If all goes to plan, the Durham City Council should have its seventh member in about a week.
If you haven't been following along, an at-large seat opened up when Steve Schewel was elected mayor. The seat carries a term that expires in 2019. Twenty-two people applied and passed the basic eligibility requirements. Last week, the council narrowed that field down to seven finalists.
"There is more than one candidate on this list who would be an excellent council member I could support," said Schewel.
"I think this group would make an excellent city council," added council member Charlie Reece.
Among the finalists are three women hoping to represent Durham's Latinx community and two people who ran in the recent municipal election. A quick rundown:
Pilar Rocha-Goldberg is president and CEO of El Centro Hispano and a member of the city's gang reduction steering committee.
Sheila Arias, who owns a cleaning service, works as a parent leader at the state Department of Health and Human Services, and works with the grassroots group MomsRising.
Javiera Caballero is a program coordinator with an education consulting firm and a member of the Durham Open Space and Trails Commission.
Carl Rist, senior director of Prosperity Now, a think tank that focuses on addressing economic inequality, chairs the People's Alliance Economic Inequality Team and helped launch the Durham Living Wage Project.
Kaaren Mary Haldeman is an activist and community organizer who works to prevent gun violence and advocates for stronger gun policies.
Shelia Ann Huggins is an attorney and a former city employee of nine years who ran for the Ward 3 seat in the recent municipal election, placing second to Vernetta Alston.
Pierce Freelon, a professor, musician, and community organizer who started Blackspace, ran for mayor in the recent municipal election and came in third.
Council members each named their top seven applicants, and those with the most votes were selected as finalists. Of all the applicants, three appeared on every council member's list: Rocha-Goldberg, Rist, and Haldeman.
The council will hold a public input meeting at seven p.m. on January 10, in which each candidate can have supporters speak on his or her behalf for fifteen minutes. The candidates themselves won't be able to speak during that meeting; they'll be interviewed by the council the next night in a meeting at City Hall that begins at five p.m. The council plans to vote on a new member immediately before its January 16 meeting.