West Virginia just elected its first out transgender public official on Tuesday. Rosemary Ketchum won a seat on the City Council of Wheeling, West Virginia, winning 39.3 percent of the vote.
The 26-year-old ran on a platform focused on affordable housing and opioid addiction.
“Running for office was never in the plan for me,” Ketchum told NBC News. “I didn’t know what that would look like or how I would fit into that world.”
But, she added, “The more local I kept my mindset, the more passionate I became about representing my community on some of the issues I think are most important.” Homelessness and substance abuse are two major issues for Ketchum’s region of West Virginia. Her own family burned down when she was a child, and family members have been affected by the opioid epidemic. “It’s personal to me,” she said.
A graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University, Ketchum previously served on the board of ACLU West Virginia and is a member of the Human Rights Commission in Wheeling. She’s also the associate director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Wheeling.
In addition to being the first out trans elected official in West Virginia, Ketchum is one of just 27 openly trans elected officials in the entire United States, per the Victory Fund.
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. pic.twitter.com/Ma3aMYpiTQ
— LGBTQ Victory Fund (@VictoryFund) June 10, 2020
“I feel excited to represent inclusivity, but I’m not making my campaign about my gender identity or anything like that. We have too many systemic problems we have to address,” she told The Intelligencer last year.
After winning the election, she told CNN, “I hope that this election helps us push the needle in West Virginia so that we can fully embrace the power of culture, diversity, and representation in politics. I ran for office because I believe the job of an elected official is to reflect the values of their community in the actions of their leadership and that is why I am excited to serve.”
Ketchum will assume office on July 1.