Metro Louisville

Metro Council president David James is running for mayor of Louisville in 2022, he said Thursday.

He laid out a vision for “one Louisville” during an announcement at the Teamsters Local 89 Union Hall. He pledged to listen to “every single” Louisville resident as mayor.

“We are one Louisville, and we will work together to be one Louisville to make everything better,” James said.

The former Louisville police detective and head of the police union said as mayor he would have more power than as a councilman, giving him the ability to take action related to police and fire chiefs.

James has criticized Mayor Greg Fischer for not holding the city’s previous police chief, Steve Conrad, accountable sooner. Fischer fired Conrad last summer following the shooting death of West End barbecue chef David McAtee, an incident that involved Louisville police.

James said he decided to run because he disagreed with how the city has handled “a lot of things.” He gave the example of the Explorers case, in which three LMPD officers were indicted for allegedly sexually abusing minors. James was part of a group of council members who called for an independent investigation and more transparency surrounding that case.

“One of the most frustrating things to me recently was the youth Explorer case with LMPD and the lack of transparency and truthfulness involving the current administration,” he said. “And many things thereafter.”

James suggested his history with law enforcement would benefit him as mayor, drawing a contrast between himself and Fischer, who was a businessman.

“We’ve seen what it’s like when we don’t have [someone with a law enforcement background],” James said. “The mayor and the deputy mayor acted as the public safety director for many years, and the [police] chief reported directly to them. And we see how that turned out.”

James also said that personal experience interacting with officers and being one himself showed him that officers can be good or bad. He said it is important to pay officers a good wage, while also making sure they treat residents well and are held accountable for their actions.

David Yates, a former council member who became a state senator this year, spoke in support of James, praising his “servant’s heart.”

Both men referred to the city’s challenges, ranging from the pandemic to budget pressures. Yates described James as someone who can help the city heal.

“One of the beautiful things, things that I appreciate about David is — you don’t see from leaders a lot of time — is he owned up to his mistakes,” Yates said. “He learned from them. And he says, ‘I was wrong. This is how I fix it. Let’s do it together.’”

He lives in Old Louisville and was first elected to Metro Council in 2010. James was re-elected to his fourth consecutive one-year term as council president earlier this month. He easily won the District 6 race last November with more than 85% of the vote.

James is one of several prominent Louisville leaders expected to run for mayor in 2022. If elected, he would be the city’s first Black mayor.

Another Black Democrat, protest leader and the District 6 race operations manager Shameka Parrish-Wright, announced her intention to run for mayor earlier this month.

The next mayor of Louisville will take over a city striving to overcome the devastation of COVID-19, continuing budget pressures and the challenge of reducing racial inequity.

They will follow term-limited Fischer, also a Democrat, who will have served three terms.

Reporter Jess Clark contributed to this story.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Editor.