First immigrant to serve on Metro Council will represent District 21

Updated: Dec. 15, 2017 at 8:13 PM EST
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He first came to the United States as a college athlete. (Source: Vitalis Lanshima)
He first came to the United States as a college athlete. (Source: Vitalis Lanshima)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - After months of controversy, a new councilman has been selected to fill the seat vacated by former Councilman Dan Johnson.

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Vitalis Lanshima now represents the most diverse district in Metro Louisville - District 21.

Lanshima is a business owner and adjunct professor, born in Nigeria. He is the first immigrant to serve on the city council.

He came to the United States 15 years ago as a student athlete. Lanshima never expected a track coach from Bellarmine would give him a chance at a new life.

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"I have the life experience and I have the life lessons to bring to the table," Lanshima said. "The coach looked beyond my disability."

Lanshima says he lost his arms as a young boy after an electric shock accident.

Now he is also the first resident with a disability to serve on Metro Council.

"I believe being in the room talking about those policies and deciding what we need to do as a community, my experience is going to be very useful," Lanshima said.

He was chosen by the current council from a list of more than a dozen other candidates after a round of interviews. In 2018, he says he will run for election by the people of his district.

"I think it is important to have someone in the position who will be held accountable by the people," Metro Council President David Yates said. "The idea that they are running for election means there is that level of accountability."

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Councilman David Yates says he was impressed by the list of qualified candidates and believes next year will be a time for Lanshima to prove himself.

Lanshima says he plans to focus on public safety, business growth, drug use, and homelessness.

"My goal is to affect long term change," Lanshima said. "It will take a while to make things happen so I hit the ground running and am learning as much as I can."

Lanshima will serve the remainder of Dan Johnson's term, which ends in January of 2019. He plans to run in the democratic primary in 2018.

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