Moundsville Mayor Phil Remke on Trump, Traffic and Where He Gets News, and other things not in our doc (We also talked about our doc)

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Phil Remke, who turns 65 this month, became mayor of Moundsville in December. Phil has an important role in the film, and is a representative small-town citizen– and Republican. He’s spent almost his whole life in the town, running a furniture store and medical supply business, and managing tourism at the shuttered state penitentiary. He tells stories about playing basketball as an 18-year-old against a team at the pen. “I got fouled hard into the wall” by an inmate, he recalls. Another time, after his family’s furniture story was robbed, he traded a TV with an inmate in exchange for information about where the stolen goods, worth around $4,800, were located. After the goods were recovered, he got the TV back.
I decided to follow up with Phil on national politics, the prospective gas cracking plant across the river, and some of the other stuff we didn’t cover in the movie.
How do you feel about Trump these days? (Marshall County, where Moundsville is located, voted 73%-22% for Trump over Clinton in 2016)
I’m still a supporter. I watched some of the union thing last night, and I see some Democrats clapped for him. Unforunately, you have the people who want to fight him. From the time he won the office, he has been bashed every day. How many times when the Democrats ran the office did they get bashed? Not many. I don’t believe in what he’s done in his personal life, but what he’s doing in politics, it’s all about business and trying to create jobs. But unfortunately, the news media doesn’t show it that way.
What are your sources of news?
Local TV: Channel 7 and channel 9. Nationally, I watch Fox. My wife does not watch Fox. She doesn’t understand. My son and I are devout Republicans. My daughter and my wife are true Democrats. If you ask them questions they always go back to issues in Trump’s past. We’re looking to the future. Podcasts, I like Motley Fool and Fox podcasts. Newspaper; the Wheeling News-Register. I don’t know how to use Twitter.
Do people in town support Trump?
Oh yeah. I don’t feel uncomfortable walking around this town wearing my Trump hat. If I went to LA I’d probably get shot, but in this town, people understand we need business. What he’s doing with bringing jobs and doing this and doing that. If it doesn’t work at least he’s tried. Those other people aren’t even trying.
Do you think there are any Democrats that get people in Moundsville excited for 2020?
It’s too early to say.
What are the biggest issues Moundsville faces in 2019?
It’s a mess around Route 2 because of the rain and the weather’s been bad, but you have to tear things up to make things happen. They’re replacing a bridge and fixing a new bridge. It’s taking 45 minutes to get through town. It’s like driving through LA. That’ll be over at the end of 2019, supposedly. This town has never really worked with cost of living. I don’t want an area that’s depressed. I want to see medium to upper income coming in.
A lot of residents in Moundsville work service jobs at WalMart and other businesses along Route 2. Do you support a higher minimum wage?
The problem is when the minimum wage goes up everything else goes up. It’d be fine to have a $2 minimum wage if prices were the way they used to be. The only way I can see [wages going up] is if they go across the river and start building. Then Moundsville’s going to have to look to getting truck licenses and earning higher pay. Then [the service employers] will have to adjust wages to meet demand.
What the latest on the cracker plant? (A consortium led by PTT of Thailand has secured permits to build a plant that turns natural gas into the raw material for plastic, creating thousands of jobs, across the river from Moundsville, but hasn’t said yet if it will build it.)
Things are quiet. They’re going to have a meeting in [Ohio] soon. I just got a gut feeling they’re waiting to get more done, and then they’ll start moving people. I’ve heard the power company did eminent domain on some property, but that’s hearsay. They were talking about March but they told us that two years ago. I can’t say but when it happens, it’s going to be heck on earth.
What if it doesn’t happen?
That’s possible, but something will go there. In Marshall county (where Moundsville is located), I’ve heard there’s more gas and oil than anywhere else in the world.
Have people in Moundsville benefited from gas royalties?
Some people have done well. Some haven’t gotten any yet. This world is tied up with lawyers. I don’t want the gas well people to collect all the money. I want everybody to be happy.
What have you done since becoming mayor? 
It’s only been a few weeks. We’re moving along. The one hotel is intending to start digging in April. It’ll be a Holiday Inn Express with 123 rooms. Two restaurants are in negotiations. One will be a steakhouse, and the other a Japanese restaurant, I hope.
Will they be chains?
Not necessarily. The chains won’t come into this area because we don’t have that big a population. But if they build that cracker plant across the river, we’ll be working on numerous other ones.
Are there any other big sources of jobs in the works?
Nothing for now.
What are the things you hope to accomplish this year and next?
The sky’s the limit. I want better roads. With the one-percent sales tax we got off home rule. If I can put that into water and sewer, we can get better infrastructure.
What did people in town think about our movie?
The movie was a downer to some of them. But that’s the way society was, and what’s happened. I want to make Moundsville the premier city in West Virginia and a model in the United States. We just have to keep pounding and making things positive.
We tried to show the truth, in a way all sides can agree on.
And that’s what I’m about, bringing people together.
When people in Moundsville talk about the way things were in the 1950s and 1960s, does it make them proud, sad, angry or what?
We had an issue last night at council. They want to put in trailers on first street, to make some money. There were 80-year-olds and 88-year-olds fighting it. It passed 4-3. You can’t stop progress. We have to think of our future generations, and I understand that’s going to be trailers and that’s going to be in and out. But that’s the future.
John W. Miller

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