After graduating from college, Amy M Harcar desired to do something to give back to the community. As a graduate of photography, she started photographing charity events to help raise awareness about important causes such as childhood cancer and events that supported St. Stephens community house. Through the charity work, Amy was connected to Ethiopian Orphan Relief (EOR) and Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services (ETSS) where she has been overseeing several programs including providing New American youth with a pathway to education and job opportunities. This year Amy M Harcar is running to raise higher her service to the community by contesting for the position of Whitehall City Councilmember At-Large. The community advocate who will formally kick off her campaign on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 shares her dreams and aspirations with New Americans magazine’s Bureau Chief Okon Ekpenyong:
I grew up in a small town in northwest Ohio. The population at the time was just over 900 people. I attended college nearby before moving to Dayton, Ohio, and attending a photography school. That’s where I met my husband. I photographed hundreds of weddings after graduating from college, but I always wanted to do something to give back. I started photographing charity events to help raise awareness about important causes such as childhood cancer and events that supported St. Stephens community house.
In 2008, a dear friend introduced me to two nonprofit organizations: Ethiopian Orphan Relief (EOR) and Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services (ETSS). I began planning and photographing events for ETSS in Columbus, Ohio. This included the Enkutatash celebration (Ethiopian New Year) in Whitehall and the New American Festival that took place at the north YMCA. I also started planning events with EOR, a non-profit that sends funds to organizations in Ethiopia to provide services to children and communities in Ethiopia. We raised funds to build wells, feed children, provide medical care, and many other things. In 2014, I was hired full-time by ETSS to oversee a program that provided New American youth with a pathway to education and job opportunities. I then moved into the role of advocate and launched a program to serve immigrant and refugee survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other forms of trauma.
My husband and I moved to Whitehall in 2005. We wanted a safe, affordable area with a lot of diversity where we could raise a family. At the time, I didn’t know anything about individuals from other cultures, but I am thrilled we picked Whitehall. Living here and working for ETSS has been such an amazing opportunity to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Whitehall City Council member
As a candidate for Whitehall City Council At-Large, I believe the best way to serve the community is to amplify the voices of the residents, including those who feel unheard. I am thrilled to see the economic boom that is expected in Whitehall over the next few years. Many people feel like they are just surviving, and I want to see people in my community thrive. We can accomplish this by having sustainable housing, including everyone in the process, and making sure the safety of all Whitehall residents is a top priority.
I am running in a non-partisan election for a City Council At-Large seat on the Forward Together Whitehall slate lead by City Attorney Michael Bivens, who is running for Mayor along with others.
Making a Difference
A top priority for me is making sure residents feel empowered to use their voices and be a part of the process. Advocating for our New American community is a top priority. I see Whitehall as a welcoming city and want to make sure that continues. I will focus on Thriving Communities, Housing, Inclusion, and Safety for everyone.
Whitehall Council, the people, the opportunities, and the election
Through Mayor Maggard’s leadership, Whitehall has seen enormous growth and opportunity and the Forward Together team intends to keep moving ahead. With the help of the Columbus Blue Jackets a street hockey rink is set to open in the spring, Discover Financial is investing $16 million into construction, hiring, and training. And the biggest change will come at the corner of Broad and Hamilton where a three-phase $300 million investment will take place in the next five years.
Signatures and Endorsements
The gathering of signatures went well. I had a short amount of time to get them but enlisted the help of a few close friends in Whitehall. One thing I realized is that some of our immigrant community members were unable to sign because they are green card holders and not citizens. I would like to see more help with ESOL and citizenship classes for those who want to become citizens.
The Whitehall City Council At-Large race is for 3 open positions. Currently, current Councilwoman Lori Elmore and I are seeking 2 of those positions as part of the Forward Together Whitehall slate.
Over the past five years, they have been new businesses to the community. The city has built new market rates, provided inclusive housing, reinvested aggressively into infrastructure, and new recreation, including multiple outreach programs.
Whitehall has invested in all the items listed and is set to continue these investments. We know that housing is a huge issue in Central Ohio. Whitehall is set to add more housing, especially during the reconstruction of the east corridor of the city. The Rockwell district will add 1,000 residential units both for rent and sale.
We also want to make sure those who live here now can make needed improvements to their homes. Whitehall is bringing back a grant opportunity for home improvements at the end of March.
There have also been major improvements to our parks and green space, improvements with environmental impact, including a reduction in trash and increased recycling. In 2018, I worked with the Superintendents Advisory Committee to pass the school levy which allowed Whitehall to rebuild all the schools.
A major hurdle was reached with the end of a decade-long legal battle for the Woodcliff apartments. Now this area will be completely reimagined, with residential, commercial, and green space. This corner will be similar to Creekside in Gahanna in five years, including having access to Big Walnut Creek.
The other major hurdle is some of our residents have had major concerns with flooding over the years. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what the solution is quite yet, but I know we need to find one.
I believe a well-resourced community is a safer community. Mayor Maggard announced at her final State of the City address a $50,000 investment into the Center of Hope to increase food security for residents. We know that some of our residents are struggling, and we want to do what we can to help. I want to see people go from surviving to thriving.
Through my work with immigrants and refugees, I know that many of them don’t feel empowered to speak up about issues and concerns. I want to hear their concerns, whether they can vote for me or not. Just because someone isn’t a citizen, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a voice.
Whitehall once had a reputation for being crime-ridden; it is entering a new renaissance with substantial home price increases and population increases.
I know when I moved to Whitehall, or even now when I tell people I meant that that’s where I live, I get the ‘why would you live there’ kind of response. But I love Whitehall. We have seen crime reduction in the city and part of that is because of the amazing resources we have here. Whitehall launched a Safer Stations program to help those facing addiction, has added behavioral health services and affordable housing, and is set to increase job opportunities. All of those things reduce crime. I very much believe in the philosophy- We all do better when we all do better.
A recent survey showed 80% of residents believe we are headed in the right direction and 85% report feeling very or somewhat safe in Whitehall (up from 79% in 2016). The city listens to the residents. Opportunity is here in Whitehall, and it is here for all of us.
Whitehall has seen some amazing transformations with the new mural work at John Bishop Park, live art experiences through the Seeds Sown in Fire experience, and the Goodwill Art Center that recently opened. It is also worth mentioning the many amazing immigrant-owned businesses in Whitehall. You can find the best burgers, traditional Ethiopian and Latinx food and grocery stores, and even a new ice cream place that I can’t wait to try. Whitehall is a welcoming city of opportunity, and I am excited to be a part of its continued growth.
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