Interview by Elizabeth Presse
Aryeh Alex wears many hats in Central Ohio. He is the Vice President of Public Affairs at the Ohio Environmental Council, a Trustee for Franklin Township, and President of the Friends of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks. Juggling leadership roles comes naturally for Aryeh, as he is determined to use his voice to help those who are voiceless and struggling in the community.
Where did you grow up, and what brought you to Columbus? I am originally from Cincinnati and moved to the Columbus area in 2010 to lead the newly formed organizing department at the Ohio Civil Service Employee Association.
Give us a snapshot of your career path: In college, I worked on a few political campaigns including the 2008 Driehaus for Congress race that unseated a 14 year incumbent. From there, I went on to union organizing, first with AFSCME in Ohio and then SEIU across the country.
Tell us about your current career role: I currently hold a few positions, with the Vice-President of Public Affairs at the Ohio Environmental Council being my main job, and Township Trustee in Franklin Township and President of the Friends of Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks. In these roles, I have the privilege to serve the public by advocating for a better environment, expanded park access, and a safe community for individuals to live, work, and raise a family.
What’s new and exciting at Franklin County Metro Parks and/or the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund? Last year, the voters of Franklin County passed the Metro Parks levy with a whopping 68%, and because of that, our Metro Parks are planning some very exciting opportunities over the next ten years. Our Friends group is rising to meet the occasion by re-launching our Passport to Metro Parks program, creating a unique event every month, and helping support our parks in new ways.
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek? There are so many people in our community that are voiceless and struggling. Bering able to lend my voice to help those in need and empower communities to stand up for justice gets me going every morning and powers me through the workweek.
What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way? My greatest mentor, Judge Tyrone K. Yates, always told me to fight every day for progress so that I can go to sleep knowing that I did all I could to make our world a better place for all.
Explain some of your work-life balance challenges. How do you achieve success in spite of the hustle and bustle? Work-life balance has always been a struggle for me to achieve. Instead of creating that balance, I decided to merge my personal passions with my professional ones. I have been very lucky to be able to spend my work doing what I love.
What do you do or where do you go to unwind? When I want to unwind, I grab my hiking boots and hit one of the trails in our great Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be an astronaut, specifically in the Apollo space program that went to the moon.
What might someone be surprised to know about you? People are always surprised to find out that I went to a performing arts K-12 public school and studied musical theater and creative writing.
What would your autobiography be called? Let’s Knock on Some Doors
What podcasts are you listening to now? I’m listening to an episode of the Slashfilmcast, one of my favorite podcasts about movies.
If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would you choose? Theodore Roosevelt at the White House.
What are among the top places you’d recommend to someone who is visiting or new to Columbus? Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, a performance of the Columbus Symphony at the Ohio Theater, & a tour of the Ohio State House
Tell us about a community initiative that you’re most passionate about. One of the initiatives I am most passionate about at the moment is the free training and distribution of Narcan (naloxone) with Franklin County Public Health. As the opioid epidemic rages in my township, this program has the ability to save lives and help educate the public about this health crisis.
What’s the most exciting thing about Columbus right now? I think the most exciting thing about Columbus right now is all of the community organizing that is taking place to improve the quality of life for all those that call this region home. There are so many passionate leaders and organizations working to make our region great, and I am excited to see and support the progress they are making.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them? The pulse of Columbus is all of the amazing people who love here and work to make this the best region it can possibly be. It is the institutions, individuals, natural spaces, modern places, dynamic businesses, thriving arts communities, and so much more that binds all of us.