Interview by Derek Grosso
Name: Niyah Walters, Esq.
Profession: In-House Counsel and Legal Analyst at Columbus City Council
Neighborhood: Downtown Columbus
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with a minor in Spanish; Juris Doctor with a Certificate of Concentration in Environmental Law
Community Involvement: Columbus Urban League Young Professionals (President), Columbus Urban League Board Member, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio (Big Sister), African American Leadership Academy Fellow Cohort 19, Ohio State Bar Association Member, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Alpha Sigma Omega Chapter
Quote: “Be the change you wish to see. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” – Romans 8:28
Niyah Walters is a young lawyer who is passionate about law and community. A Detroit native but she spent her formative years in Toledo, Ohio. Niyah received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Spanish from Wright State University. She earned her Juris Doctor from University of Toledo College of Law with a certificate of concentration in Environmental Law. After law school, she relocated to Columbus to further her career. She has been a licensed attorney and member of the Ohio State Bar for seven years.
Upon getting settled in Columbus, she began looking for ways to get connected to the Columbus community and found the Columbus Urban League Young Professionals (CULYP). CULYP transformed her Columbus experience and connected her to a network of like-minded individuals and provided an opportunity for her to grow as an individual and as a leader.
She currently works for Columbus City Council where she serves as in-house Counsel to Council and is a legal analyst in their Legislative Research Office staffing the Criminal Justice and Judiciary Committee, Public Service and Transportation Committee, and the Environment Committee. At Council, she has had the opportunity to lead the Council Residential Districting Commission which established residential districts for Council among other projects. At her previous job at the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, Niyah drafted legislation on a myriad of topics including energy, utilities and family law. Niyah also founded the Diversity Discussion and Advisory Group now known as Bridging the Gap to encourage healthy discussion on diverse issues and to assist in the acquisition and retention of minority employees.
She is President of the Columbus Urban League Young Professionals, a big sister in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio, a graduate of the YWCA Leadership for Social Change Program, a graduate of the Ohio State Bar Association Leadership Academy, and a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Alpha Sigma Omega Chapter. She looks forward to where her journey will lead her next.”
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
Knowing that I get another day to make a difference gets me up in the morning. The work week can be stressful but what gets me through is knowing the direct impact that the work we do at Council has on the community. Our work is critical to ensuring that city operations move smoothly for our residents. Additionally, I understand the importance of representation. It is my hope that the youth see me and know that they too can achieve whatever it is they put their mind to.
What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
I have a few good pieces of advice that I’ve gotten along the way.
1. Stay curious and teachable. There is always more to learn.
2. Separate your work from your self-worth, no matter the mistake you are and will always be worthy. In the highly competitive environment, known as law school its very easy to take all your failures in school to heart as a part of your inherent value as a person. This serves as a reminder that we are so much more than the things that we do.
3. Your best will always be good enough.
What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
Working out is one of my favorite ways to unwind. Releasing endorphins helps me de-stress and prepare for the next task.If I’m going to a place, the beach or really any place with water is my favorite place to go to unwind. Nothing like the sound of crashing waves or the stillness of the river to quiet my mind and to take in God’s masterpiece.
What are a few of your favorite local spots in Columbus?
Columbus has so many little gems so I’ll do my top 5. The Pearl, Our Bar, Market 65, Scioto Mile, and North Market are some of my favs.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I had three potential career paths. I wanted to be either a doctor, a teacher or a lawyer but law was always the thing I loved most. I did a teaching program in high school and I loved kids but teaching not so much. Blood makes me a little queasy. Happy to say I made good on my promise to be one of the three!
What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
I am currently reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Malcolm X is one of the most complex and polarizing figures of his time. His story from hopelessness to redemption and resilience is incredible. I love crime podcasts that chronicle the investigations and the case. Serial is one of my favs.
What does it mean to you to be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award?
I am honored to be selected for the Next Up Columbus award. I came to Columbus almost seven years ago to start my career and it’s been an incredible ride. To know that someone thought enough of me to nominate me for this award is such a humbling moment. As a young professional so much of our journey is striving to find our own path to create our own change in the world. This award is a light upon my path to let me know I’m headed in the right direction.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
The pulse of Columbus is the people that live here. Columbus is growing so much. With new residents, new businesses, new opportunities and more, Columbus is a place where you can truly do whatever you set your mind to.
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 2022 co-presenters, Discover Financial, Ohio Dominican University and Spectrum for their support of this year’s awards program. Meet the entire “Class of 2022” »