Have You Checked Out the Applicants for the Vacant Durham City Council Seat? | News

Have You Checked Out the Applicants for the Vacant Durham City Council Seat?


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The Durham City Council meets sans one member. The council is expected to fill a vacant at-large seat with a vote on January 16. - SARAH WILLETS
  • Sarah Willets
  • The Durham City Council meets sans one member. The council is expected to fill a vacant at-large seat with a vote on January 16.
Next Thursday, the Durham City Council will be tasked with narrowing down a field of candidates vying for the at-large seat that opened up when Steve Schewel was sworn in as mayor.

It is going to be tough. Not only are there twenty-two applicants, but a lot of them are well-qualified and a few have already shown they have the backing of Durham residents, either as candidates in the recent municipal elections or via emails from their supporters to the council.

Under city rules, the council can select no more than seven candidates to interview for the position. They'll  make the determination after reviewing questionnaires from each applicant, which are due on Tuesday.

In the meantime, the city has posted the initial applications from each candidate on its website. (Twenty-three people had applied but one, Tyrell Golden, was found to be ineligible). The questionnaires, once submitted, will also be available online.

The council will select finalists once their Thursday afternoon work session ends. On January 10 at seven p.m. at City Hall, they'll take public input on the finalists. Each candidate will have fifteen minutes for supporters to speak on their behalf. The candidates themselves, who will be interviewed by the council the next evening, won't be allowed to speak during that time.

Interviews start at five p.m. on January 11 at City Hall. Audio, but not video, will be live-streamed. The council decided against holding that meeting in its council chambers, which has video capability, because candidates would have to either stand at a podium or sit in the crowd and speak to council members behind a tall dais. City code also says candidates shouldn’t be present for each other’s interviews, and live-streaming video of the meeting means they could watch each conversation in real-time just outside the door. It is, however, a public meeting.

The council plans to vote and swear-in the newest member on January 16.

The applicants are:
  • Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, president and CEO of El Centro Hispano and member of the city’s gang reduction steering committee.
  • Michael Levine, a chemist and member of the Stillwood Homeowners Association board of directors.
  • Fredrick Davis, pastor of First Calvary Baptist Church and a former Durham Public Schools board member.
  • Pierce Freelon, a professor, musician, and community organizer who started Blackspace. Freelon ran for mayor in the recent municipal election.
  • Kyle Reece, an advocate with SaySo Inc., a statewide organization representing youth who are or have been in the out-of-home care system.
  • Dwyian Davis, pastor at Christian Living and Learning Center.
  • Javiera Caballero, a program coordinator with an education consulting firm and a member of the Durham Open Space and Trials commission.
  • Nida Allam, a MetLife project analyst and third vice chair for the North Carolina Democratic Party.
  • Rebecca Reyes, a retired social worker and clergy member who serves on the Durham Parks and Recreation Commission.
  • Shelia Ann Huggins, an attorney and former city employee who ran for the Ward 3 seat in the recent municipal election.
  • Sammy Banawan, a clinical psychologist in private practice.
  • Carl Rist, senior director of Prosperity now, a think tank that focuses on addressing economic inequality, and a member of the city’s Poverty Reduction Initiative finance committee.
  • Yesenia Polanco-Galdamez, an immigration and criminal defense attorney.
  • Humberto Mercado, a case manager with Easterseals UCP, which serves people with disabilities.
  • Andrew George, a graduate researcher at Duke University.
  • Sheila Arias, who owns a cleaning service and works as a parent leader at the state Department of Health and Human Services and with the grassroots group MomsRising.
  • Nicole Netzel, program coordinator with Lutheran Services Carolinas’ refugee resettlement program.
  • Solomon Burnette, a legal consultant at the Law Office of James F. Cyrus IV.
  • Kaaren Mary Haldeman, an activist and community organizer.
  • Ricardo Correa, a minister at the United Nations Worship Center Ministry and a member of the Durham Human Relations Commission.
  • Ann-Drea Small, an IT consultant.
  • John Tarantino Jr., a retired teacher who ran for the Ward 1 seat.


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