Columbus City Council starts new year with new members, new president

By Lucas Sullivan The Columbus Dispatch  •  Tuesday January 5, 2016 2:41 AM

The Columbus City Council welcomed two new members during its first meeting of the new year on Monday, then picked Zach Klein to lead the city’s legislative body.

Klein replaces Andrew J. Ginther, who is now mayor of Columbus, as council president.

No legislation was discussed or considered at Monday’s meeting, which was an organizational session to seat new council members.

Michael Stinziano and Elizabeth Brown, both Democrats, are the first two members elected to council without first being appointed since Maryellen O’Shaugnessy in 1997.

They join fellow Democrats Shannon G. Hardin,  Klein, Jaiza Page and Priscilla R. Tyson. Klein, who has announced that he plans to run for Franklin County prosecutor this year, said he’s humbled to be president and that he wants to get to work.

“This is an amazing group of council members,” he said. “I all along wanted to serve in a capacity that my colleagues wanted me to serve in.”

This city council is one of the most diverse in the city’s history, with three black members and three women. There is one open seat on council – at least for another week. Eileen Paley left council to take the bench as a Franklin County Municipal Court judge.

The other six members will interview candidates to succeed Paley this week. Thirteen of the 32 applicants will be interviewed for the seat.

Several sources at City Hall and within the Franklin County Democratic Party said that former public safety director Mitchell J. Brown is the frontrunner.

The new appointee will be announced next Monday and be sworn in at that time.

This council also is one of the youngest ever assembled. Tyson, 60, is the eldest member and has served since 2007. Klein, 36, has been on council since 2011.

Page, 32, and Hardin, 28, have served for about a year.

Brown, 32, does have pedigree as a lawmaker; she is the daughter of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Until August, she worked in the city’s development department.

Stinziano, 36, was a state representative and decided he wanted to continue a public-service career by serving on City Council.

Hardin said that appointing Klein as council president sends a clear message.

“The reason I supported President Klein is to make sure we showed the city that we can govern and we can keep our neighborhoods safe,” Hardin said. “I want to work to make sure there are opportunities for all people in this city and especially for young men of color.”

Klein is one of the youngest council presidents in decades, but is a year older than Ginther was when Ginther became president at age 35.

Mayor Ginther said he’s “excited to work with President Klein.”

Klein said he wants to get started on the budget and with helping Ginther carry out his plan for police body cameras.

“I’ve said all along the No. 1 priority is to make sure we have a positive and strong relationship working with Mayor Ginther,” he said. “Body cameras are a priority for me and this council.”

Tyson said she is satisfied being appointed council president pro-tempore, or second in command, and that the public will see cohesiveness by the seven-member group.

“I think you’re going to see a council working together and working for the residents of this community,” she said. “You will see us be a real team.”