The Louisville Metro Council is facing a showdown over which member will lead the body in the new year.
On Jan. 7, council members will hold an organizational session where they will vote for the next council president.
The incumbent, Democrat David Tandy, was chosen this last year to succeed Jim King, who died late last year. Tandy, whose district includes downtown, is being challenged by Democrat David Yates, who represents parts of South Louisville.
Past attempts to elect a council president for next year have resulted in spats but no formal election. Republican Kelly Downard is also in the running. Although Democrats hold a 17-9 majority, the caucus appears split on whether to support Tandy or Yates, leaving the door open to intrigue next week.
The key issue revolves around whether the Democratic Caucus is splintered, and whether a president besides Tandy could make both the caucus and the council as a whole more cohesive.
Yates said there could be more open communication between the council president and other members.
“I think that was some of the expressions that I have heard, some of the dissatisfaction, that they feel they weren’t brought to the table, and I am hoping to do a better job of that,” he said.
But Tandy said he has been open to ideas from other council members.
“My leadership style is one where I collaborate with other people,” he said. “We listen to other folks.”
King’s absence foreshadows the debate; he was for years seen as a force in steering the council’s direction.
Tandy said his experience representing his district, which includes the central business district and neighborhoods to the east and west, makes him uniquely qualified to understand bigger issues facing the city.
“My experience of being on the council itself as well as my personal background allows me to have that broad perspective on things — to recognize the different challenges that each area faces,” he said.
“I think it’s important to have somebody who can see the big picture, and I think that’s something that I have been fortunate enough to do.”
But Yates said there have been opportunities for members to be more involved, and it hasn’t happened.
“I know it is very difficult,” Yates said. “Sometimes we will joke around that having 26 members in the Metro Council is like herding cats, but there are some issues that are important to all the city, and I think that it’s important that we don’t leave people out.”
Yates said his priorities, if elected, will be determined by what his fellow council members believe is most urgent.
Tandy said if re-elected, he plans to continue pushing what he called bipartisan efforts to tackle issues such as expanding and growing the local economy, which could include addressing the vacant and abandoned properties issue and affordable housing. He said he also wants to continue working with law enforcement and social groups to tackle violent crime in the city.
Ultimately, Yates said he and Tandy have a lot in common, and the contest isn’t as acrimonious as has been portrayed.
“Whether or not Councilman Tandy is president again or if I’m elected president or someone else is president, I think that we are all going to move past this small election and move together as a group,” he said. “It is not as confrontational as has been portrayed, and I think that at the end of the day, we all should be putting aside our own personal egos and look to serve the best interest of the council.”
By the third week of session, Democratic Caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt said he expects whomever is president will have assigned committee chairs.