After more than seven hours of deliberation, the Louisville Metro Council voted 17 to 7 for University of Louisville professor Deonte Hollowell, a registered Independent, to replace the late George Unseld and fill the vacant 6th District seat.
The 31-year-old Pan-African Studies professor is the youngest member of the council and is also an adjunct instructor at Spalding University and Jefferson County Technical College. After the vote was announced, Hollowell, who was in attendance earlier that night, drove to City Hall and was immediately sworn in by Chief Circuit Court Judge Barry Willett.
He will serve until the end of the year.
“After a couple of votes I thought it was over,” says Hollowell. “But I never counted myself out.”
The selection of Hollowell is the first Independent member to serve in the council’s history since it formed when city and county governments merged in 2003. Hollowell told LEO Weekly he intends to caucus with both Democrats and Republicans.
However, Hollowell will face another hurdle before the end of the year.
For the Nov. 2 general election, the Jefferson County Democratic and Republican parties will each pick a nominee to run in the fall. The winner of that race will serve out the remainder of Unseld’s term through 2012. And a source tells LEO that the local Democratic party leadership is bound by its by-laws to pick a nominee. Hollowell, however, said he will run in the fall election.
Councilman Jim King — who voted several times for (former council candidate Ken) Herndon, then for Hollowell — thinks Hollowell’s tenure on the council will be brief.
“He can certainly file for election this fall as an independent, but I believe that the Democratic Party will pick a candidate who will prevail in the fall,” he says.
Initially, council members had said the seat should remain Democratic, but after several stalemate votes a compromise was eventually reached.
“We were at an impasse and we had two choices to compromise or let the mayor appoint the position and we felt it was our duty to reach a consensus,” says Councilwoman Madonna Flood, D-24, who is majority leader of the Democratic caucus. “I welcome Dr. Hollowell to the council.”
And it’s definitely a welcomed surprise for Hollowell, who celebrated his 31st birthday July 1, but is eager to get to work.
“I definitely look forward to the challenge, I have a meeting at some point so I’ll be here early to serve the 6th District,” says Hollowell.