COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Mayor Andrew Ginther has appointed a new director to oversee diversity, equity and inclusion programs and initiatives in Columbus. 

Jason Jenkins was named the city’s Chief Diversity Officer and Executive Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion late last month. Jenkins has been serving in the interim since November and is the fourth chief diversity officer in seven years after former director Damita Brown resigned in October.

Jenkins grew up in Linden and is a graduate of Otterbein University. (Courtesy Photo/Office of Diversity and Inclusion)

“Jason possesses a collaborative spirit and an unmatched ability to get things done,” Ginther said. “His depth of experience in community engagement will serve the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and this city, well.”

Raised in Linden, Jenkins is a graduate of Otterbein University and has previous experience at Ohio State University and Big Brother Big Sisters of Central Ohio. In 2017, he joined Ginther’s office as the Director of Community Affairs where he spent nearly six years and was named one of Business First’s 40 under 40

“As a kid growing up in Linden, I couldn’t imagine this future,” Jenkins said. “I am committed to the residents of Columbus and dedicated to helping create a city that is diverse and inclusive.”

Jenkins told NBC4 he is committed to continuing the programs nurtured by Brown. The office’s key initiative is a certification program for businesses owned by minorities, women, and veterans in addition to programs for emerging business enterprises. Last July, the office launched its newest certification for LGBTQ-owned businesses

Through this program, the office elevates small businesses by providing increased participation in city procurement and contract opportunities to access training, networking, and outreach. Columbus also adds certified businesses to the city’s online vendor directory to allow them to market themselves to internal buyers, public partners in other municipalities, the private sector, and residents. 

Supporting local business is personal for Jenkins, who said he grew up working for his uncle’s business. Today, Jenkins remains inspired by his uncle’s commitment to the community and said he hopes he can create growth opportunities for minority entrepreneurs to have an impact on their neighborhoods.

“My life experience has allowed me the opportunity to look at this office, look at the needs and how we can serve our residents,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think our small businesses really see the impact that they have.”

Learn more about the city’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion here.