City Council Candidate Profile: Nick Bankston
Nick Bankston has been a familiar face in local politics and government agencies. He’s worked under both Mayors Michael Coleman and Andrew Ginther, and in county government, including at the Franklin County domestic and juvenile courts.
He’s also a frequent face on the boards of many Columbus organizations. While he is president and CEO of Gladden Community House, he also has served on boards with the Columbus Urban League, St. Stephen’s Community House, Reeb Avenue Center and the Neighborhood Design Center in Weinland Park.
Bankston said he is experienced with navigating government, but this will be the first time he is on what could be considered the most influential side of local politics—the legislative side.
“I believe government can work and it must work,” he said on why he is running for Columbus City Council. “It must provide the tools to its residents to feel empowered, but also to not simply survive by thrive.”
Bankston was born and raised early on in the northeast Columbus neighborhood Somerset. He graduated from East High School, like many of his family members. And he also spent some time living in North Linden with his grandmother, after a predatory loan led to his parents filing for bankruptcy.
Eventually, his parents found a program that helped people who had filed for bankruptcy and purchased a home on the East Side of Columbus. For him, the ordeal demonstrated the importance of housing.
Bankston’s platform talks about making sure everybody is sharing in the city’s success, not just the well-connected, special interests, and corporations. He points to the city’s recent accolades—fasting growing Midwestern city, fastest-selling housing market, etc.—as contributing to the city’s success, but not everyone is benefiting from that prosperity.
“Our residents are working two and three jobs and not sharing in that success,” he said.
His priorities are safety, housing, and transportation, and Bankston suggests that each is pertinent to the success of the people of Columbus.
For Bankston, that specifically looks like investments in affordable housing and opportunities for youth.
Housing in particular is key to a number of other issues impacting residents, he said.
“I know firsthand [from] the work I do here at Gladden what stability and housing can do for folks,” he said. “When you’re stable in your home you can keep a good paying job. When you’re stable in your home, your kids can get better, cohesive education because they’re not jumping from school to school. When you’re stable in your home you have a sense of security and safety.”
Those priorities also include continuing to work with the community on police and public safety reform, and investing in alternative crisis response strategies.
“Safety is not simply about just policing,” he said of council’s safety strategy. “What we see play out every single day are what I call crimes of opportunity. Because people feel desperate, they see the prosperity in our community but they can’t attain it.”
Coming from a long line of Columbus residents, he said he’s grown up with the city as it has grown. But right now is a pivotal time in Columbus’ history, where the city needs “really bold solutions for the issues that we face.” He said that takes leadership with experience in government, but also a fresh lens.
“I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and work with the community to do the hard work that’s necessary to move our city forward,” he said.
Regardless of the outcome of November’s election, there will soon be at least two new voices on council. That could mean new perspectives, new visions, and new ideas, and he said he wants to provide space at the table for those who don’t always agree.
Both Bankston and Lourdes Barroso de Padilla, a new council candidate whom he has campaigned with throughout the year, have used phrases like “bold” and the significance of bringing “new ideas” to the table. And both have signaled they are running values-based campaigns.
Bankston points out both he and Barroso de Padilla come from backgrounds in direct service to their communities.
“That’s going to be central to the work that we do and how our offices will run at City Hall,” he said. “(We) need bold and new ideas and solutions, and we don’t get to having bold solutions by just being in an echo chamber and doing things that we’ve always done.”
For Bankston, being new to council also means being accountable to the people who vote and live in Columbus, and that it will be important that he remains accessible and builds trust with the community.
“We have great stakeholders and great employers in this community that are the economic engine behind that,” he said. “But at the end of the day, every decision that I make, and every decision that we should be making at the council should center on the people of Columbus.”
He wants to help restore trust in the government because, as he said, when city leaders speak we should be able to trust what they say. In his role, he wants to return government back to “true public service.”
Bankston looks at being born and raised here as a point of pride. And now, with a young child at home, he thinks about the Columbus of his son’s generation.
“For me, it’s about building a city that’s more equitable, that’s more sustainable, and is worthy of his generation,” he said. “Columbus is so much a part of my history, and it’s the places and the people that really helped shape the man I am today. And so for me, it is about giving back to the community that gave so much to me.”
For more information visit bankstonforcolumbus.com.