MANSFIELD -- Aurelio Diaz has spent his life adjusting to and embracing change. The abilities to interact with others and adapt toc change are keys to his plans as he campaigns to be the next Mansfield City Council president.
The 43-year-old Diaz, 32 N. Walnut St. spoke Wednesday during the Richland County Democratic Party's weekly luncheon.
A political Democratic newcomer, Diaz is opposed on the Nov. 5 ballot by current City Council At-Large representative Cliff Mears, a Republican.
Diaz said he was living in San Antonio, Texas, as a child when his father was deported. His mother moved he and his siblings to Mansfield and he spent time shifting from one neighborhood to another.
Diaz said he graduated from Mansfield Senior High School in 1995 and then moved to Columbus.
"I wanted to be a rock star," he said with a laugh. "It was important to me that I have a life of creativity through music and poetry and art, which had helped me overcome some personal things growing up."
He landed a job at the Huckleberry House, helping to provide respite for at-risk young people. He also worked assisting homeless adults.
When the time came, Diaz returned to Mansfield and moved into an upstairs apartment on the downtown square.
"I met a lot of people in the creative community -- artists, musicians and poets -- who are doing great things and influencing the culture of the downtown," he said.
Diaz took a job with Newhope, starting with direct aid to clients and working into supervisory roles. After a dozen years, he left and accepted contract work with school to teach dance to children with disabilities.
He also helped to found the Element of Art studio downtown and worked for Downtown Mansfield Inc. as a community development coordinator, continuing to teach dance for the disabled community and also participated as a speaker during a TedxMansfield gathering.
Diaz said he is now working as a legal assistant in a local law firm. "The law is a whole different reality that will be helpful in my future, I hope," he said.
He was also one of the individuals chosen to attend the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, where the Mansfield Rising Plan economic development was born.
"Some people don't understand. Mansfield Rising doesn't just focus on the downtown. It's eventually going to expand and help everyone in all walks of life," he said.
Diaz said he is not a politician and that he is social-service oriented. Toward that end, he said he would like to highlight different communities in Mansfield.
"These are groups that not normally (highlighted) ... normally, they make you uncomfortable ... people of different races, ethnicities, LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, people of different ages, people who sleep on the gazebo .... these are people we need to know and embrace," Diaz said.
"I do march to the beat of my own drum, because I always walk the less traveled path. That's hard, because you're putting yourself out there. But it's not in vanity. It's not in ego. It's so other people can connect and relate to you and to let them know they are acknowledged and to let them know you are learning their processes," Diaz said.
He said he would like to make City Council meetings more accessible to the public and perhaps develop a YouTube channel that allow others to watch who cannot attend.
Diaz admits he may not yet know all of the rules of how to preside over City Council meeting.
"But the passion is there," he said. "I am looking forward to working with everyone."