Bloomington’s remembrancer: “Inclusion is not enough. We need to think about retention.”

Bloomington city clerk Nicole Bolden is seeking reelection to a third four-year term.

Bloomington city clerk Nicole Bolden addresses the March 25, 2023 candidate forum hosted by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

The Democrat has been unopposed in the primary and the general election for the last two election cycles and this year is no different.

Bolden is the only candidate to appear on the Democratic Party’s May 2 primary ballot. No Republican declared as a candidate in the primary.

But at a Saturday candidate forum hosted by the Kappa Tau Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Bolden was given some time to deliver some remarks.

Alpha Kappa Alpha is one the Divine Nine—that’s the nickname for the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), which is an umbrella council composed of historically Black fraternities and sororities.

Addressing the roughly 60 people who had gathered in the gym of the Crestmont Boys and Girls Club, Bolden took on the topic of a question from the mayoral candidate forum, which had taken place before she spoke.

The question was: What steps will you take to increase Black representation in city government and ensure that Black residents have a voice in shaping policy and decision making?

Bolden began her response by remembering back to 2016 when she first took office: “I realized there were only two Black elected officials in Monroe County. I was horrified, saddened—take your pick.”

Besides Bolden at the time, the other Black elected in the county was Monroe County circuit court judge Valeri Haughton—Bolden’s mother.

Since then, five more have been added. A photograph of the seven from the Jan. 1, 2023 swearing-in ceremony at the Monroe County courthouse is included below.

Bolden continued, “We need more Black people on the ballot. We need more Black people on our boards and commissions. We need more staff appointments. That’s it.”

Bolden then challenged those in the audience: “Step up. Pay attention. Show up. Sign up.”

She noted that the city clerk’s office coordinates the city council’s appointments for boards and commissions. “Looking around this room, I can see a few commissioners—you should all be serving,” Bolden said.

On a positive note, Bolden noted that four people of color are running for city office this year.

Besides Bolden, the four include Don Griffin for mayor (a race contested by Susan Sandberg and Kerry Thomson), Shruti Rana for District 5 city council (a race contested by Jenny Stevens), and Isak Asare for at-large city council (a race contested by Jonas Schrodt, Ryne Shadday, Matt Flaherty, Steve Volan, Lois Sabo-Skelton, and Andy Ruff.)

Bolden also noted that there are three LGBTQ+ candidates for Bloomington office. Added to Bolden, it’s Schrodt and Shadday who make up the three.

Bolden then said it’s not enough that there are Black or LGBTQ+ office holders. “I will say inclusion is not enough. We need to think about retention,” she said. Bolden added, “Once you get somebody in office or in a department, you need to be able to stay…and not face some of the microaggressions that we’ve all faced.”

Bolden also talked a bit about the city clerk’s role as a kind of stabilizing influence, as other elected officials rotate.

When people ask her what the city clerk does, Bolden tells them, “The city clerk is the memory of the city.” The position was in the distant past called the remembrancer, she said. Maintaining the memory of the city means preserving the city council’s records, she said.

Maintaining the records of city council meetings means: “When something is said in a council meeting, we can refer back to it, whether it’s the next year, 50 years later, or 100 years later. That is what my office does.”

Bolden pointed out that of the nine incumbent city councilmembers, at least three, maybe more, will not be at the council table at the start of the next term in 2024.

Here’s how to count to three. Not running for reelection to his at-large seat is Jim Sims. Running for mayor, instead of her at-large seat, is Susan Sandberg. Redistricting put incumbents Sue Sgambelluri and Kate Rosenbarger in District 2—they’re both running for that seat. So one of them will not return to the city council in 2024.

Bolden also noted that there will be a new mayor, which means that there will be some new department heads, because some will retire and others could be “changed out for a new vision of the new mayor.”

That kind of change means it’s important to preserve an institutional memory, Bolden said.

Bolden said, “We need an office that can actually tell you how things were five years ago, 10 years ago, and that is why I’m continuing to run for office.”

January 1, 2023 swearing-in ceremony. From left: Valeri Haughton (Monroe County circuit court judge); Jim Sims (Bloomington city council); Ruben Marté, (Monroe County sheriff); Jennifer Crossley (Monroe County councilor); Nicole Bolden (Bloomington circuit court); Nicole Browne (Monroe County clerk); Geoff Bradley (Monroe County circuit court judge). [Photo by The B Square]

One thought on “Bloomington’s remembrancer: “Inclusion is not enough. We need to think about retention.”

Comments are closed.