After losing his chief of staff, R. Daniel Lavelle, to city council, Rep. Jake Wheatley has restructured his staff to include three new legislative aides. Though the third aide, to represent the North Side, has not been selected, the two other aides will serve the areas of Wheatley’s district they call home.
Uptown native Renee Aldrich will serve as the legislative aide for Uptown, the Hill District and Downtown. As the president of Uptown Partners, an organization made up of residents, business owners and representatives of Mercy Hospital and Duquesne University, Aldrich has been a long-time advocate for the neighborhood.
“Aside from the history of this neighborhood being in my system and being born and raised in Uptown and just a huge passion for seeing it be filled with the vitality I know that it had at one time, I bring the collective of everything I’ve learned to be able to support (Wheatley) and his representation,” Aldrich said.
As an aide to Wheatley, Aldrich said she will work to address the community’s concerns and ensure every resident has a voice.
“A top priority will be to make sure Jake’s presence and his commitment is conveyed in areas of education and diversity and to enhance his presence, not only in Uptown but in the places in the Hill District that may have been perceived lacking,” Aldrich said.
Along with the areas of education and diversity, Aldrich said she will focus on health issues, due to her former position with the American Cancer Society. She also said a key issue in Uptown will be balancing the needs of long-time residents with those of the newcomers.
“The neighborhood is dwindling and it’s losing the balance. Therefore the opportunities for people are not as balanced as they once were,” Aldrich said. “Since it’s becoming such a hot spot to live now, to have a business, I think it’s important that we maintain a visual balance of the people in the community in terms of the diversity.”
As a 35-year resident of Allentown, new legislative aide Kenneth Wolfe, has a vested interested in the success of his community. He also brings experience as the former chief of staff to councilman Bruce Kraus to the position.
“I had previously worked for councilman Bruce Kraus and the city and I had felt we were dependent on the state for a lot of things so I wanted to come to the state office and possibly be heard a little more,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe said his top priority will be focusing on public safety in his region of the city. He said violence in this area has become an increasing problem over the years and is something he would like to put an end to.
“Public safety is key. We need to get our communities safe so that’s something we’re going to be working on this year,” Wolfe said. “We’ve gone from very stabile communities such as Beltzhoover in the 70s to what Beltzhoover is now. You hear it in the news a lot and it doesn’t have to be that way.”
The selection of the third legislative aide should come later in the week.