The Athens city Democratic Central Committee voted unanimously Thursday to appoint Ohio University LGBT Center Director Micah McCarey to an at-large seat on Athens City Council, replacing former Councilmember Beth Clodfelter who resigned earlier in May for a job with Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office.
McCarey, 35, a Black, gay man who rents a house on the East Side with his partner, in many ways embodies precisely what many of City Council’s critics, including former councilmember Peter Kotses and rival at-large Independent candidate Damon Krane, say the body lacks — diverse leadership along the lines of age, race, sexual orientation and living situation.
“I want to live in a city were there’s a queer person of color on Council … sometimes you have to be the change you want to see in the world,” he said Wednesday in an interview prior to the appointment.
For McCarey, diversity, inclusion and progressive race relations are mantras that inform his worldview and policy considerations. He said City Council feels like a “calling” for him.
“It feels like the right time to share my background, my perspective, my academic strengths,” McCarey said.
Reforming law enforcement with diversity in mind is also key for McCarey. He said the city still has a long way to go before policing arrives at a place deemed acceptable. In an interview, he told an anecdote about his recent experience walking into the Athens Police Department, recalling that many officers were friendly and helpful, but that one wouldn't speak with him and refused to return his greeting.
He’s also interested in expanding input in City Council’s 2040 comprehensive plan to hear the needs of more diverse groups of people.
McCarey, the second Democratic appointment to the body in recent weeks and the only candidate the central committee considered for the role, will be up for re-election in November to a position he wasn’t elected to.
But since Clodfelter had already gathered enough signatures to get on the ballot, the central committee was able ensure he will also be on the ballot, despite voters having no say in his candidacy. Some central committee members seemed unsure of the legality of him being placed on the ballot.
Athens County Board of Elections Director Debbie Quivey has suggested in the past there are mechanisms within state laws for the Democrats to allow Clodfelter's replacement on the ballot.
“I recognize that (running a campaign) will be some significant work, but it’s well worth doing if it means I’ll be in a better position to help the community in this way. I would absolutely plan on pursuing that opportunity,” McCarey said.
The newly appointed councilmember was installed as interim director of OU’s LGBT Center in May 2019 after his predecessor, deflin bautista, was ousted after the university alleged bautista misused funds, a claim bautista disputed.
McCarey became full-time director of the office in December that year. He also served a two-year term on the OU Board of Trustees as a student trustee.
Growing up in Oberlin, Ohio, he moved to Athens for college at age 18 and never looked back. He earned an undergraduate degree in organizational and interpersonal communication, a master’s degree in human development, and is almost finished with his PhD in positive psychology and decision making, all from OU.
On the central committee voting for McCarey's appointment was Councilmember Sarah Grace, who he will effectively run against in the at-large general election race. Also in the race is Ziff, Krane and Independent Iris Virjee, a bartender at the Smiling Skull Saloon.