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Indy’s first Gen Z councilor settles in

Gen Z joins Indianapolis City-County Council

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis City-County Council’s youngest member on Tuesday said the council needs to represent the people it serves, including young people.

At 23 years old, Nick Roberts is the second-youngest person ever to serve on the council, according to city officials. He was elected in November to represent District 4, which hugs the northeastern border of Lawrence Township. He succeeded fellow Democrat Ethan Evans, who chose not to seek another term.

Roberts said he’s humbled by voters’ decision to put their trust in him despite his young age. He said he’s not certain voters would have been willing to take a chance on him had he not had a chance to meet them face to face.

“It’s really just humbling beyond belief to see the hard work coming to fruition, and then obviously the work begins now,” he said. “It’s also kind of a transition period of saying, hey, we’ve been celebrating for the last month and a half but now’s the actual time to get to work.”

Roberts is the latest in a small but growing number of members of Generation Z, defined by the Pew Research Center as those born between 1997 and roughly 2012, entering public office. In 2022, Florida Democrat Maxwell Frost became the first member of that cohort to be elected to Congress. A 2020 demographic study by the National Conference of State Legislatures found members of Gen Z had been elected to the state legislatures of Alaska and Montana, the only states at the time to report that age group among their membership.

Roberts said it’s important for legislative bodies to include the perspective of young people. As an example, he said, he’s never bought a house, so he brings a prospective homebuyer’s point of view to housing issues.

Roberts ran in part on public safety, particularly for the Castleton Square Mall, where police arrested two teens last week who had handguns equipped with machine gun conversion devices. Roberts said Castleton won’t shed its negative reputation until the city addresses basic quality-of-life issues in that area, such as upkeep of streets and sidewalks, and works more closely with mall management on security. He said the city has already begun work on both fronts and he looks forward to continuing those projects. He said he’s particularly interested in potential positive impacts from the Nickel Plate Trail, which is expected to extend down to the State Fairgrounds.

Roberts said he has spent the two months since Election Day meeting with city officials and constituents to get up to speed on city issues. He’s also working with people who have represented his part of the city on the council in the past.

“Ultimately, governing is about relationships. You’ve got to really have relationships with people if you want to be effective,” he said. “I’ve really tried from Day One to build that rapport.”