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New District 23 Metro Council member wants to foster bipartisanship

Louisville Metro Council member Jeff Hudson
Roberto Roldan
/
LPM
District 23 Metro Council member Jeff Hudson was officially sworn in on Jan. 3, 2023.

Republican Jeff Hudson, District 23’s new representative on Louisville Metro Council, says he wants to find bipartisan solutions to the city’s most pressing problems.

Hudson was elected in November to replace outgoing Council Member James Peden. Peden chose not to run for re-election last year, instead campaigning unsuccessfully for the Kentucky Senate.

Hudson said he’s a lifelong resident of District 23, which includes the independent cities of Spring Mill, Highview and Heritage Creek. While out door-knocking during his campaign, he said the topic of public safety became a recurring theme.

“It’s the number one thing, regardless of who you are,” he said. “Safety is the thing.”

In addition to getting Louisville Metro police officers more training and better pay, Hudson said he’s also interested in exploring issues where Republicans and Democrats could find some common ground, like criminal justice reform. He said he’s open to talking about creating better re-entry programs based on his own experiences helping run leadership classes at a state prison.

“What I learned from all that is there’s a lot of men in there who don’t know how to be a man,” he said. “They get out into society and they don’t have the skillset to be able to survive and they end up right back in that cycle.”

Hudson said one of the biggest issues facing Louisville Metro is a lack of unity, and it shows in local politics. He pointed out how Republicans flipped two South End Metro Council districts during the past election, in part by acknowledging the feeling of neglect many residents outside of the urban core feel. Some local officials have called this “the Watterson divide.”

“The people in the South End see a lot of the tax dollars going to the [old City of Louisville], and they’re wondering ‘Why can’t we get any services? We’re paying taxes, same as everybody else,” he said.

Hudson said he wants to foster bipartisan collaboration within Metro Council, and he’s encouraged by Mayor Craig Greenberg, who has made efforts early on in his tenure to reach across the aisle.

LPM’s Roberto Roldan recently sat down with Hudson to discuss his priorities and how he plans to represent his South End constituents. An excerpt from that interview, edited for length and clarity, is below:

Just to start out, can you tell me a little bit about yourself, your experience working in the community and how it prepared you to run for Metro Council?

I've lived in the District 23 area all my life. When I was out campaigning, one of the coolest things was, you're out knocking on doors and I got to knock on the door of the house I grew up in. It was a little bit surreal standing on that porch as the memories started flooding in. I hadn’t been on that porch in forty years, and so that was kind of cool. But yeah, I worked at GE appliances for 26 years. Before that I worked for the Department of Defense in the same kind of job. I'm an engineer/program manager.

And what made you decide you wanted to take this leap and run for public office?

I don't think I'm releasing any secret news here if I say that I think that the city has had its unique set of problems, especially in the past four years. You know, every city has problems, but we have problems that are unique to just Louisville.

What are some of those unique challenges that you see in Louisville?

Unity and collaboration. I'm going to give a shout out to our current mayor [Craig Greenberg]. He has shown me a willingness to move in that direction. Back in December, the Republican Caucus was meeting. We're all sitting there talking about what's going to come up in the council meeting and the mayor-elect comes walking in the room. There was an audible gasp and then someone actually verbalized it. “Mr. Mayor, why are you here?” And to his credit, he said, “Well, when I was on the campaign trail, I meant what I said when I said I wanted this to be a collaborative government.” And you know, that spoke volumes to me.

When you were campaigning for office, you talked about public safety being one of your number one priorities. What do you think that the city should be doing differently to address the high levels of gun violence and violent crime in Louisville?

One of the ideas that I have, specifically, and I've already begun to work with LMPD on it — and it's going to sound very strange, so just bear with me — but there are at least three police departments in the country that have adopted Gracie jiu jitsu training into their police academies.

When we have a distance between us, my weapon to de-escalate a situation is my voice. But once the confrontation becomes hands on, in those situations I need to have some other tool besides a Taser or a gun to be able to take care of the situation. And in the case of Marietta, Georgia, police officers that were trained in jiu jitsu, the number of times that a police officer got injured went down was [48%]. The number of times that a suspect got injured went down was [53%]. It's a win-win for everybody. So that's one of the ideas I'm working on.

You’ve also talked about “productive and responsible growth.” What does that look like for District 23?

Usually what comes up is, is there access to public transit? Are we putting apartments in a place where we can get people that couldn't ordinarily afford a home into a home and leaving them on an island where they have to walk five miles to get to a bus stop, to get to a job? Right now there's a developer that's looking at a parcel of land on Beulah Church Road, just south of the [Gene] Snyder Freeway. It incorporates multifamily housing. It includes single family housing, it includes a grocery store, it includes a convenience store, it includes a gas station. Those are all things that that community needs. I think this is a more responsible, holistic approach toward development.

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