Interview by Derek Grosso
Name: Chris Suel
Profession: Assistant Director of Community Affairs at City of Columbus, Mayor’s Office
Neighborhood: North Columbus
Education: Bachelors of Arts, Sociology, Wright State University. Masters of Public Administration (Spring 22), Franklin University
Nonprofit Boards: Starfish Alliance, Central Community House, and Lead with Purpose.
Associations: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Alpha Rho Lambda Chapter, Columbus Urban League of Young Professionals (CULYP), and United States Army Reserve.
Connect: LinkedIn | Instagram | Facebook
Words to live by:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. ~ Habakkuk 2:23
In 2010, Chris Suel started his professional career at Franklin County Children Services as a Case Manager. He transitioned to Franklin County Job and Family Services as Case Manager four years later, and would be promoted to the Rapid Response Team to focus on providing opportunities for restored citizens and the homeless. In 2016, Chris joined The United States Army Reserve, and in 2017 he accepted a position as a Neighborhood Program Specialist with the City of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods. He was subsequently deployed for Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, Iraq and Kuwait. While deployed, Chris was offered the opportunity to interview for the My Brother’s Keeper Program Manager position in the Department of Neighborhoods. He returned home in 2019 to answer the call and accept the position, focusing on closing the disparities gap between boys and young men of color in areas such as education, health, safety, and economics. Chris briefly left the City of Columbus in 2021 to join Huntington Bank as a Senior Business Analyst, but was called back again with an opportunity to be the Assistant Director in the Mayor’s office. Chris proudly proclaims, “For most, if not all of my career, I have been a public servant working in all areas to provide an opportunity to empower and build up the residents of this great city!”
What gets you up each morning and what gets you through the workweek?
My daughter, Saia provides my daily motivation in life. Becoming a new father has inspired me to build a legacy that she and my family can be proud of. I also enjoy being a part of the Mayor’s office. My position as Assistant Director of Community Affairs gives me an opportunity to make a real impact in central Ohio communities and provide a visual representation for boys and young men of color; as they cannot be what they cannot see.
What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
I have a tremendous support team that I turn to for advice. County Administrator, Joy Bivens and Entrepreneur, Mo Wright have made the largest impact on my personal and professional career. Director Bivens has taught me to work with purpose and has often said, “If you don’t get invited to the table then create your own table.” Mo provides that tough love and transparent advice. His favorite line is, “Work with the hand you are dealt and make the most out of every opportunity given.”
What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
I love fashion, so most likely Easton or Polaris. I am also a huge movie person, I enjoy all kinds of movies and my top three on repeat are Shawshank Redemption, The Goonies and Casino.
What are a few of your favorite local spots in Columbus?
I really enjoy the local shops in Columbus. A few spots I enjoy are: Sole Classic, Amongst Peers, Stadium Restaurant, Drunch, J’s Sweet Treats, Upper Cup, Super Chef’s and OurBar.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
As a kid, I wanted to be a principal. Growing up, my uncle Doc West was an educator and would later become a principal. I was able to see the impact he had, not only on students but on young men over the years. As time passed I would see his former students come back to thank him for pouring into them at such a young age.
What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
Currently I am reading The Marathon Don’t Stop, The Life and Times of Nipsey Hussle by Rob Kenner. As for podcasts, I am currently listening to Million $ Worth of Game and Kneading Dough with Maverick Carter.
What does it mean to you to be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award?
Being chosen for Next Up is humbling and very exciting. Columbus is full of so many amazing, hard-working professionals and to be recognized as one of the Next Up is an honor. This award motivates me to keep striving for greatness and to continue being that visual representation for our youth and my community.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
I think the “pulse” of Columbus can be found in the progress we are making to build a more equitable city that includes all ages, races and genders. Especially the expansive investments we are making in our youth to ensure they have equitable access to education, health care and workforce opportunities where they are a part of the success in our city.
The Next Up Columbus Awards highlight emerging leaders who are connectors and ambassadors in central Ohio and who are making a positive impact on the future of Columbus. The Columbus Young Professionals Club would like to offer special thanks to our 2021 co-presenters, Discover Financial, Future Possibilities and Zipline Logistics for their support of this awards program. Meet the entire “Class of 2021” »