West Virginia Elects First Openly Transgender Official: 'Our Work Doesn’t End There'

With her victory this week in Wheeling, West Virginia, Rosemary Ketchum has entered the history books as the first openly transgender elected official in the state.

Ketchum, 26, beat out three challengers for the council seat in the city’s Third Ward.

“We just won an election,” she said in a video posted to social media Thursday. “I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who is commenting and liking and sharing our posts — I truly am so grateful to you for that.”

“The attention has been overwhelming, but honestly in the best way possible. It’s been exciting to see folks from across the country respond to our race,” Ketchum continued. “Truthfully, we don’t run for office to make history we run for office to make a difference and I guess if history is made in the process then so be it.”

“I am incredibly grateful to be the first openly transgender elected official in the state of West Virginia, but our work doesn’t end there,” she said. “We have a lot to do here in the city of Wheeling and across the state of West Virginia so I hope you continue to follow our campaign and our candidacy because this is only the beginning.”

Ketchum, who has lived in Wheeling for more than a decade, is the associate director of NAMI of Greater Wheeling, an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

She is also a member of the Wheeling Human Rights Commission and serves on the board of directors for ACLU West Virginia.

Following her win on Tuesday, the LGBTQ Victory Fund congratulated Ketchum, writing on Twitter: “HISTORY MADE: @RosemaryKetchum just won a seat on the Wheeling City Council and is now the first out trans person ever elected in West Virginia! She will be one of just 27 out trans elected officials in the entire nation.”

Ketchum's priority issues as a newly elected councilwoman include affordable housing, addressing homelessness and the opioid crisis and improving the city’s infrastructure, she's said. She launched her campaign last year, in August.

“I feel excited to represent inclusivity — but I’m not making my campaign about my gender identity,” Ketchum told the local newspaper, The Intelligencer, at the time. “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,” she said last year. “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.”

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