MARION, Ind. (WANE) — With 64.29% of the vote, Ronald Morrell Jr. defeated two-term incumbent Democrat Jess Alumbaugh Tuesday night.
It became a very significant moment in the Hoosier state’s history.
Not only did Morrell become the first Black mayor of Marion, but he became Indiana’s first-ever Black, Republican mayor in any city.
It’s a landmark Morrell told WANE 15 he first became aware of when he went through a diversity series put on by the state’s Republican party.
“Once it finally came true yesterday, I think it was kind of a surreal moment because it was dually special. So, obviously I was the first Black, Republican mayor in the whole state of Indiana, but being the first Black mayor of Marion, Indiana is just an incredible feeling to show that from a statewide level our party is moving forward with diversity, but at the local level our city is ready to turn over a new leaf in our history, in our experience in Marion,” Morrell said.
That diversity series was something he called life-changing and pivotal to his campaign. He would recommend it to anyone.
The full significance of the moment hasn’t fully resonated with Morrell yet, he said. He’s been quite busy trying to handle calls, texts, emails, and media requests since his election win.
But as he spoke with WANE 15’s Rex Smith on Wednesday, talking about his family’s history helped that realization.
He talked about a famous settlement outside of Marion called the Weaver Settlement. He said it’s where African Americans used to live, his ancestors included, when they weren’t allowed to live within Marion.
“As a descendent of that family, it’s almost surreal that now, these hundreds of years or so later, one of their descendants is the mayor of the city they used to not be allowed to live in,” Morrell explained. “As I’m saying it out loud to you now, more of the historical significance is kind of resonating with me.”
Putting the history books aside and focusing on the future, Morrell said he’s ready to hit the ground running when his term begins in January.
He thanked the previous administration, citing how difficult public service is, but said his win showed that Marion residents are ready for change.
Morrell plans to take the city in a new direction. He’s telling people Marion is “open for business.”
“I tell everyone I speak to that Marion is open for business and we’re ready for investment. We’re ready to see a new vision,” he said. “As the mayor, I’m looking forward to re-defining our city so we can have a new identity locally, statewide, and nationally.”
Morrell told WANE 15 there are small, simple things he wants to clean up around town such as replacing missing street signs. He also believes economic development and investments in infrastructure have been lacking.
He noted that Marion was once an industrial city that never re-defined itself once those businesses left.
Prior to his run for mayor, Morrell was already changing Marion. He launched Morrell’s Scooters to provide electric scooters people could use to get around the city. According to his website, he wanted to bring a big city feel to small towns.
Morrell’s Scooters is now in Marion, Gas City, Wabash, and Warsaw.