Jan. 10, 2009
PART TWO OF TWO PARTS - HUNTINGTON’S FIRST LADY: Marrying Kim Best Decision She Ever Made

By Tony Rutherford
Huntingtonnews.net Staff Writer
For the Wolfe family, which includes eight children and assorted dogs and cats, the hardest decision came before voters went to the box. After a group asked him to run for mayor, he had to comply with the city’s residency requirement and leave their yellow brick home on Mount Union Road … a brick house which they started constructing together on their second date.
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“We built our little house on Mount Union when we were courting on a piece of property Kim’s dad gave to him,” Debbie Wolfe recalled. “At the end of the second date, he had me digging the sewer line and shoveling gravel over the septic tank.”
In fact, on each of the first eight dates, Kim drove a different car to pick up Debbie. She knew that an honest police officer could not afford all those cars. As it turned out, he owned a 1948 Ford Truck which was not running well . So, he had borrowed a different car for each date. (Kim still owns that ’48 truck…and used it in his campaigns…)
As for the house, of course, the young law enforcement officer had no money. But, he knew of an old estate on Sixteenth Street Road which had been torn down to make way for Interstate 64. He made a deal: “I’ll clean off your lot, if you’ll let me keep the brick.” And, brick wasn’t their first choice, either: “We wanted a log house but they had a limit on how many logs could be cut at that time,” Mrs. Wolfe said.
Besides having built the Mount Union house themselves, Kim and Debbie Wolfe had additional attachments. “All of our children were born at home, and we have a family cemetery adjacent to our yard. Kim’s dad is buried within sight of the bedroom window where all the children were born.”
Although their family house lies only about two or three miles from Huntington City Hall, their new home opposite Ritter Park required considerable adjustment. “There is a world of difference in the lifestyles,” such as traffic noise in the middle of night.
While the Wolfe’s live in a deco stylized home next to the park (and not far from MU President Kopp’s quarters), the two have financial obligations ranging from helping their children through college to dental expenses. “Our landlord is graciously letting us rent this beautiful house, but we are responsible for fixing [it up],” Mrs. Wolfe explained. For instance, despite the spacious splendor, it had not been lived in for over a decade, and it does not contain a working oven. “I got up early and drove out to the house on Mount Union to cook the Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys,” she said. The Christmas turkey which, incidentally, was only able to be purchased after the Mayor-Elect sold a gun to pay for Christmas dinner.
However, Huntington residency has placed an obstacle in the family budget. When working as a Huntington police officer, Kim worked three jobs to, in her words, “keep the family afloat.” Kim routinely worked his eight hour police shift, then moonlighted (as most law enforcement officers do ) as a bank security guard, at the produce market, or occasionally a midnight movie. This allowed Debbie to be a full time stay at home mom and to home school their children.
When he won the Sheriff’s race, the law forbids the sheriff from holding an extra job, so Mrs. Wolfe began helping with finances as an international corporate consultant and producing industrial entertainment extravaganzas and conventions. After she lost the consulting job when she passed the age of fifty (“I’m old now, she laughed), the residency requirement meant another fiscal challenge.
“We’ve never been motivated by money, and now, I sometimes wish we had b een a little more] motivated to save for college. But there were always things to be taken care of [and] we always had other people under our roof,” Mrs. Wolfe explained. So, like a typical large family, “We’re in the same [financial] boat a lot of folks are in. We don’t owe for cars, stereos, and stupid stuff, we owe for feeding our kids, helping them through college, fixing their teeth and paying the gas bills.”
So, Huntington’s First Lady has been working about 60 hours a week as a medical transcriptionist and, in her words, “as a cleaning lady” at three doctors’ offices (Tri State Allergy) “Last winter, I worked for five or six months on the loading dock at Kohl’s Department Store unloading trucks, until my body pooped out and I spent my first night ever in the hospital,” she explained.
“It’s been hard for Kim to see me having to work so hard. But, we’re a team and he had to [work several jobs] for a quarter of a century. It’s my turn right now.” Mrs. Wolfe estimates that things will be caught up somewhat in about six months. “That is a short season compared to how long he had to work so many jobs. I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as Kim.”
Kim generally accompanies his wife to her evening physician’s office cleaning job near 20th Street. “The Mayor comes with me every night to take out the trash. [Prior to taking office,] one night when he was with me there were two shootings within five blocks of the office. He does not like me to be alone [there],” adding, “sometimes he mops for me while I do the bathrooms…he learned to be a good swabby in the Navy!”
The former first runner-up for Mrs. World revealed to HNN that “her family disowned her” for marrying a “poor” cop --- they wanted her to parlay pageant successes into material success --- but 30 years later she gleefully and emphatically stated , “marrying Kim was the best decision I ever made.”
They’ve never had a real fight in their 30 years of marriage.
“All I remember is raising my voice and saying, “you need to get angry about this!”
Kim responded, “Honey, it won’t do any good to get angry. Let’s just do everything we can, and not worry about the rest.”
Actually, she does not stop with complimenting the Mayor. The entire family has been supportive of his campaign and election. After prayerful doors demonstrated Huntington’s need for his leadership, the hardships of becoming residents demonstrate the sense of family supportiveness and structure that began with raising a large family on the salary of a law enforcement officer.
Coming during a period of political cynicism and frustration with national lea dership (or lack thereof), the transparency, dedication, and service of the Wolfe family reveals a refreshingly dedicated symbol of unity, particularly after Mrs. Wolfe tasted the national and international limelight and chose to stay in Huntington with her horse-mounted police officer.
She has no second thoughts or regrets reaffirming that “He’s quite a fella. Kim’s the best decision I ever made,” adding, “We are who we are…we’re not perfect, but we try.”
And, demonstrating the empathy about which her husband spontaneously spoke at the inaugural ceremony, Mrs. Wolfe counted their blessings despite current challenges stating that she has been blessed with two jobs when more and more people, such as the 40 laid off at Cabell –Huntington Hospital, have none. In fact, she told of a recently unemployed pharmaceutical saleswoman with children and a large mortgage. “I don’t know what she’s going to do,” Mrs. Wolfe said.
Once caught up on family expenses, Huntington’s First Lady wants to participate on such boards as those of the City Mission and City of Huntington Foundation, and her first love, The First Stage Children’s Theatre.
As for the inaugural ceremony, except for running a little longer than anticipated, she called it “a piece of cake,” having purposefully chosen theatre people who “know how to fly by the seat of their pants and make it work without a rehearsal.”
One minor correction, though. Collis P. actually supports saving Huntington’s brick streets. “We did some research. In the long term it’s more economical to save the brick streets. They raise property values and add to the ambiance of Huntington.”
Advancing the work ethic that has been a trademark for her family, she seized a moment for planting a seed in those who participated in democracy by voting and are now sitting back hoping everything happens. “Don’t wait and see, let’s work and see,” she said.
Good idea, particularly , since word from the incoming Presidential transition team expressed that “shovel ready” infrastructure projects are most likely to receive funding.

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