Julia King will step away from the Goshen City Council at the close of the year, grateful for the experience in local government and hopeful for the future of Goshen. 

“Youth involvement in the City Council, that gives me hope,” she said, “and also that serious and competent people continue to step up to work in government and to run for office.”  

King served for two terms as a council member at large, which meant that she also was one of several direct representatives for Goshen College. Most of the campus lies within the 5th District. The incumbent council member for the district, Gilberto Perez Jr., the vice president for Student Life and Hispanic Serving Initiatives at the college, also declined to seek reelection. 

On Nov. 7, voters elected Phil Lederach, a Democrat who is a longtime educator and a Goshen College graduate,  as the representative in the 5th District. Meanwhile, the other incumbent council member at large, Brett Weddell, a Republican, was reelected. King’s seat will go to Linda Gerber, a Democrat and Goshen College graduate. 

 King decided to run for City Council back in 2015, a decision that she attributes to her previous work with Lacasa, a nonprofit housing agency. Her time there revealed “things in the city that could be improved,” especially in regards to housing quality in town, and she wanted to be a part of making a difference. 

At the start of her time on the City Council, she focused specifically on the neighborhood preservation ordinance, and how it could be expanded and enforced. 

The ordinance’s purpose is to provide a good housing and living experience for everyone who resides in Goshen by ensuring that homes are clean and safe. She also became an advocate for neighborhood associations, which contribute to residential well-being. She hopes that others on council will be similar champions. 

“I hope that there will be a focus on why so many houses remain substandard, despite our neighborhood preservation ordinance,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like something that is done.”  

While she is not originally from Goshen, King moved to the area after meeting her husband, Stuart Meade. Their daughter attended Goshen middle and high school, and is currently raising her own family in Goshen. King herself grew up in Detroit and Washington, D.C.

In these cities, King said, she was surrounded by variety in wealth, race, ethnicity and more. “I come from a lot of diversity, so the changes we’ve seen in Goshen have been very welcome to me,” she said. 

The school system provides one illustration of change since King moved to Goshen. About 55% of the student body at Goshen Community Schools is now Hispanic, compared with less than 5% in 2000.

Not only has she become acclimated to living in a smaller town setting, albeit one that is diversifying, but she has also gained an appreciation for exactly how much work goes into keeping a city afloat. King described one of her biggest takeaways from service on the council as realizing just how many passionate people it takes to keep a place like Goshen running. 

“It’s a big machine, and it takes a lot of people and there is a lot of talent and skill and hard work that goes into just turning on your water or driving down your street,” she said. 

This new understanding of government didn’t just stop at the local level. In fact, King said that, while remaining dedicated to improving the city, she had to learn what could not be done. 

Being a local politician for her has meant understanding “the limits of city government, including how the state restricts what cities can do.” Most people, when they complain to their local government, she said, don’t realize the city has no control over whether or not the state is cutting down the trees in their yard that overhang the road. 

This sense of limited purview is true within the city government as well. The mayor’s office and the City Council are two distinct bodies, and before joining the legislative body King said she did not know exactly which issues or responsibilities sometimes belonged to which branch. 

The more she learned, the more King said she pushed for greater transparency between the citizens of Goshen and the council itself. Having a background in journalism, King said she is aware of how essential it is that every person has access to information regarding their own government. 

She considers one of her greatest achievements on the council to be her vote that helped to establish the Environmental Resilience Department. She cited particular gratitude for the voices of high school students who advocated for the Climate Change Resolution that created the department back in 2019.  

Through it all, King described herself as grateful to the process and for the opportunity. The greatest asset that she believes she took from her time in the council is “an underlying gratitude that people put their trust in me.”

She is still not quite sure what comes next. When asked about her future, King’s first reaction was to laugh. She went on to explain that she is not certain exactly to which causes she will devote herself, but in the absence of term limits on the City Council, she felt it necessary to remove herself before serving more time that she should. 

 “If we imagine that only we can do something, I think that’s ego,” she said. “We are a city of 35,000 people. I know that there are lots of intelligent, committed people out there and the math just doesn’t work if I stay there too long.”

As she steps away, King hopes that “our council is reflective of Goshen’s population,” and that as the city becomes more diverse, the council will do so as well.