To go beyond highlighting a problem and actually implement a solution, people are sometimes encouraged to “not just talk about it, but to be about it.”
Those who know Leroy Robinson agree that he has been devoted to living up to that classic statement.
Everyday, he impacts the lives of families in the community as an administrator in the Pike Township Schools system, and is now ready to serve on a larger scale as a member of the Indianapolis City-County Council.
“When you’re in education you have to work with not only the students, but the parents, your fellow teachers, the administrators and concerned community members,” Robinson said. “That kind of experience can also help you on the council, where you have to build relationships and work together to find solutions.”
Robinson is one of four Democratic candidates for at-large seats on the City-County Council.
Robinson is working hard for victory on Election Day not just for himself, but for the entire Marion County Democratic slate of candidates that includes mayoral nominee Melina Kennedy and 28 other candidates for City-County Council seats.
Robinson would like to join them in addressing challenges that involve economic development, crime and education.
“When you look at a city’s success or failure, those are the three main issues that voters are talking about,” Robinson said. “Our Democratic team has a plan to rectify those three situations.”
Using teamwork to solve problems is a concept that Robinson has embraced and utilized for a long time.
“I have watched Leroy grow since childhood into a very well rounded young man with a passion for his community, education, and public service,” said Lacy Johnson, a prominent attorney with the Ice Miller law firm.”Throughout his personal and professional experiences, he has always thrived on working with other people and building successful relationships.”
Robinson’s engagement with public service started not in politics, but in the classroom and community.
After earning his degrees in criminal justice and education, Robinson served as a bailiff in the Marion County court system. A short time later, he began a 16-year teaching career, instructing middle school and high school students in the Lawrence and Pike township school districts. Today, he is dean of students at Lincoln Middle School.
Robinson said one of his greatest accomplishments has been to get more youth engaged in the political process, first as an American government teacher, and now as a candidate for a citywide public office.
“Those students are all voters now,” Robinson said. “Almost every day I see one of them who says, ‘Hey, it’s Mr. Robinson. You were my teacher. I’m voting for you.’ When you see someone out there you know or have met personally, you are more inclined to vote. It’s very motivating to think of all those students who might now be engaged in the political process, either through the teaching or through this candidacy.”
Robinson’s focus on developing new ways to provide a quality education led him to serve a term on the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of Commissioners, which introduced him to many of the city’s educational, budgetary and social challenges.
Last year Robinson gained attention after being among the first educators to speak out against the proposed E Pluribus Unum (Out of One Many) statue proposed to represent African-Americans on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. The statue depicts a freed slave holding a flag. Supporters say the sculpture simply represents overcoming oppression, while others, including Robinson, believe that a more upstanding image can be used to represent the African-American community.
“We support the arts wholeheartedly, but that particular statues needs to be in a private collection and not on display in public space,” Robinson said.
In recent years, he also began meeting with local elected officials to discuss community issues, and became involved in the Democratic Party, lending his support to various candidates and meeting the party faithful at various functions throughout Indianapolis.
“I was well known in grassroots community circles, but not the political ones,” Robinson said. “I had to get familiar with the process and realize that the Democratic Party is a team of people who work together to make things happen for the city, and I’m glad to now be part of that team.”
Robinson said he was encouraged to run for city council by state Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis, who is often recognized as the state’s most prominent elected African-American official.
“We had a conversation about the future of the city, and he told me that if I was going to run, that now would be the time to do it,” Robinson said. “He encouraged me to take the initial step in launching a campaign.”
Crawford said he is supporting Robinson because of his longtime community focus, which has included his work with youth, his television program and his “Education Does Matter” newspaper column.
“Leroy has been active in the community, and he doesn’t come to it as a stranger,” Crawford said. “He is just a good person who understands that everything flows from the neighborhoods on up, and not from the top down.”
Indianapolis resident Dona Stokes-Lucas agrees that Robinson would be a good fit for the council.
“Leroy is a hard worker, and he has integrity,” said Stokes, a cultural historian and former owner of the popular X-Pressions Bookstore. “I really believe he is truly concerned about his community and the people in it. He has always been like that.”
In addition to Johnson, Crawford and Stokes-Lucas, Robinson said he has also been inspired by Pastor Jeffrey A. Johnson of Eastern Star Church and Pike Township Schools Superintendent Nathaniel Jones.
When it comes to local campaigns, many voters pay attention to the race for mayor, but often overlook the campaigns for City-County Council. That, Robinson said, is a mistake.
“Someone once said that all politics is local,” said Robinson, a father of two. “You might not be able to reach the president or your member of Congress, but the council member is the person who lives in your neighborhood. That person can affect your daily life more than anyone else. The council makes decisions on everyday things like street lights, stop signs and trash pick up. They are the people you are most like to see at the community centers, neighborhood meetings and parks, so it’s good to get to know them.”