginians are fed up with the status quo and ready for compassionate and unapologetic leadership,” Ketchum said. “We are tired of seeing surrounding states overtake us in social and economic metrics. We are ready to make West Virginia the best place to live in the U.S.”
Ketchum may lack in political experience, but certainly not in ambition. “Democracy starts at the local level,” she said. “There are so many opportunities to make a difference.” While she has her own political aspirations, as one of only 27 out trans elected officials in U.S., she also intends to help others galvanize and run for office.
In addition to her council position, Ketchum serves as associate director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Wheeling Drop-in Center and on the boards of several organizations including the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
Ketchum’s platform covered the gamut – from potholes and stray cats to homelessness and the opioid crisis. As for her race, she said: “Breaking into a space that wasn’t built for you is incredibly difficult.”
She looks forward to talking to young people. “I want to drive home the power of persistence,” she said. “Nothing happens overnight but the harder you work toward a goal the faster you are in achieving it.”