1. Temp Gauge comes on rises to no more than 170 to maybe 175 degrees (shouldn't normal temp be around 194-197?)....I have no way of determining what the thermostat's condition is. I bought a new solid metal one.
170-175° is warm enough for the engine and plenty hot for the heater matrix. I'd return the new t-stat as this is not the reason for no heat in the cabin.
2. Heater Controls - No background lights, but the AC lights do illuminate
Your electroluminescent (EL) board is dead. The phosphors decay over time. New ones are very pricey and are not worth replacing every 5 years or so.
So do you think the lack of heat is the typical stuck thermostat even though I have a working gauge, but temps are low?
No. Like others stated, the upper flap in the HVAC box (see image...heater matrix is in red) is probably stuck in the cool position. It's rare to have a heater matrix fail, so no worries there. Less likely, the prior owner may have installed a heater matrix bypass valve to maximize AC which could also be stuck or is simply set to the bypass position. I get plenty of heat using a 170° t-stat, and I peak around 175° in chilly weather (40s).