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Activist, former Louisville mayoral candidate to run for vacant Metro Council seat

Shameka Parrish-Wright, manager of the Louisville Bail Project and candidate for Louisville's mayor, speaks to supporters of Breonna's Law outside the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort.
J. Tyler Franklin
Shameka Parrish-Wright speaks to supporters of Breonna's Law outside the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort in 2021.

Prominent Louisville activist Shameka Parrish-Wright announced Sunday that she plans to put herself in the running to replace District 3’s Keisha Dorsey on Metro Council.

Dorsey, along with District 6 Council Member David James, officially resigned from the Council last week after taking jobs in Mayor Craig Greenberg’s new administration. The remaining council members are tasked with selecting temporary replacements for those districts until a special election is held in November.

Parrish-Wright ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for mayor last year, finishing in second place behind Greenberg. She’s the state director for VOCAL-KY, an organization focused on ending homelessness, HIV/AIDS, the “War on Drugs” and mass incarceration.

In an interview Monday, Parrish-Wright said she wants to be a champion for progressive causes on Metro Council while also ensuring the city is doing the basics right.

“It matters that they’re trash is picked up,” she said. “It matters that they have street lights. It matters that they see where funding for their communities are going, and it matters that there’s anti-gun violence initiatives that actually work.”

Parrish-Wright said her past advocacy work around bail reform, affordable housing and making Louisville a “sanctuary city” has given her an understanding of how city government and policymaking functions in Louisville. In 2020, she became more widely known for her organizing work during the 2020 racial justice protests.

Metro Council’s District 3 on the west edge of the city includes the independent, majority-Black city of Shively, as well as parts of the Cloverleaf and Pleasure Ridge Park neighborhoods.

While speaking to residents of the district during her run for mayor, Parrish-Wright frequently heard from people who felt Louisville Metro Government ignored their needs and has neglected their neighborhoods, she said.

“I want to make sure that we get what we need and what we deserve and that our community is thriving,” she said. “People are tired of just surviving.”

Metro Council is currently accepting resumes from residents interested in being considered for appointments to the District 3 and District 6 seats. All resumes are due by Friday, Jan. 13.

The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office will then vet each applicant before Metro Council hosts public interviews. If a majority of council members can’t agree on who should fill the vacancies within 30 days, Greenberg will have the opportunity to appoint the replacements.

Whoever wins the special elections in November will serve the remainder of Dorsey’s and James’ terms. Dorsey, who just won re-election in November, had nearly all of her four-year term remaining when she resigned on Jan. 4. James had two years left.

In the past, some Metro Council members have expressed concerns about appointing someone to a vacant seat who planned to run for permanent role.

When District 1 Council Member Jessica Green resigned last year to become a judge on Jefferson County Circuit Court, three people running in the November primary applied for the temporary appointment. None were selected. Instead, Metro Council chose Angela Bowens, a longtime resident of the district who had little policy making experience.

Parrish-Wright said even if she doesn’t win the appointment in the coming weeks, she won’t be deterred from running for the seat in November.

The ballot will include major statewide races, including Kentucky governor, attorney general and secretary of state.

Metro Council members may also have to fill a third seat on the 26-member legislative body this year.

District 8 Council member Cassie Chambers Armstrong, who represents the Highlands area, was nominated by the Louisville Democratic Party last month as their candidate to replace Morgan McGarvey in the state Senate. The former Senate Minority Leader is now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Chambers Armstrong would have to vacate her Metro Council seat if she wins a Feb. 21 special election.

District 8 resident Taylor McGovern-U’Sellis has already announced her intention to run, if Chambers Armstrong leaves. McGovern-U’Sellis is a mother of two young children and the assistant director of admissions at the University of Louisville. She’s also a member of the local police accountability group, the 490 Project.

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