Khalil Batshon will be the first Palestinian-American on Metro Council
When entrepreneur Khalil Batshon is sworn in to Louisville Metro Council in January, he will be the first Republican to represent District 25 in more than a decade. He will also be the first ever Palestinian-American to sit on the city’s legislative body.
The owner of Khalil’s, a bar and grille on Dixie Highway, successfully defeated District 25 incumbent Amy Holton Stewart in the November election. The district includes parts of the Valley Station and Auburndale neighborhoods. Batshon was one of two Republicans to flip a South End council district. The other was Dan Seum Jr. in District 13.
In a recent interview, Batshon said his parents immigrated to the United States from the West Bank in the 1980s, moving first to New Jersey and finally settling down in Louisville. He said it’s their experiences that shaped his conservative values.
“Core values have been put into me from my parents, the hard work and the effort that they’ve done,” Batshon said. “And to just continue to be grateful to be living in this wonderful country, wonderful city, wonderful state that we live in.”
This was the small business owner’s first run for public office, and Batshon said he plans to bring his customer service mindset to his new constituents. On the campaign trail he promised to help improve morale within the Louisville Metro Police Department and fill officer vacancies. He’s also vowed to fight to bring new development and infrastructure investments to the South End.
WFPL’s Roberto Roldan spoke to Batshon ahead of new Metro Council members officially taking office on Jan. 3. Here are some highlights from that conversation, which have been edited for clarity.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and why you decided to run for Metro Council.
As a business owner, I see so many different people coming in and out of our doors in our restaurant. I try to do everything I can to touch tables and talk to people, and just hear what their concerns are. I feel like I'm a servant in my restaurant, because service is what we preach, it's our profession. And I feel like I can take that to the Metro Council and just be a servant to the people.
When we spoke shortly after the election, you told me the overarching thing that you were hearing was South End voters feel like Metro Council overlooks their issues and their needs. Why do you think that that is?
There's a lot of money moving through the city, especially when it comes to budget time and budget season. Other parts of Jefferson County get a lot of stuff, a lot of infrastructure growth and whatnot. And the people in the South End see that and they want some change. They're ready for some growth and some quality, positive infrastructure.
We had [a city-county merger in 2003] so we could get some of the benefits of city stuff and whatnot and that hasn’t happened, is what I'm hearing. I think we can do better with beautification [of roadways and commercial corridors]. I think we can do better with attracting quality businesses and attracting small business startups to open restaurants or retail shops or boutiques, things of that nature.
I think we need to do a better job of allowing businesses and communities and developers to do their job to paint the vision, because we can't continue to keep, ‘Oh, let's do this here. And let's do that here. And let's pop up a factory right in the middle of a neighborhood here.’ What is the master plan? I think we need to do a better job at looking at that, and [understanding] what we want to see Louisville be in the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road. What are my kids going to look at and see and what opportunities are they going to have in this great community that we live in?
So just given the dynamics of Metro Council, where Democrats will have just short of a supermajority come January, Republicans like yourself are obviously going to have to reach across the aisle and find compromise. What are some of the issues where you think there are some bipartisan solutions?
To be completely honest, I don't know all of those issues. But I have no problem reaching across the aisle and saying, ‘Hey, guys, we're here for one purpose: to take care of the constituent and the community and the city as a whole. So let's work together.’ So if we disagree on something, let's educate each other on why we disagree on that, and try to come to a good common goal. So we can make sure that the constituent is happy. At the end of the day, it's not about me or them or their feelings, I think we need to do a better job as a body to make sure that our community comes together as one and the divide needs to stop.
What are your day one priorities that you think maybe you can get accomplished even with the Democratic majority?
Day one is to learn and understand the real reason why we have such a culture issue in our police department and why we are losing so many officers. Day one also is to understand why money has not really flowed to the South End like it should have and why we are the one that is constantly neglected or the last one to think about.
I appreciate you taking the time just to give folks an understanding of who you are and what your top priorities are going to be.
I'm excited. I'm excited to have this opportunity. You know, my family's immigrants from overseas and to have this opportunity and be a part of this American Dream is just one of a kind. So, I want to definitely not take it for granted and just enjoy every minute of it.