May 29, 2012|
Marketing & Community Relations Specialist, City of Wheeling
By Kensie Westerfield
Marching to the beat of a different drum has served Joelle Ennis well over the years. Whether it was helping her grandmother deliver newspapers at 3 a.m. as a child or pretending to be Melissa Etheridge, she has always used her unique personality to push herself.
“I wanted to be a rock star. I used to stand with my record player at my back and play my Melissa Etheridge ‘Brave and Crazy’ album and pretend that the music was my backup band. I have been playing in a rock band called Flytrap in and around Wheeling since 1996. Gigging is how I paid my rent in college and it’s also how I met my husband.” Her husband, Michael, is also a musician in Wheeling and plays for Stack of Monkeys.
Today, she is a rock star in her own sense not only because she attained her goal of making it as a musician but because she is also somewhat of a one-woman band. “My first instrument was alto saxophone because I wanted to be in the Miami Sound Machine. I can also play acoustic guitar, djembe, bongos, drums, temple blocks, gourds, the steel drums and auxiliary percussion. I really know my way around a tambourine!”
Ennis has drawn from those around her to become the energetic marketing and community relations specialist for the City of Wheeling. “Both of my brothers are inspirational to me. I talk with them often about decisions I’m contemplating and sometimes take their advice. There is a little of both of them in my personality, but I carved out my own path and am very proud to have done it on my own terms—with their influence.”
Ennis was lucky enough to have a positive influence while studying at West Liberty University as well. “West Liberty’s Professor Christian Lee was one of my advisors. He has a way of seeing potential in you and drawing it out of you. He made me stretch my creativity out of my comfort zone and then showed me that reaching for the stars often lands you on the moon. Everyone learns differently and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to experience Chris and his teaching style. He did not prepare me for a career—he prepared me for life.”
From time to time, you can find Ennis riding her bike or relaxing on her front porch, but the majority of her time is spent working to set up for the many events she coordinates in Wheeling. “In an effort to market ourselves as a trendy, modern city on the verge of a renaissance, we have to give people a reason to experience Wheeling. Event marketing is a great way to build our brand and create positive energy.” Ennis says this is a great time to be in Wheeling, pointing out that there were nearly 80 events downtown between May and October of this year. “We have also leveraged our social media outlets into increased event attendance, reaching specific demographics and persistently keeping the energy of our brand fresh.”
While Ennis has lived and worked in other places, she feels that West Virginia has something special to offer. “I am very excited about West Virginia’s future and the Creative Class movement here. Our economy and perspectives are changing to welcome knowledge class industries and jobs. Increasingly, people want to stay here after college or move back. It’s an interesting time to be here and I am lucky to be a part of the progress. I have worked in larger markets outside of West Virginia and what sets West Virginia apart is the genuine spirit of the people here. I found the other markets to be impersonal and cold while West Virginians are responsive, affable and supportive of each other.”