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Metro Council President David James will not seek reelection to leadership role

David-James
J. Tyler Franklin/WFPL News
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Metro Council President David James was first elected to represent District 6 in 2010.

Louisville Metro Council Member David James, who’s served as president of the body for five years and has close ties to incoming mayor Craig Greenberg, announced Thursday he plans to give up the leadership role.

James is a Democrat representing District 6, which includes Old Louisville and parts of the Park Hill and Algonquin neighborhoods. He was first elected to Metro Council in 2010. Since then, he’s sponsored local legislation to regulate short-term rentals, ban hiring discrimination against people with arrest records and strengthen the city’s public nuisance ordinance. He took over the council president role from David Yates, now a state Senator, in 2018.

At a Democratic Caucus meeting Thursday, James said it is time for someone else to lead the 26-member body.

“Part of leadership, to me, is that at some point you have to make the organization grow and people grow and help with that,” he said. “So, I will not be running for president next year. I want somebody else to run for president next year to help our organization grow and cause change.”

James thanked his Democratic colleagues for supporting him over the last five years.

Immediately following his announcement, District 14 Council Member Cindi Fowler raised her hand to nominate District 17 Council Member Markus Winkler to take over as president. James seconded the nomination.

Winkler, a Democrat whose district includes the City of Anchorage in far east Louisville, said Friday morning that no formal decision has been made yet on James’ replacement.

Per the Democratic Caucus rules, members will take an unofficial vote on December 15 to decide who to nominate for president. The full Metro Council won’t take a final vote on the issue until a meeting on Jan. 3, where any member can nominate themselves or someone else.

While Winkler said he is interested in making a bid for the position, he said the nomination Thursday felt like “putting the cart before the horse.” If he were to be nominated by his fellow Democrats, Winkler said his goal would be to ensure Metro Council is seen as fair and respectable by residents.

“My primary objective is to represent all of our members fairly and effectively, and make sure we are leading the city,” he said.

Winkler said he would “absolutely” want to lead Metro Council in a similar manner to James, who he said has done a great job of leading the city through difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Anyone in a leadership position has to recognize that they’re speaking for the whole of the group and that comes with added responsibility,” he said. “I think David has done a good job of being fair and balanced, stating when positions are his and understanding that when he speaks, he does speak for Council.”

During his tenure, James received the support not only of his Democratic colleagues, but of the Republican minority as well. Republicans have voted unanimously in favor of his reelection as president in recent years.

District 19 Council Member Anthony Piagentini, who heads the Republican Caucus, said that James is widely seen as someone who could be trusted to always be fair and work in a collaborative way.

“He has been a terrific leader of Metro Council, from my point of view,” Piagentini said. “I really appreciate his work and leadership, and I consider him not only a colleague but a really good friend.”

Piagentini said the Republican Caucus, which will increase from seven to nine members in January after flipping some South End districts, wants the next council president to follow in James’ footsteps.

“The most important thing as the Minority Caucus chair is that I want fairness and proper procedure to be followed when we are debating, when we are voting on things, when decisions are being made related to committees,” he said.

It’s unclear whether James’ announcement means he will continue serving as a Metro Council member or if he’ll leave office entirely. He told a reporter for The Courier Journal Thursday night that his decision was not motivated by a desire to be part of Mayor-elect Greenberg’s administration.

James served as an advisor to Greenberg during his run for mayor, after dropping his own bid for the city’s top office. He is currently serving as co-chair of the City Budget and Operations Committee on Greenberg’s transition team.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.