Post Classifieds

Meet City Councilman Chris Seelbach

By Molly Boes
On November 30, 2011

The Newswire recently sat down with Xavier graduate and newlyelected City Councilman Chris Seelbach to find out a little more about his XU ties.

  • XN: Did you grow up here in Cincinnati?
  • Chris Seelbach: I grew up in Louisville and moved to Cincinnati when I was 18 to go to Xavier.
  • XN: What brought you to Xavier?
  • CS: I wanted to go to a smaller school, a smaller private school, and I narrowed it down between Xavier and Centre College, which is in Kentucky. It ultimately came down to wanting to be in a city. I visited Xavier's campus, which was totally different than what it is today and I loved it – it was just a great college campus, I liked the feeling of it, the vibe.
  • XN: What was your major?
  • CS: I majored in Business and Human Resources. It was a BS/BA and focus in Human Resources.
  • XN: One of our co-workers said you helped to found Xavier's Alliance, how did that happen?
  • CS: When I came to Xavier, there was basically no tolerance of any kind of issues dealing with sexual orientation. The first thing that happened is that there was some sort of forum that President Hoff put together where he brought in members of the archdiocese to talk with faculty and some students, including me, about what the Catholic Church's exact position was on sexual orientation. The entire presentation, which was incredibly offensive and there were comparisons to bestiality and necrophilia and all these things, and it just kind of really sparked the rage, the kind of interest in me and others of "this is not right." Talking to Fr. LaRocca, he kind of guided us towards putting that energy into an effort, which we did. We collected, I think, a fourth of the student body's signatures in like a week for a petition for the administration to either issue a welcoming statement to gay/lesbian faculty and staff and students, everyone, or include sexual orientation in  the discrimination policy. So, that went to Fr. Hoff 's desk, and we didn't think we'd have a chance of doing anything, but later that year he did issue a welcoming statement  which is now in the student handbook, which was a huge step for Xavier. In the following year, we said this is great, but we're going to make it mean something. So that's when we said let's do a gay/straight alliance. That's when we started the Xavier Alliance. I think it was the first gay/straight alliance at a Catholic university.
  • XN: From graduation, how did you get involved in Cincinnati politics?
  • CS: After Xavier, I went to law school. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I wasn't ready to work full-time and my interests were in issues of justice and things like that. I went to the University of Dayton School of Law and I moved up to Dayton for about nine months and hated living there so I moved back and commuted every day. During law school I had three jobs – I worked for the former Vice Mayor David Crowley, for a plaintiff-side law firm in town and for a federal magistrate judge. Going back just a little bit, in 2001, I met David Crowley, who was running for City Council at the time and I was immediately drawn to him. He was an older white guy with four kids, two gay, two straight, and he didn't care about any of that, and I just wanted to be a part of whatever he was doing. After law school, I managed his third campaign for Council. The following year I managed another campaign for a guy that was running for the court of appeals named Jim O'Reilly. After that, I decided I didn't want to manage campaigns for the rest of my life because every November you're out of a job, whether you win or lose, because the campaign is over. I took a couple of months to figure out what I wanted to do and eventually chose to join a marketing consulting firm where I've been for almost five years, and I'm now the vice president and chief financial officer. I made the decision to start running for office almost two years ago, so it's been a long haul, and we won.
  • XN: What encouraged you to make that step up into running for office?
  • CS: I was really inspired by David Crowley, but I was always interested in politics. I played Bill Clinton in my seventh grade mock debate, but I didn't know if I wanted to run for office, or that I would ever have the opportunity to run for office. So many things have to come together to really have a shot at running for office for the first time. You almost can't work, so you have to be at a position where you can either quit your job or your boss is incredibly helpful and lets you devote much of your time to campaigning. Being inspired by Crowley, and then running Council campaigns before, working in City Hall in the  Council office – knowing what the job takes and what it takes to get there – and having a boss that basically said I could do this, all of those things came together.
  • XN: Has being openly gay affected your campaign at all?
  • CS: I haven't had any issues so far really. The day of elections, someone at a poll said something to my dad about it – it was bad. They said, "Your son's a queer," but it was the first time in a year and a half that I've been campaigning that I've heard anything. I've been doing the "honk and wave," standing at intersections with volunteers saying "Honk for Seelbach" for months and I thought, of course, someone would yell something out a window, but it's never happened. I've been very pleasantly surprised and proud that it hasn't happened more than once. I don't want it to happen at all, but I think the fact that it has only happened once is a good indication that Cincinnati is a place that, regardless of who you love, will accept you.
  • XN: In the past few years, Xavier Alliance has been rather active on campus. They have established a faculty position and has been pretty widely accepted. Since it is a Catholic campus, how does that make you feel?
  • CS: I think it's great. So much of this movement is about age, so as every year someone gets older and younger people get older, our movement advances. It's advancing because more people are coming out and having conversations with family, so it feels great to know that this is something that is becoming bigger and bigger. The goal is that we have full equality and that it doesn't matter who you love, people will respect you for your hard work and your intellect and what you bring that's different. I think that we're on that path. I don't think that if you talked to people a decade or fifteen years ago that they would have ever thought that we would be this far on this path as we are  today. There's a lot of work still to do be done, but it feels good.

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