Meet Corey Ochai: First Black man to be elected to Sharpsburg Council

SHARPSBURG, Pa. — He set down roots and never looked back. Now, one of our region’s newest leaders is making history as the first Black man elected to Sharpsburg Council.

Channel 11′s Talia Kirkland spoke with the man on a mission to make his community better than he found it.

When Corey Ochai beat out his opponent, he said it wasn’t just a win for him, but a win for diversity.

“This definitely felt like home,” Ochai said.

Ochai, who is originally from Braddock, moved to Sharpsburg 13 years ago.

He moved around to different places, such as Kansas City, South Carolina and New Jersey, before he, his wife and young daughter relocated to Sharpsburg.

“When I got here I was nervous because I didn’t see anybody that really looked like myself, maybe one or two people,” Ochai said.

After a few strolls through town, he said Sharpsburg began to feel like home.

“This is one of the first places that I moved to where even in the morning you would down the streets and people would say good morning to you,” Ochai said.

Thirteen years later, his family welcomed a second child and they’re no longer the only Black family on the block.

His art studio on North Canal Street is thriving and he’s watched the borough flourish.

“We have breweries, we have cafes, we have activities for the children,” Ochai said. “We have galleries for the artwork here, the art community is strong.”

In 2021, the borough elected Kayla Portis to council, the first Black woman to ever serve.

“I never thought in a million years that I would even be in politics, I was just tired of certain things and I wanted to be a part of the change,” Portis said.

“Seeing her be the first African American elected in a predominately white town and be welcomed,” Ochai explained. “I didn’t even know that could happen.”

In 2023, it happened again when Ochai was elected to council.

“It means a lot to little Black boys that grew up in the projects that only see two options I want to tell you you’re wrong there are so much more,” he said.

We asked Ochai why he wanted to be a councilmember. He said there’s something special about the town and he wanted to be a part of its story.

“I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, I’m a representation of my community,” he said.

Ochai will serve for two years on the council with the possibility of reelection.

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