The future direction of Asheville City Council lies in the hands of its current six members. On Tuesday, Sept. 8, Council will select a replacement for Vijay Kapoor — and city records reveal no consensus on who the ideal candidate should be.
At Council’s meeting of Aug. 25, Mayor Esther Manheimer announced six finalists, selected out of a pool of 30 applicants. She explained that each sitting member of Council had been asked to select two finalists but did not share who had nominated which applicants.
In response to an Xpress records request on Aug. 28, the city provided the following additional information about the support each nominee had from Council. Each candidate’s name is linked to the application they submitted for the vacancy:
- Sandra Kilgore: Nominated by Manheimer, Juile Mayfield and Gwen Wisler
- Rich Lee: Nominated by Manheimer and Mayfield
- ZaKiya Bell-Rogers: Nominated by Brian Haynes and Sheneika Smith
- Rob Thomas: Nominated by Haynes and Keith Young
- Antanette Mosley: Nominated by Smith
- Pratik Bhakta: Nominated by Wisler
The finalists will be interviewed at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 8; the final vote will take place during Council’s regularly scheduled meeting at 5 p.m. The appointee will then be sworn in at Council’s meeting of Tuesday, Sept. 22 — the same day members are expected to vote on a budget amendment to allocate funding to the Asheville Police Department.
In their applications, all Council hopefuls were asked if they supported the city’s plans for community reparations and the Black Asheville Demands call to defund the APD by 50%. Of the six finalists, only Bhakta did not explicitly support working to change the structure of policing in the city: “If you honestly feel that reduction of the APD would decrease crime, that is a false equivalent similar to assessing that less teachers in the classroom would increase educational success,” he wrote.
Four of the finalists — Bell-Rogers, Kilgore, Mosley and Thomas — identify as Black, which may be among Council’s considerations as the city directs its focus toward inclusion and equity. Kilgore and Lee are both on the ballot for the general Council election on Tuesday, Nov. 3: Lee finished fourth in the March primary, while Kilgore placed sixth.
The nature of a political vacancy is highly subjective to those making the decision, Manheimer said. The only set criteria finalists must meet are that they are registered to vote and reside in the city of Asheville, she noted, and members can each develop personal criteria for their ideal candidate.
“We certainly have not gotten together collectively and talked about how we’ll be making this decision,” said Mayfield. “We’re going to be making this decision on our own, through our own lens.”