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Reynoldsburg Rings In 2020 With First African American Women On City Council

Angie Jenkins, Shanette Strickland and Meredith Lawson-Rowe are the first African American women to serve on Reynoldsburg City Council.
Reynoldsburg Area Democrats
Angie Jenkins, Shanette Strickland and Meredith Lawson-Rowe are the first African American women to serve on Reynoldsburg City Council.

The New Year will bring an historic occasion in Reynoldsburg, as three African American women take seats on the suburb’s city council for the first time. Voters elected all three Democrats in November.

Angie Jenkins, president-elect of Reynoldsburg City Council, says she looks forward to growing the number of businesses in her community.

“We need to bring in other companies such as Google, or other companies similar to that, where people can work and earn a living in Reynoldsburg,” says Jenkins, 62. “Or even attract other people to move to Reynoldsburg if we have businesses like that.”

Jenkins, a retired state government worker, has lived in Reynoldsburg for 20 years. Jenkins, along with Shanette Strickland and Meredith Lawson-Rowe, ran as Democrats in November's election. The group met nine years ago when their sons started playing football together.

Jenkins says changing demographics may have been a factor in their victory in November, during which Democrats swept all the open city council seats. 

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in 2018, 26% of the Reynoldsburg population identified as black.  Overall more than 40% of residents are not white, a vast change from just a few years before.

“It is our time now as women, not just black women, but just women in general, it’s our time,” says Jenkins.  “And I feel as though we have a voice and we need to be heard. And we need to be respected because we are educated, we are business-minded and we need a seat at the table.”

Strickland, 43, will represent Ward 1 on Reynoldsburg City Council. She says the response from the community has been overall positive.

“We are ready to work for everyone for city council and really move Reynoldsburg in the right direction,” Strickland says.

Strickland, who works as an IT infrastructure project manager, agrees with Jenkins that the right direction includes bringing in more high-tech jobs to compete with other suburban areas.

Lawson-Rowe, 51, has lived in Reynoldsburg for 15 years. Ward 4, where she'll represent, sits in the southwest part of the city and includes Brice Road, Main Street, Livingston Avenue and part of State Route 256.

An executive assistant, Lawson-Rowe replaces retiring coucnil member Mel Clemmons, 87, who has served since 1960.

“It’s thrilling just to know that I’m just an ordinary person actually who stepped up to serve,” says Lawson-Rowe. “I’m the type of person, I’ve served my community from the behind the scenes and now it’s my turn to step up and be the leader.”

November's election was historic for Reynoldsburg in more ways that one. Bhuwan Pyakurel, who will represent Ward 3 on city council, became the first Nepali-Bhutanese elected official in the U.S.

The first Reynoldsburg City Council meeting of 2020 will take place Monday, Jan. 13, 2020.

“We want to represent our entire neighborhoods and it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Asian, Latino or Bhutanese,” says Lawson-Rowe. “It doesn’t matter.  We want to represent everyone.”

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.