Results from last week’s elections for mayor and City-County Council produced many changes that will surely have a prominent place in history.
However, one important development was overlooked: The city elected its first councilman of Hispanic heritage, who is part of a new generation of council members who hold the promise of new ideas and fresh solutions.
As the city prepares for major shifts in its government, community activist Jose Evans is quietly preparing for his role as councilman.
“I’m just blessed and thankful for the opportunity to serve,” he told the Recorder this week. “During my first year on the council I want to get more details about the problems the citizens of Indianapolis face, whether they involve transportation, public safety, housing or infrastructure and have input of alleviating them.”
Last Tuesday Evans was elected as the first Democrat to represent District 1, a once solidly Republican area in Pike Township. He succeeds Isaac Randolph, a Republican who chose not to seek re-election.
Evans waged a strong grassroots campaign that enabled him to beat the Democratic Party’s slated candidate in the May primary, and defeat Republican Bruce Henry, a police officer, during the general election. His victory was a bright spot for county Democrats recovering from the loss of the mayor’s office and several council seats.
Evans, a genial, confident man, can be described as a “go-getter” who takes his work very seriously, but is also able to relax and enjoy a good laugh.
Supporters say that what’s different about him is his progressive ideas and freedom from old-fashioned, “country-club” politics. Evans, for instance, encourages leaders to embrace the hip-hop culture as a way to reach youth and favors the concept of democratic schools, institutions where students play a greater role in shaping programs that educate them so that they will retain what they learn.
Evans currently works in the private sector at a pharmaceutical company, but at age 35 he has already developed a long record of public service.
Over the last decade the married father of two sons has served as director of Minority and Women Owned Businesses for the City of Indianapolis under Mayor Bart Peterson, was the director of the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males under Gov. Frank O’Bannon and is currently director of Black/Latino Policy Institute.
Evans, a native of Indianapolis and graduate of the University of Indianapolis, was raised by his mother in the city’s Haughville area. His mother is African-American and he was told that his father was a Black Puerto Rican. The councilman, who was born Jose M. Evans-Anes Jr., never actually knew his father, however, and has been unable to conclusively say he is Hispanic.
During his time in state government however, Evans pursued programs building bridges of understanding between Blacks and Latinos, and pledges to do the same on the council.
“For whatever the reason the two cultures have clashed, but we face many of the same challenges, including rising dropout rates, education and health disparities, high unemployment and a growing prison population,” he said. “We should unite and work together to address these problems.”
Like everyone in his party, Evans was shocked that Republicans gained control of the council, but he is pragmatic about chances of getting legislation passed in a council dominated by GOP leaders.
“Basically we (Democrats) want to see what the Republican majority is going to do and make sure that whatever they do is in the best interest of the citizens,” Evans said.
As far as public service is concerned, Evans counts as his role models officials such as Congresswoman Julia Carson, former state Sen. Billie Breaux, state Rep. Bill Crawford and former Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Robin Winston.
“Jose will be an outstanding councilman,” Winston said. “He is a very intelligent young man and I think he’ll be a breath of fresh air.”
John Loflin, an educator and volunteer with Evans’ campaign, believes the new councilman will help usher an end to politics as usual in city government.
“I think Jose is the future of the Democratic Party,” said Loflin. “I think he really wants to make a difference and get out of the politics of the past.”
Marshawn Wolley, treasurer of the Indiana Democratic African American Caucus, described Evans as “extremely hard working and a dedicated problem solver.”