March 13, 2024

By Rebecca Mohr, Capital University Communications Manager

From Capital to Historic Leadership in Whitehall: Mayor Bivens Focuses on Community

Mayor Michael T. Bivens, J.D., stands as a trailblazer in both his public and private life, rooted in education, service, and a commitment to community well-being. His narrative extends beyond politics and into the hearts of Whitehall's residents.

“Whitehall is a fantastic community. We are probably one of the most diverse suburbs in Central Ohio. We’re approximately 45 percent white and 39 to 42 percent African American. We’re a mix of diverse cultures. Their children go to school together, they cohabitate together, and they really look forward to each other’s success,” said Bivens.

The City of Whitehall witnessed a historic general election in 2023 when voters elected Bivens as the first African-American mayor in the city's 76-year history. Bivens, initially serving as the Whitehall City Attorney, had previously marked his entry into local politics as the city's first African American elected official.

“I sit in this position more humbled by the office than I am being the first African American mayor for the City of Whitehall,” said Bivens. “I definitely don’t want to be the last. I want that door to always be open.”

Bivens has practiced law in the State of Ohio and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio since 2003. He previously had been a managing partner of his own law firm and served as the First African American elected official in the City of Whitehall. He also served as a pastor and as a veteran in the United States Marine Corps during operation Desert Storm.

“The inspiration from city attorney to mayor was completely to keep the progress of the city. My wife and I moved to Whitehall when we were in our early thirties. I want Whitehall to stay a city that’s welcoming and inviting to young families,” said Bivens. “It’s a small town within a big city. Neighbors take it really personally when their next-door neighbor is not doing well. It’s nothing to see people sitting out on the porch talking about their daily lives. That’s what makes Whitehall special. We can really develop long-lasting relationships.”

As a non-traditional student at Capital, Bivens navigated the challenges of balancing work, family, and education, highlighting the supportive environment for students like him. He graduated in 1995 with an undergraduate degree in economics and then earned his J.D. in 2001.

“I had been in the United States Marine Corps and was working full time. I chose Capital because it was the best fit for me and my life. It was a fantastic experience. I matriculated through the School of Management and then went directly to Capital University Law School,” said Bivens. “I think the unsung story of Capital is that it provides pathways for non-traditional students. Capital finds a lane for people like me. By the time I was in law school, I was married and taking care of a family. Looking back on it, it was the only fit for me.”

Mayor Bivens has been married to Joy Bledsoe Bivens ’99, multidisciplinary studies, for over 25 years. Joy was recently honored as one of Capital’s Distinguished Alumni during Homecoming 2023. They have two children, Mikayla Bivens, a graduate of Hampton University, and Michael Justin, currently a senior at North Carolina A&T State University.

Bivens’ commitment to keeping doors open for the younger generation reflects a dedication to a legacy of diversity, equality, and service. In a world often pulling individuals in different directions, he serves as a reminder that knowing one's values is crucial for effective leadership and positive community impact.

“The world of politics can pull a person in so many different directions. If you don’t know who you are and you don’t know your values, then you can find yourself being tossed to and fro with people’s opinions and ideas,” Bivens said.

“Invest the time to truly figure out what your ‘yeses’ are and what your ‘noes’ are. Once you have figured that out, you're on a great path to becoming a leader and being able to genuinely serve people who need your advocacy.”

For more information about economics at Capital, visit http://2zqh.reginahsrunway.com/academics/majors-and-minors/economics/.

To learn more about Capital University Law School, visit http://www.law.reginahsrunway.com/.