In my January column, I reflected on the vast change Whitehall has seen over the past century.

Having served the Whitehall community in some capacity since 1996 and having lived here for more than 35 years, I can personally attest to the magnitude of the change that has happened in the past 10 years.

From major strides in economic development, to regional shifts in demographics, including rapid population growth, 2010 Whitehall and 2020 Whitehall have real, measurable differences.

The 2020 U.S. Census is an amazing opportunity for our community to put numbers to that change and to better understand where we are excelling and where we can focus more resources as we begin a new decade.

Given that we respond to the census only a few times in our lives, it's easy to forget its significance, both to us personally and to the federal, state and local organizations that serve our community.

Most of us know the census dictates the drawing of legislative districts, impacting who represents our interests at all levels of government. But what we often forget is that census results also are used to calculate how billions of dollars in federal and state funding are distributed to agencies and programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Federal Direct student loans.

Regionally, census data is used by local health-service providers to determine the need for new hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and other facilities to serve all segments of our community, including children, seniors and those with disabilities.

Regional transportation services, such as the Central Ohio Transit Authority, use census data to determine transit needs, adjusting coverage and offerings to better serve the community.

Similarly, something we know about the regional growth in central Ohio is that the fastest-growing segment of our population consists of people who were born in another country. To this population segment, census results will help identify the need for services for those who consider English as a second language.

Even more locally, census data creates maps that are used by first responders, such as our firefighters and medics in the Whitehall Division of Fire, to help decrease response times and improve outcomes.

Developers use the data to guide site selection for new housing options -- think Norton Crossing or the development coming to the former site of Woodcliff Condominiums -- while multiple organizations use the data to determine eligibility for housing-assistance programs.

With all of these reasons to take the census, I'm disappointed to report that Whitehall underperformed in self-responding to the 2010 census, with our self-response rate falling nearly 10% below the statewide rate.

I challenge each of our residents to help make the census really count for Whitehall by self-responding in the spring.

Responding is easier than ever this year with a new option of completing the census online. Information on how to respond online, including a code unique to each household, will be mailed to Whitehall residents in mid-March.

For less tech-savvy residents, a paper questionnaire will be mailed in mid-April, or the census may be completed over the phone.

Those who need access to a computer to complete the census need look no further than the Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library on Broad Street. Library staff will be available to answer census-related questions.

I remind all of our residents that census responses are protected under federal law and cannot be used against you by any government agency, which includes but is not limited to the FBI, immigration services or local law-enforcement agencies.

Learn more about the census and why it counts for Whitehall at whitehall-oh.us/census.

Kim Maggard is mayor of Whitehall.