Newly elected representatives sworn in to Louisville Metro Council
Changes are coming to the Louisville Metro Council this year, starting with the swearing in of seven newly elected representatives Tuesday afternoon.
The new council members collectively represent residents from the Algonquin neighborhood in the West End to Cedar Creek in south Louisville. District 25’s Khalil Batshon and Dan Seum, Jr. of District 13 managed to flip two Democrat-held seats in South Louisville last November, shifting the balance of power slightly toward Republicans.
With Batshon and Seum taking office, Republicans increased their share of seats from seven to nine. But they continue to be far outnumbered by Democrats on the 26-member legislative body.
At the swearing-in ceremony Tuesday, Mayor Craig Greenberg said he looked forward to working with everyone on the council, regardless of party affiliation.
“I truly believe that there is far more that unites us than divides us,” Greenberg said. “Everyone in this city wants us to be a safer city, a stronger city and a healthier city.
Besty Ruhe, a retired Jefferson County Public Schools teacher and member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission, managed to keep her south Louisville district blue. Ruhe defeated Republican Stephen Dattillo Jr. in the District 21 race with 60% of the vote. She’ll represent parts of the Iroquois, Beechmont and Edgewood neighborhoods.
In central Louisville, Democrat Andrew Owen is replacing District 9 Council Member Bill Hollander, who served in the powerful position of Budget Committee chair for five years before his retirement. Owen is the son of former Metro Council President Tom Owen and president of the real estate investment and management firm Preston Thomas Properties.
The other new Council Members sworn in Tuesday include Democrat Tammy Hawkins of District 1, Democrat Jennifer Chappell of District 15 and Republican Jeff Hudson of District 23.
Hawkins, who runs a child care center and food mart in the Parkland neighborhood, ran unopposed. Chappell, a Democrat, also had no Republican challenger in November. A marketing professional and the outgoing president of the Schnitzelburg Area Community Council, Chappell will represent a district that snakes from the Meriwether neighborhood to Iroquois Park.
Hudson will replace fellow Republican James Peden, who vacated his Metro Council seat to launch an unsuccessful campaign for the Kentucky Senate. The 58-year-old is a Navy veteran and worked for General Electric for more than 25 years as an engineer and program manager.
Metro Council members will soon have to fill at least two vacancies after Council President David James and District 3 Council Member Keisha Dorsey, both Democrats, announced they’d be leaving for a leadership role in Mayor Craig Greenberg’s new administration. People interested in filling their seats will have to apply and go through an interview process.
District 8 Council Member Cassie Chambers Armstrong, also a Democrat, is currently running in a special election to replace former state Sen. Morgan McGarvey of Louisville, who is now a U.S. Representative. If she wins that race, Chambers Armstrong would have to give up her Metro Council position.
New council leadership
With James leaving Metro Council, representatives voted unanimously Tuesday for District 17 Council Member Markus Winkler to succeed him.
Winkler, a Democrat, is a human resources manager for FedEx and East End district includes the independent city of Anchorage. Winkler is known among his colleagues as a centrist bridge-builder.
After James announced his intention to resign from the leadership role in December, Winkler said he would work to ensure Metro Council is seen as fair and respectable by residents, if elected.
“My primary objective is to represent all of our members fairly and effectively, and make sure we are leading the city,” he said at the time.
The president of Metro Council is responsible for divvying up committee assignments and committee leadership positions, running meetings and maintaining order.
Democrats and Republicans on council also voted on who will be the next leaders of their caucuses.
District 19 Council Member Anthony Piagentini was elected Republican Caucus chair by his colleagues. District 11 Council Member Kevin Kramer will be the caucus vice chair.
On the majority side, Winkler was replaced as caucus chair by a fellow East End Democrat, District 7’s Paula McCraney. District 14 Council Member Cindy Fowler, a resident of Valley Station, will serve as vice chair of the Democratic Caucus.