A little over a year ago, Kari Suhadolnik’s ten-year-old daughter came out to her as queer. That fearless openness inspired the mom and community organizer – who identifies as bisexual – to come out herself.
“I had actually been closeted for almost my entire life, until then. I thought, if my daughter can be open with herself, so can I. Having people support you, especially our youth having family support – it can be the difference between living your life in fear and living your life openly.”
Now running for city council in Stow, a bedroom community of Akron, Suhadolnik hopes that her visibility as an out bisexual woman serving on city council – which will be a first for Stow if she is elected – will help others in her city feel more comfortable in their own skin, as well.
The Buckeye Flame spoke with the candidate about her coming out, her extensive community-organizing work, and her goals for office.
Why run for office now?
I spent the last several years as a community activist. I’m the past President and current Vice President of the Stow Monroe Falls Democratic Club; also, I’m the current chair of the Arts Commission, and I cofounded a nonprofit that provides a network of aid for people in need. This year, we are on the brink of a do-or-die moment in Stow. If we don’t start moving our city forward, I think we are going to succumb to the conservatives. I thought it was time for our city to get out from under the old and have a fresh progressive face in office, so I stepped up.
What past experiences have primed you for this seat?
My work in the community has earned me an endorsement from the mayor, who is looking to bring in a team of excited individuals who will collaborate and move us forward. For example, under my leadership, the Arts Commission just implemented its first public art show, which featured all women artists for Women’s History Month. We also had our very first public art installation and created a scholarship for high school students looking to pursue a future in the arts. I’m excited about all the things I’ve brought to the arts community, because up until 2018 our city had little in the way of arts and culture. So, I kind of took a blank slate and got us moving in a positive direct. I think I can bring that same energy to council.
Additionally, I serve as Vice President of a local nonprofit, which I helped cofound in 2018. We serve our city in a way that most nonprofits are not able to do – by breaking down barriers and red tape such that we are able to provide almost instantaneous funding for a wide range of things – a bag of food, help with the mortgage or an electric bill, new clothes for students whose families are unable to afford them. We have plugged in through the city and the schools and other nonprofits in the area to be able to create a network of aid for people in need. I’m proud that this organization has been able to give back almost $50,000 just in the two and a half years since we founded it.
What are your goals if elected?
Economic development is one of my biggest goals. In Stow, we are poised to have the biggest carry-over year in our city’s history – around $9 million. We can use it to build a splashpad and a community center. We can use it to hire someone in our planning department to focus on better economic development, rather than just continue rubber-stamping zoning, which is basically all we have the ability to do right now. We need a strategic, forward-thinking ten-year plan for our city, and I don’t think the leadership in place has the capability of doing so, because they are more interested in maintaining the status quo.
Why is it important for people to vote in their local elections?
Personally, I think it’s often more important to vote in municipal elections. Local government makes the legislative decisions that affect you every day in your own city. People need to be energized and come out and let their voices be heard in every single election. We had abysmal turnout in 2019, the last municipal election, but last year, my community – we’re a very purple community – came out very blue for Biden. That’s because we showed up. When we show up, we win.
If elected, you’ll be Stow’s first openly bisexual city councilmember – what would this mean to you?
It’s extremely important to me. I’m raising a queer daughter. I had actually been closeted for almost my entire life, until she came out to me a little over a year ago. Her enthusiasm – her energy, her fearlessness – inspired me to say, if my daughter can be open with herself, then so can I. Since becoming public, I’ve met so many people who have lived their lives quiet, as well. I think when you have representation, when you have someone to look to who is willing to stand up, I think that helps others stand up, too. 🔥