Meet State Rep. Jodi Whitted, the newest member of the Ohio House of Representatives • Ohio Capital Journal

Earlier this month, the Ohio House of Representatives voted to appoint Democrat Jodi Whitted to a vacant seat in Hamilton County. The social worker and teacher from Madeira will carry out her duties until the end of this year. But due to a redistricting coincidence, during next year’s term she will live in a different district, already represented by a Democrat.

Whitted’s appointment is the latest step after a tragic change of seats and positions. Former Democratic state Rep. Brigid Kelly ran for Hamilton County Auditor and won in 2022, but about a year into her term, she revealed a cancer diagnosis. In March, she resigned to receive hospice care and died a few days later. Kelly was only 40 years old.

In a letter to the county commission, Kelly recommended Rep. Jessica Miranda, D-Forest Park, as her replacement, and in May the commission appointed her to the position. But that left Miranda’s seat vacant and Democrats sought another replacement for her.

“There was a tweet,” Whitted recalled, “that said they were accepting applications for the position.”

From there it was like any other job offer. She sent out a cover letter and resume, did some interviews, and crossed her fingers. The difference, of course, is that she was waiting to hear back from a panel of Democratic state legislators rather than a future boss.

Despite her group’s seal of approval, Whitted isn’t exactly feeling comfortable. Her job, she explained, is eight months and only eight months. She currently lives in state House District 28, but the November elections will use a new map. Starting in January, Whitted’s home will be part of the district currently represented by Rep. Rachel Baker, D-Cincinnati.

State Rep. Jodi Whitted, D-Madeira, in her office. (Photo by Nick Evans, Ohio Capital Journal)

To that end, Whitted’s 10th-floor office is sparse. When we met earlier this month, she was still unpacking: a table runner, “to add a little color,” she explained as she unwrapped it, and a drugstore folder with new prints ready for framing.

“I’ll probably put some pictures in there,” he said, pointing to the empty bookshelf that looked forlorn next to his desk. She explained that his assistant asked if he wanted other furniture, but Whitted turned her away.

“It’s just such a short period of time,” he explained, “I don’t want to work anymore.”

Whitted’s Background

Whitted has a doctorate in social work and is an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, directing the school’s Bachelor of Social Work program.

“So, as we can obviously see, the intelligence level of this particular agency is going to go a lot higher in the water over the next eight months with the addition of Jodi here,” Rep. Daniel Troy joked during his appearance on the House floor . .

Whitted and her husband Caleb have two daughters, Mary Claire and Lindy, and live in Madeira, a northeast suburb of Cincinnati. Whitted previously ran unsuccessfully for city council and took a leave of absence to serve in the House.

Whitted has worn many hats in the field of social work before landing in academia. She has worked with children and families in the court system, as a therapist, in schools, hospitals, and even with an insurance company. As she describes it, social work offers a perspective on how she views politics.

“For me, I think the part of social work that is so often left out is the broader part related to macro policy,” he explained. “At its core, social work is a career focused on advocacy for underserved and vulnerable people.”

Whitted described working at a Tennessee hospital around the time the Affordable Care Act was passed.

“States are making decisions whether they were going to expand Medicaid or not, and Tennessee was the state that decided not to expand,” he explained.

“And there were many times where someone was, you know, right at that threshold of being able to receive services or not being able to receive services,” he said. “And that’s really difficult. “That’s really hard to see when it comes to life and death.”

COLUMBUS, OH – MAY 8: Rep. Jodi Whitted, D-Madeira, takes the oath of office to represent Ohio House District 28 to replace former state Rep. Jessica E. Miranda during the House session of Ohio, on May 8, 2024, in the House of Representatives in Columbus. , Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo with original article only.)

Legislative plans and political future?

In his introductory remarks, Whitted emphasized the challenge of carrying forward his predecessor’s legacy and almost seemed to apologize for assuming power without first going to the polls.

“To my constituents,” he said, “although you did not elect me, I promise to represent you with honesty and integrity during this short time and I thank you for your faith in me.”

In terms of former Rep. Miranda’s legacy, Whitted explained that he hopes to adopt some of the legislation Miranda sponsored.

“Something that’s really important to me is the Marriage Equality Act,” Whitted described. “I think it’s just a great first step in terms of equality for Ohioans and something that I’m personally interested in.”

In terms of his district’s needs overall, he points to housing policy to ensure newcomers have more affordable options and that older residents can age in place.

“Younger families are moving to amazing schools,” he explained. “But then what does that mean for our older residents who have also invested in this community, sometimes their entire lives?”

“You know, I want to create places where everyone can thrive and live,” he said.

As a late-joining freshman legislator, Whitted recognizes there’s a limit to what she can accomplish. But she highlighted the positives: Without a re-election campaign to worry about, for example, she can keep her attention on politics.

And while he won’t represent his district in 2025, he’s not completely closing the door on future public office. “I wouldn’t say I’m not interested in politics in the future,” Whitted said, noting that her academic work focuses on the intersection of social work and the political process.

“So I think, ultimately, for me,” he said, “this is a great opportunity to show future social workers that if they say yes and get involved, who knows where it can take them, and that social workers “They belong in positions like this.”

“But as far as a solid plan for me,” she said, “I’m not sure exactly.”

Follow the OCJ reporter Nick Evans on Twitter.