Meet Jennifer Wheeler

Born and raised in Huntington, Jennifer Wheeler was twice elected to Huntington City Council and served as Council Chair. Having devoted her career to public service, she has worked in both the non-profit and government sectors for 20 years. A community advocate, she has been a strong proponent of safe neighborhoods and planning and zoning. She has worked and volunteered with many organizations that act to promote development and retain talent in our region.

Affiliations

Current:

Board of Directors

  • Huntington Municipal Parking Authority (Vice Chair)
  • Tri-Sate Transit Authority (Secretary)
  • Southside Preservation Alliance

Committee Member

  • Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce
    • Ambassador
    • Nominating Committee Member
  • Mayor’s Council for the Arts

Member

  • Arts Advocacy Council
  •  Junior League of Huntington (Sustainer)
  • League of Women Voters
  • Women’s Caucus for Leadership

Past Service:

Board of Directors

  • Create Huntington
  • Girls on the Run
  • Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Neighborhood Institute of Huntington representing Southside
  • Southside Neighborhood Organization (President)   
  • TEAM for WV Children (President, Vice President, Secretary)

Commission Member

  • Planning Commission, City of Huntington
  • Generation Huntington/YPC (Chair)

Committee Member

  • Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, Ambassadors (Chair)
  • PATH to the Cure (Steering Committee)
  •  Toy Train of WV

Council Member

  •  Huntington City Council, Chair
  • United Way, Community Investment Council (Allocations and Safety Net Committees)

Member

  • Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP)- Member
  • Gamma Phi Beta Sorority- Alpha Gamma Phi, Zeta Zeta Chapter (Founding Sister)
  • Marshall University Alumni Association, NYC-Area Club (President)
  • Women in Development, NY- Member

Volunteer

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters, Christmas tree sales
  • CONTACT gala – silent auction committe
  • Cabell-Huntington Convention & Visitors Bureau bus tour guide
  • Heritage Farm holiday tour
  • Huntington Symphony Orchestra

Awards

  • Dress for Success- Woman of Impact (2020)
  • Marshall University, Drinko Academy- Outstanding Alumni Citizenship Award (2019)
  • Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce- Generation Huntington Award (2017 & 2008)
  • Neighborhood Institute of Huntington- Community Service Award, Public Safety (2016)
  • Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce- Ambassador of the Year (2015)
  • Telly Awards- Recipient- Outstanding Online Video, Travel/ Tourism (2010)

BIOGRAPHY

Jennifer Wheeler was born on June 1, 1976 at Cabell Huntington Hospital, the only child of Ann Finley Wheeler and the late Donald R. Wheeler.

Her father dropped out of high school to join the United States Marine Corps. Following his service, he earned his GED and worked as a Kenova police officer while he attend Marshall University and became a first generation college graduate. He became a teacher and met his future wife, also a school teacher, at Dreamland Pool. Ann Finley, from Westmoreland, a graduate of Vinson High School and also Marshall University was a teacher, as well. The pair moved to Hawaii and taught English before returning to West Virginia so that Don could attend law school at WVU. While in Morgantown, they lost everything they owned in a trailer fire but Don still graduated and then they moved to Manhattan where he attended NYU Law and earned a Master’s (LLM) in Tax. Finally the Wheelers returned to make a home in Huntington- across from the Memorial Arch- just in time to welcome baby Jennifer. Don went to work as an attorney for Ashland Oil and Ann began what would become 36 years of dedicated employment at the Lawrence County Joint Vocational School (now Collins Career Center).

With working parents, Jennifer entered daycare at a home in Huntington’s west end until she was enrolled at Cammack (now Southside) and was able to walk with friends to and from school from kindergarten to 8th grade- a big reason Jennifer feels strongly about keeping schools in neighborhoods.

Tragedy struck when Jennifer was 9 and her father passed away. With a working single mother, Jennifer grew up a latchkey kid, though her mother always made time to coach Jennifer’s softball team and to volunteer- especially at her church- Westmoreland United Methodist- where she has been a member for 70 years! Her mother’s example influenced Jennifer to be active in the community and support many civic organizations.

In 1994, Jennifer was part of one of the last classes to graduate from “the old Huntington High” and walking to school was still something she and her friends were able to do.  Jennifer was a representative on Student Council and one of the editors of the school newspaper.

After graduation Jennifer moved to Myrtle Beach to attend Coastal Carolina University. A founding member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority on Coastal’s campus, Jennifer made lifelong friends from all over the east coast. Jennifer worked in the service and travel industries before becoming a manager with the Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet and then an outside sales rep for a communications company.

Jennifer was studying to become a paralegal when she returned home to Huntington to help her mother care for her grandmother with whom she was very close.  After her grandmother’s passing, Jennifer enrolled at Marshall and studied Journalism and Art History. She graduated with an Regents Bachelor of Arts and earned enough credits for a minor in Criminal Justice from her law classes in South Carolina.

While at Marshall, Jennifer was an intern at the Huntington Museum of Art. Even after the internship ended, the Museum hired her part-time and then full-time, creating a position for her to stay on and manage facility rentals and coordinate programming while she finished her schooling and after she graduated.

During this time Jennifer was invited to join some young leaders who were forming a sub-committee of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce. This group would come to be known as the Young Professionals Committee (YPC) and the mission was and to this day- remains- to attract and retain young talent in Huntington. Energized by this effort, Jennifer, one of the original members, was an active and longtime participant and two time service award winner in YPC which later became known as Generation Huntington and now, entering it’s 18th year of existence is known as Huntington Young Professionals.  She maintains that many of her strongest professional, as well as, personal relationships developed as a result of involvement in this group and with the Chamber. Today Jennifer is a Chamber Ambassador, a subcommittee she once served as chair and received an award as Ambassador of the Year.

After four years at the Museum, Jennifer went to work at the Marshall Foundation to raise money for academic scholarships for students. She oversaw direct mail campaigns and a student work force that reached out to Alumni around the country.

Following her time at the MU Foundation, Jennifer went to work at the Cabell Huntington Convention & Visitors Bureau as the Director of Marketing. She found great satisfaction in promoting tourism in West Virginia.

By this time, Jennifer- while attending night school- earned a Master’s Degree in Strategic Leadership.  Eager to do more, see more, and learn more, she continued her education at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.

Jennifer moved to New York City as her parents had done and attended the Fashion Institute of Technology both in Manhattan, and abroad. While in Paris and Milan, Jennifer studied trend forecasting and made global connections. Her roommate founded the socially conscious Bombas Socks in the living room of their Murray Hill apartment. For every pair of Bombas sold, a pair of socks is donated to organizations that support people experiencing homelessness.

While living in New York, Jennifer served as the NYC Area club president of the Marshall University Alumni Association.

Having seen the world, Jennifer recognized the positive opportunities Huntington provides and wanted to return to be near family and friends. Recommended for and encouraged by her friend [now] Barboursville Mayor, Chris Tatum, Jennifer moved home to accept the position of Events Manager at [then] Big Sandy Superstore Arena. Jennifer worked to advance shows with promoters, managed event staff, and liaised with the union and emergency services to ensure safety and excellent entertainment in downtown Huntington.

Jennifer left the arena to work along-side Cabell County Assessor Irv Johnson. For 6 years, Jennifer was the Office Manager and oversaw most aspects of the day to day operations in the Assessor’s Valuation Department. Working in the courthouse, Jennifer became familiar with all aspects of county government. She managed budget, participated in policy making, and communication.

During this time Jennifer became active in Municipal Government. She felt called to action when a pawn shop was proposed to open in the neighborhood. Together with some other concerned citizens lobbied the City to make changes to the zoning ordinance to prevent pawn shops in neighborhoods. The City negotiated with the business owner and made accommodations to allow expansion of their existing business. 

Jennifer remained active in City zoning issues. She spoke against the Sheetz development on 6th Avenue. She was asked to serve as president of the neighborhood organization and represented the group on the Neighborhood Institute of Huntington.

In 2016, Jennifer was elected to Huntington City Council to represent District 4. She served as the Chair of both the council’s Personnel Committee and Zoning Committee, and on Council’s Finance Committee. She also served on the City’s Planning Commission and on the Mayor’s Council for the Arts- which she continues to serve today.

Jennifer was appointed by the City and continues to serve on the Board of Directors for the Huntington Municipal Parking Board as Vice Chair and Tri-State Transit Authority as Secretary. She also serves on the Board of the Southside Preservation Alliance.

In 2020 Jennifer was re-elected and her fellow Council members elected her Chairperson of Council, a position she proudly held until she time she stepped down when she moved into the home where she and her husband reside, located outside the boundaries of her district.

Jennifer and Ben live near the Huntington Museum of Art where Jennifer has worked as the Director of Development since 2018. Married in 2022, they celebrated their wedding with a tailgate reception at the Marshall University homecoming game where they served 1,000 mini wedding cake bites and a had a 5 gallon champagne fountain with the sentiment #tohaveandtoherd! They love to support Marshall Athletics. Avid tennis players, they enjoy spending free time in Ritter Park, on the courts and walking the path.