Emmanuel Remy hasn’t been on a ballot since he was elected student-body president at Adrian College in Michigan in 1992, but he’s still been serving the public, he said.
Columbus City Council members unanimously chose Remy last week to replace former council President Zach Klein, now the city attorney. He was selected over 13 other finalists, including Jasmine Ayres, a local activist who finished fourth in a race for three council seats in November.
Remy, a real-estate agent with Coldwell Banker King Thompson, said he has the right kind of experience for City Council, representing an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse neighborhood. Even so, he said, he was somewhat surprised to be chosen.
“That is the honest truth,” Remy, 45, said of his unanimous appointment. “I knew I had done all the right things to earn the role, but sometimes politics gets in the way and you’re not sure where it will go.”
He said he will relinquish his roles as president of the Northland Community Council and Clinton Estates Civic Association. His term on City Council will expire at the end of 2019 and he said he plans to run for election next year.
Remy has been president of the Northland Community Council since 2012 and led the Clinton Estates Civic Association since 2010. He has worked on school councils and parent-advisory groups for Columbus City Schools. He also has served as a director with Columbus Realtors and the Ohio Association of Realtors.
Combine those activities with his work as a real-estate agent, a wife who works as a teacher and three children younger than 10, and Remy’s calendar always is full.
He said his family is understanding, but he always has worked hard.
“It was just in my nature,” he said. “I always worked.”
Remy applied for an appointment to Columbus City Council three times, starting in 2015. Each time, he said, he learned something new, but it always came down to working hard.
Other leaders in his neighborhood said that approach has been fruitful for Northland.
“He made it an emphasis of his to go downtown and meet with City Council members about project after project after project,” said Dave Cooper, president of the Northland Area Business Association. “He didn’t wait for them to come to us; he went to them.”
Columbus Division of Police officer Scott Clinger said he has Remy’s phone number “on speed dial.”
When the city developed new laws to shut down nuisance hotels, Clinger said, Remy and the Northland Community Council were big supporters.
“He’s boots on the ground out here with the community and he didn’t get paid a dime for it,” Clinger said. “He put many, many hours in because he cares about the community.”
Safety is his No. 1 priority, Remy said.
Aside from repeating the catchphrase, “see something, say something,” Remy said he would like Columbus to adopt a safety program patterned after Project Green Light in Detroit, in which high-definition cameras are placed at gas stations in high-crime areas of the city.
The gas-station owners bear the brunt of the cost – $4,000 to $6,000, according the Project Green Light website. The city of Columbus, which would not pay for the cameras, would monitor the action in real time, Remy said.
Nearly 200 businesses have partnered with the Detroit Police Department since the initiative began Jan. 1, 2016. Information from the city said that through July 2017, violent crimes were reduced by 50 percent in the neighborhoods of the eight original Project Green Light partners.
“I think this is a real possibility for the future” in Columbus, Remy said.
Remy also has said he wants to do more for immigrants living in Columbus. The city does a good job of providing “settlement services,” he said, but it has an opportunity to provide other resources.
Northland is home to a large concentration of Columbus’ Somali population, including the offices of the Somali Community Action Network.
The organization’s executive director, Jibril Mohamed, said the city must do more to encourage Somalis to join the ranks of law enforcement and build a pipeline for leadership opportunities within the public sector.
Mohamed said he is optimistic Remy will help with those issues as he takes his seat on City Council.
Remy “has already pledged that he will keep the community as a priority,” Mohamed said. “I have high hope he will keep his word and produce results for all citizens of Columbus.”
ThisWeek reporter Gary Seman Jr. contributed to this story.