The Durham City Council today selected seven finalists to interview for a vacant at-large seat on the council.

The finalists are:

  • Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, president and CEO of El Centro Hispano and member of the city’s gang reduction steering committee.
  • 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.
  • Kaaren Mary Haldeman, an activist and community organizer.
  • Shelia Ann Huggins, an attorney and former city employee who ran for the Ward 3 seat in the recent municipal election.
  • Pierce Freelon, a professor, musician, and community organizer who started Blackspace. Freelon ran for mayor in the recent municipal election.
  • Sheila Arias, who owns a cleaning service, works as a parent leader at the state Department of Health and Human Services, and works with grassroots group MomsRising.
  • Javiera Caballero, a program coordinator with an education consulting firm and a member of the Durham Open Space and Trials commission.

You can read applications and questionnaire responses from each applicant here. The term for the now-vacant seat expires in 2019.

They were selected from an initial pool of twenty-three people who applied to fill the at-large seat that opened up when Steve Schewel was elected mayor. One person was found to be ineligible and two others—Kyle Reece and Yesenia Polanco-Galdamez—withdrew their candidacies, bringing the total number of applicants down to twenty. City code says the council must select no less than three and no more than seven finalists to interview.

“There are more than one candidate on this list who would be an excellent council member and could support,” said Mayor Steve Schewel.

“I think this group would make an excellent city council,” said council member Charlie Reece.

Each council member came to the meeting with a list of their top seven applicants, not necessarily in ranked order. Of all the applicants, three appeared on every council member’s list: Rocha-Goldberg, Rist and Haldeman. You see each council member’s list here.

Supporters of the finalists will have their chance to sound off on Wednesday during a special public input meeting that will be held at seven p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. Each candidate will have fifteen minutes for supporters to speak up, but candidates themselves won’t be able to speak during that time. They’ll be interviewed the next day.

If all goes according to plan, the council’s seventh member will be sworn in January 16.

The council had floated using ranked-choice voting to make that final decision, but after a demonstration Thursday decided instead to go with a traditional majority vote. If that yields a tie, council members will have to talk it out until a majority is reached.

“If it’s a three-three tie we’re going to have a really long night,” said council member Jillian Johnson.