During her first term on the Urban County Council representing the 2nd District, Shevawn Akers has sometimes seemed like a lightning rod for controversy but has also shown a willingness to work with neighborhood and business leaders to get things done. An example is her work on the stalled effort to reform rules for food trucks in public spaces.
If Akers did not have a strong opponent with a lot to offer, she would likely get our endorsement.
But challenger Michael Stuart, a small-business owner with a record of civic involvement, offers more promise to make meaningful contributions to the diverse district and the entire community.
District 2 stretches from the western end of downtown to Spur Road and Interstate 75/64 and includes Leestown Road and neighborhoods such as Meadowthorpe and Masterson Station as well as the Distillery District, parts of the Georgetown Street corridor and the Coldstream Research Park.
Stuart has a deep knowledge of the district and some of its challenges and has offered thoughtful, practical solutions to address some of the issues.
For example, Stuart noted that the Georgetown corridor suffers from unemployment and lack of job skills among those seeking jobs.
With 13 years of experience building his window-cleaning business, Stuart has a real-world understanding of the challenges involved. He readily listed off some of the larger employers in the district and said as a council member he would reach out to get them involved in training and hiring people who live nearby.
Stuart also suggested extending, at least a few evenings a week, the trolley service that links downtown and Chevy Chase to Meadowthorpe and Masterson Station, neighborhoods that are close to downtown but not quite connected to it.
Stuart served seven years on the board of the Lexington Arts and Sciences Center, including one as its chairman, where, among other things, he worked to extend arts access to underserved youth. Stuart also served on the board of LexArts, developing an understanding of the role public art can play in a community.
In his neighborhood, Stuart was a leader in raising questions about the proposal to use the nearby Lorillard Lofts to house the homeless. Although emotions ran high, former Second District Councilman Tom Blues, who has endorsed Stuart and contributed to his campaign, praised him for his measured response to the proposal.
Akers, by her own admission, can have too many irons in the fire. In her first term she evidenced a tendency to shoot from the hip before consulting with constituents and other council members.
This cuts into a council member's ability to build coalitions and gain votes, both of which are essential to being effective.
Distractions have arisen over charges that she temporarily moved out of the district — which she denies. She has admitted improperly reporting who gathered signatures for her petition to be on the ballot.
If Akers' succeeds in her bid for re-election, we encourage her to do more homework before taking stands, work hard to build coalitions within the council and redouble efforts to communicate with constituents.
We believe that Stuart has the skills and temperament now to be an effective councilman.
The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Thursday.