Heidi Samuel for Columbus Neighborhoods
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Samuel's life journey led her to Columbus City Council bid

Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2007 1:49 PM EDT

She grew up on the other side of the world, but politics and civic involvement come close to home for Heidi Samuel.

Samuel, a Republican, will take on incumbent Democrat Priscilla Tyson in a head-to-head contest for a seat on Columbus City Council in the Nov. 6 general election.

That election also will include an eight-member contest for four additional seats on council. In that case, the top four vote-getters each will receive a four-year term.

Samuel, 36 and a mother of two, was born in Massachusetts. But she spent a third of her childhood in Asia, thanks to the work of her father, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force.

Before settling down in Columbus, Samuel worked and attended high school in Kobe, Japan, and also worked for a year in Beijing, China at an international school as a teacher's assistant and yearbook adviser.

The next year, she came to Ohio State University, where her father had been hired as a professor in aerospace science, to pursue her college degree.

"I majored in history, and I've been here ever since," said Samuel.

Columbus "was a place that was so strong and so appealing, we chose to stay here," she said. "It's a great town to live and work and raise a family."

Throughout the community, she's found "very friendly people that are very warm and open" and interested in one another, Samuel said.

After graduating from college, Samuel worked in the office of former Gov. George Voinovich and as an assistant to the chief of staff of the Ohio Department of Transportation, where she led the initial working group that designed the Interstate 670 cap linking Downtown and the Short North.

Samuel also operated a event-planning and coordination business serving the health care information industry, and held an Ohio insurance license operating an independent, multi-line insurance agency.

Now her community efforts have become her full-time work, said Samuel.

After graduating college, Samuel and her husband Jim briefly lived on the Northwest Side before a five-year stay in Bexley. They then moved to Columbus' East Side, attracted by the low cost of homes in the area.

It was in that house that Samuel found the origins in her own political involvement.

"Five years ago, my basement flooded -- we had a stormwater backup," she said.

Samuel said on investigation, she found that the plans for improvements in the area were insufficient to resolve neighborhood flooding issues.

She worked with the project engineer to expand the scope of the soon-to-be-complete Bliss Run Watershed project to bring real resolution to the problem flooding. In doing so, she got involved in the Eastmoor Civic Association and Blockwatch, eventually becoming the organization's president.

Samuel now heads up the organization's economic development committee, and counts among her successes in the group helping to close a local motel that had been plagued with problems surrounding drugs and prostitution, helping bring closure actions against a strip club in the area and helping create an economic development overlay along Broad and Main streets on the East Side.

Had her basement not flooded, she might not have found her calling as a community leader -- a calling that is full time, but unpaid, said Samuel.

"Life takes you on a funny course," she said.

If elected to council, Samuel would focus on attracting and retaining residents in the city, and as a part of that, combat crime and deal with the issues of a city with an aging core and an expanding reach, she said.

"My concern is in making sure that Columbus remains a viable option for families."

--Heidi Samuel



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