Columbus, Ohio USA
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Civic Association steps into the future
New administrator is ready to roll
By Margaret Marten
May/June 2012 Issue

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Chet Ridenour, hired by the Short North Civic Association, fills the shoes of Jim Mengel who stepped down as the organization's administrator earlier this year. Photo © Darren Carlson

A local civic organization wants to raise its profile, increase membership and support, and broaden activities and services. It sounds ambitious, maybe even daunting, but a promising new hire, equally ambitious, may be all it takes to get the ball rolling.

Chet Ridenour has been appointed administrator for the Short North Civic Association, replacing Jim Mengel who assumed the administrative role in 2006 when the group operated as the Victorian Village Society, later transitioning into a non-profit with a new name in July 2009. At that time, the VVS decided the Short North Civic Association title would more accurately reflect their commitment to the entire Short North neighborhood.

Jeff Smith, president of the SNCA, said recent plans to boost efforts to increase membership and broaden services and activities made the administrator’s role too demanding and time-consuming for Mengel who is semi-retired. Meanwhile, Chet Ridenour contacted Smith expressing an interest in learning more about the association and possibly volunteering. After their meeting, Smith was so impressed with Ridenour that he followed up with a job offer.

“He seemed to be a very strong advocate for the neighborhood,” Smith said. “We were at a point where we wanted to take the association up to the next level and could use someone with his enthusiasm and ideas.”

Not only is Ridenour full of ideas, he is full of energy. Employed as a camp instructor for Prefit four days a week (a business that specializes in local fitness boot camps), he’s up at the crack of dawn to meet with groups outdoors – instructing, encouraging, and challenging others in total-body workouts.

Growth, and development are a personal priority as well. This year he felt inspired to map out a set of new life goals.

“I decided 2012 was going to be my year,” he said. “Thirteen has been my sports number for years. Some people do a top 10 list, and other people maybe do a top 12, one per month, but I was going to do 13. It would be 13 goals to guide me in 2012 and lead me into 2013.”

One of those goals was (appropriately) civic-minded – to become more active within the community. “My seventh goal was to actively engage, participate in and better my local community, and that’s what has driven me to get involved with the Civic Association and be more active volunteering with other groups like Friends of Goodale Park.”

Ridenour is clearly focused on public service. The 30-year-old Short North resident, raised in Worthington, recently became involved in working with the GLBT community in their struggle for equality, even going so far as to found an organization with fellow straight allies Blake Compton and Jake Kaufman to establish a ground of support. In fact, it was at an equality event that he first met Smith.

“When I found out Jeff was with the Short North Civic Association, I reached out and we had tea one morning at Caffé Apropos, and I just picked his brain about what the association did, shared with him my love for the neighborhood and some of my ideas.”

The Short North Civic Association strives to build a strong community through representation, education, advocacy, and events. The Tour of Homes and Gardens, organized annually for almost 40 years now, is the most popular event, and the organization’s main fundraiser. Other projects they support include the Screen on the Green movie series, Goodale Park Music Series, and the Short North Yard Sale. They direct neighborhood signage and participate in traffic management efforts as well. What some people may not be aware of is the association’s role as an advocate for addressing neighborhood problems – coordinating and bringing together interested parties to meet and talk.

Mengel recalled a noise crisis that surfaced during his tenure with the association. The problem was resolved once they began to work closely with the owner of a nightclub – the source of complaints.

“There was a time when Park Street Patio opened up and there was a noise issue,” said Mengel. “We had a committee that did some measurements, we got the city involved, and the owner of the nightclub, Chris Corso, was very cooperative. Whenever there was a complaint, they jumped right on it to see how they could resolve it. I thought it was a very efficient process.”

Mengel, who lives in New Albany and worked as assistant news director at WBNS-10TV and development director for St. Joseph Montessori School before joining up as part-time administrator for the Civic Association, said even though he is no longer employed with the organization, he will remain in the neighborhood working at the Huntington Park ticket office for the Columbus Clippers.

“Obviously it’s not a real demanding job,” he said. “I get to meet a lot of people when they come to pick up the tickets, and I get to be in the Arena District, the Short North, and still see a lot of my friends.” He added that he has no immediate plans for retirement other than to play golf, visit his children in Tennessee, as well as friends in other areas including his hometown of Toledo.

“I think the most exciting thing about it [the job] was being part of the boom in the Short North, just watching the Short North really take off in the last decade, especially in the last five years, and there are so many people who are interesting in Victorian Village. They come from all walks of life. It’s just an exciting place to be.”


Join the Short North Civic Association

VOLUNTEER - Hundreds of volunteers are needed for the Tour of Homes and Gardens and other events

ATTEND MEETINGS - Meet the new administrator, Chet Ridenour, listen in on important news, developments, discussion, complaints, share your ideas and concerns. Bring your friends, help make this the most vibrant, most talked about civic association in Central Ohio. Meetings are open to non-members. Held monthly on the third Thursday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Goodale Park shelter house.

The SNCA welcomes all area homeowners, renters, business owners, and employees to become members. Annual SNCA memberships cost $25 for individuals, $50 per household, and $75 for businesses. They can be purchased by visiting

© 2012 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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