Andrew Helmboldt / by Michael Falco

Who is Andrew Helmbolt?

Andy Helmboldt was born in a small rural town outside of Grand Rapids and grew up in a middle-class white family. Both of his parents were teachers in a nearby town's high school, where his father was also the wrestling coach. Andy attended Central Michigan University where he earned a teaching degree. After graduation he found a job teaching in Battle Creek and eventually left education to go into business with a friend. He began volunteering with community organizations and in 2011 ran for at-large city commissioner. He won three terms before deciding to step down to pursue other endeavors. He has a wife who is a school administrator and they have two children together. He lives in a diverse, older neighborhood on Battle Creek's Northeast side.   

Excerpt from interview with Andrew Helmbolt by Whitney Dow, 2017

"Helmboldt: [13:43:45] So when I reflect on all these questions about race, and the things I think about, and how—what a role it plays in my community, and reflect, also, on my own personal life, and my family, and circle of friends, and the congregation at Church, and see that those spaces are almost completely white. There’s definitely some cognitive dissonance there, and I think you have to ask yourself, or I have to ask myself, why is that? Or maybe not why is that, but what does that mean? And, to some extent, it means I have been living in a familial, kinship, congregational circle that comes from whiteness. So why wouldn’t it still be white? And I also think that diversity is a thing. Thinking about, you know, righting the racial wrongs of America, or Christianity, or whichever setting we want to put that in, doesn’t mean eradicating all difference or differences.

But I think what it does mean is having to constantly think about what does a real honoring of diversity mean, and what does real inclusion mean? Do people have an opportunity to—a real opportunity—to be involved in whatever they want to be involved in? If a person of color came into my church, let’s say, and sat down for service, would they feel included? If I walked into a black church, would I feel included? I think that’s what it feels like we’re after, to me, as a better way of being."

Interview Transcript