Durham County

Durham City Council: Who’s new, who’s not and who wants the empty seat

Retiring Mayor Bill Bell, left, and Mayor-elect Steve Schewel talk before the start of Saturday’s Durham Holiday Parade. Schewel will be sworn in as Durham's new mayor Monday, Dec. 4.
Retiring Mayor Bill Bell, left, and Mayor-elect Steve Schewel talk before the start of Saturday’s Durham Holiday Parade. Schewel will be sworn in as Durham's new mayor Monday, Dec. 4. bthomas@heraldsun.com

Of the seven chairs for the Durham City Council, only two will be filled Monday by the same people as at its last meeting.

At the start of the 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4 City Council meeting, Steve Schewel will be sworn in as mayor. Three new council members will be sworn in. And Schewel’s move from his at-large council seat to the mayor’s seat will leave a chair to fill.

Who’s new?

DeDreana Freeman, Ward 1 council member.

Rev. Mark-Anthony Middleton, Ward 2 council member.

Vernetta Alston, Ward 3 council member.

Who’s staying?

At-large Council member Jillian Johnson, halfway through her first term.

At-large Council member Charlie Reece, halfway through his first term.

Schewel, but now as mayor.

For how long?

Council member terms are four years, but the mayor is only elected for two years.

How old is everyone?

Alston, 35, will be the youngest council member. Johnson is 36. Freeman is 40. Reece is 47. Middleton is 49. Schewel is 66.

Who will get Schewel’s seat?

It’s not on Monday’s agenda, but will be high on the new council’s list of priorites. Four names have already emerged as possibilities to fill the seat.

Javiera Caballero is one of them. She is on the Durham Open Spaces and Trails Commission and PTA president of Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet Elementary School.

“I’m interested because right now currently there isn’t a perspective for the immigrant community and Latinx community [on the City Council] and I think there’s a gap, and there are a lot of pressing issues for the city,” Caballero told The Herald-Sun. She immigrated from Chile when she was child. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Appalachian State University.

Caballero has been attending council meetings this fall after the primary when it looked like Schewel’s seat would be vacated.

Also interested in Schewel’s seat is Yesenia Polanco, an attorney who works with immigrants. She moved to Durham from Los Angeles when she was 10, and is a graduate of the Durham Public Schools. She went to UNC-Chapel Hill as an undergrad and received her law degree from the University of the District of Columbia.

Once the new City Council announces it will accept applications, those interested may apply and then the council will vote to appoint one of those applicants.

Former mayoral candidate Pierce Freelon, who did not make it through the primary, declared his pursuit of the seat in November. People have already been emailing council members and incoming council members in support of Freelon. But he’s not the only one. Carl Rist of the People’s Alliance also has supporters calling on the new council to appoint Rist to Schewel’s seat, too.

Polanco said she is excited to be part of the process and conversation.

“That’s going to be really exciting I think, for me as a resident of Durham, to see ... who will complete the team,” she said.

Who else is sitting up there in Council Chambers?

City Manager Tom Bonfield and City Attorney Patrick Baker sit on the dais, too.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan

  Comments