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Reynoldsburg diversity could predict future for rest of Licking County

REYNOLDSBURG — The population growth and increased diversity in Reynoldsburg and southwest Licking County could foretell the future for the rest of the county.

Reynoldsburg, partly in Licking County, saw its population grow by 14% from 2010 to 2020, reaching 41,076 residents. The city’s African-American population grew from 10% in 2000 to 26% in 2020, while the white population fell from 85% to 63% in the same 20-year period.

Reynoldsburg City Council President Angie Jenkins, an African-American woman and Licking County resident, said it’s important the city’s leadership changed to more closely reflect the community. 

She retired from the Ohio attorney general’s office in 2018 and has 15 years of state government experience. She also worked for the Ohio Medical Board, the Board of Nursing Home Administrators, and Ohio Department of Health.

Reynoldsburg City Council member Meredith Lawson-Rowe and Angie Jenkins carry boxes of PPE in 2021. The city’s African-American population grew from 10% in 2000 to 26% in 2020 leading to an increase in minority representation in city government and could be a sign of a growth of diversity for the rest of Licking County.

“More people are seeing they can be elected as a minority and have a seat at the table,” Jenkins said. “They saw the three women elected to city council for the first time in history and feel they can do it as well.

“There’s just a lot of changes because of the demographic changes. It totally looks different. It looks more like the community and that’s what we were hoping for.”

The eight-member Reynoldsburg council includes three African-American women elected in 2019 –Jenkins, Shanette Strickland and Meredith Lawson-Rowe, African-American man Stacie Baker, and Bhuwan Pyakurel, the first Nepali-Bhutanese elected official in the United States, chosen by voters in the 2019 election.

Bhuwan Pyakurel shakes the hands of friends, family members and supporters after being sworn into office on Reynoldsburg City Council in 2020. Pyakurel is considered to be the first Nepali-Bhutanese person elected to office in the United States.

Baker, elected to Reynoldsburg City Council in 2017 and reelected in 2021, said it was a much different environment when he joined council.

“I was the diversity, racially, as the only person of color,” Baker said. “Reynoldsburg was not always friendly to those who weren’t Caucasian male.”

Although the change has been swift, the public has been accepting, Baker said.

“The reaction has been good,” Baker said. “Some people still want Reynoldsburg to be like yesteryear, but you have to progress or wither away. Now, council looks like the community. That way we have the perspective of all angles.”

Baker said he takes pride in his annual resolution to honor Black history month, which he recently did for the fifth time. He said the simple recognition had not occurred before his arrival.

He works as an outreach coordinator for the Franklin County treasurer’s office

The members of the Reynoldsburg City Council.

History-making changes

Southwest Licking County not only has a majority minority city council and the nation’s first Nepali-Bhutanese elected official in Reynoldsburg, but the county’s first-ever Black township trustee in Rozland McKee-Flax, in Etna Township; a Black woman seeking to be the first-ever minority county commissioner and the first African-American ever on the Licking Heights School Board.

DeVeonne Gregory, of Reynoldsburg, an African-American woman running for Licking County commissioner, said, “I think it’s an amazing opportunity, What people are beginning to see is if you want to see change, you have to become part of the change.

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