Prizm News / November 27, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
Democrat Rick Neal ran for Congress this year against Republican incumbent Steve Stivers. He’s among at least five LGBTQ applicants for two upcoming vacancies on the Columbus City Council.


Two new council members will be appointed to replace officials who were elected this month to other offices.


By Bob Vitale

Rick Neal, the openly gay candidate who lost a race this month for Congress, is one of 56 people who have applied to fill two upcoming vacancies on the Columbus City Council.

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A successor for council member Jaiza Page, who was elected on Nov. 6 as a judge on the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, will be chosen by the six sitting members of the City Council on Jan. 14. A successor for council member Michael Stinziano, who was elected Franklin County auditor but doesn’t take office until spring, will be chosen on March 11.

Finalists for both vacancies will be announced on Dec. 7. The 54 applicants will be considered for both seats.

“I’ve been proud to call Columbus home since 2007 and am lucky to be part of a family with such a strong connection to the city,” Neal said in a Facebook post announcing his application. Neal is married to Tom Grote, whose family owns the Columbus-based Donatos Pizza chain.

“One of the best parts of running for Congress was being a strong advocate for communities that needed someone to stand up for them, and I look forward to getting to know better our neighborhoods here in the city, and how I might be able to help, as I go through this process,” he wrote.

Neal received just 39.5 percent of the vote on Nov. 6 as the Democratic candidate in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District, which stretches across 12 counties. In the Columbus portion of the district—areas of the South Side and Downtown—Neal won 60 percent of the vote, though, against four-term Republican Steve Stivers.

The list of council applicants includes at least six other LGBTQ residents of Columbus:

Joshua Culbertson, a psychiatric counselor at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center and board member for Equality Ohio. He told council members about growing up gay in Muskingum County and moving to Columbus.

“Columbus, for me as it has for many others, became a place of safety and opportunity,” he wrote. “I share my personal story because I believe that it’s important for you to know what drives me to do what I can to ensure that Columbus is a place of opportunity for all. I know what it is to feel unsafe and insecure in one’s workplace and home, knowing at any moment that either or both of those things can be taken from you.”

• Catherine Girves, the executive director of Yay Bikes!, which promotes bicycling as a mode of transportation and advocates for bike safety. She is bisexual.

• Jeff Mackey, an openly gay lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for the Ohio House in 2016.

• Jessica Mathews, a program manager at Consider Biking. She is a lesbian.

• John Sherman Lathram III, a member of the North Linden Area Commission and recipient of the 2018 Steven Shellabarger Illumination Award, given by the city each year for contributions by members of the LGBTQ community.

“We have vast neighborhoods that feel neglected,” Lathram wrote in his application. “Citizens are ‘engaged’ when they play a meaningful role in the deliberations, discussions, decision-making and implementation of projects or programs affecting them.”

• Cristyn Steward, a bisexual filmmaker and founder of the Columbus Black International Film Festival.

Just two out LGBTQ people have ever served on the Columbus City Council. Mary Jo Hudson, now is a member of the Columbus City Schools Board of Education, was a member of the council from 2004 to 2007. Council President Shannon Hardin has served since 2014.

Only two Ohio cities—Cincinnati and Newark—have two LGBTQ people currently serving on their city councils.

Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.