Whitehall City Attorney Michael Bivens is taking a hands-on approach to his new job beyond that of providing the city with legal advice and representation.

Whitehall City Attorney Michael Bivens is taking a hands-on approach to his new job beyond that of providing the city with legal advice and representation.

Elected in November to succeed Mike Shannon -- who couldn't run again due to term limits -- Bivens said he wants to "embrace the city that embraced (my) family."

Bivens, 44, graduated from law school at Capital University in 2001. He is a 1989 graduate of Beechcroft High School and served in the U.S. Marine Corps during Operation Desert Storm.

"I simply love being a lawyer and it's something I always wanted to do," said Bivens, who was the first in his family to graduate from college.

"I have always perceived lawyers to be drivers of social change," he said, adding he is pleased to serve as a role model to local teenagers, especially minorities, to dream and to achieve at the highest possible levels.

After graduating from Capital University, Bivens worked as a claims adjustor for State Farm Insurance and in 2003 became licensed to practice law.

He handled personal-injury and medical-malpractice cases and then criminal defense.

"My philosophy is to make the city attorney's office outreach-oriented," said Bivens, who took his first crack at the elected office in 2011 in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Shannon.

Bivens said he wants to work with Whitehall schools to reinstitute a "mock court" during which students learn firsthand about the judicial system while re-enacting a criminal trial.

Bivens said he would assume an active role in Whitehall's Mayor's Court, personally prosecuting cases.

"(While) we have a job to do (prosecuting) defendants, I want to help victims get the services they need, too," said Bivens, adding that he wants to work even more closely with the city's domestic-violence advocate to link victims with the appropriate assistance and support.

At a preventive level, Bivens said he is looking forward to working with Mayor Kim Maggard and the police department in implementing and honing community-based policing initiatives designed to forge collaboration with the city's residents to reduce crime.

"I want to be a part of providing the resources to help citizens recognize and report crime ... and to help residents help us in our efforts," Bivens said.

Maggard said she met last week with Police Chief Richard Zitzke concerning her own initiatives, including reintroducing foot patrols in targeted neighborhoods and intends to include the city attorney's office in her continuing efforts to limit crime.

"(Bivens) is optimistic and pragmatic -- both valuable qualities for an attorney," Maggard said.

"He genuinely wants to improve the lives of all who come into contact with the court system."

"I wanted to be city attorney because I want to make a difference; it's the code I live by," said Bivens, adding that such service to the community is an extension of service to country he learned from his grandfather, a member of the 761st Black Panther Tank Battalion.

The World War II battalion included a lieutenant named Jack Robinson, who would gain greater fame in 1947 as the first black baseball player in Major League Baseball's modern era.

Bivens' father served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam era.

In addition to a call to public service and patriotism, Bivens said, faith plays a central role in his life.

"You don't separate faith from your daily life; ... it is part of my character and what drives me in how I deal with others ... and in my role as a father and a husband. It grounds me," Bivens said.

It also inspires him professionally, he said.

"As a lawyer, I believe justice must be tempered with mercy ... without (mercy), as a nation, we are no better than a dictatorship. (Mercy) is a clear mandate of my faith," said Bivens, who served two years as pastor of Equippers City Church in Reynoldsburg.

A resident of Whitehall for 13 years, Bivens said he looks forward to helping to enrich the city in the same manner he says it has enriched him.

Bivens and his wife, Joy, who is a member of the Whitehall school board, have two children: a son, Michael, and a daughter, Mikayla, both students at Whitehall-Yearling High School.