The following is the first of eight exit interviews with members of Louisville Metro Council who will be leaving their seat in early January. In this interview, Insider talks with Councilwoman Marianne Butler, D-15, about the highs and lows of her 12 years on Metro Council and what she plans to do now. Butler, a Democrat, was first elected in 2006 and chose not to run for a fourth term this year.
Insider Louisville: Throughout your 12 years on the Metro Council, what are you most proud of accomplishing for Louisville?
Butler: I would say the legislation where we are able to confiscate a car if it was used in the act of the illegal dumping. And then David James at the same time was doing something about stripping copper from houses, so also that. I think it helped curb the illegal dumping some, but it certainly makes an impact when media can report that we’ve taken another car. Because illegal dumping costs the city a lot of money, but it also costs the residents a lot of money, because it impacts the value of their home.
IL: On the flip side, what would you say you’re most disappointed by in terms of what Metro Council or Metro government were not able to accomplish in those 12 years.
Butler: Well, we move much quicker on foreclosures (on vacant and abandoned properties), but it’s still such a lengthy process. But I know that so much of that is tied to the state because our property laws are tied with the state. We’ve made chinks in that armor with the state, but not enough to make it more powerful for people in an urban area.
IL: The Democrats expanded their Metro Council majority to 19-7 in the November elections and Mayor Greg Fisher won a third term by a wide margin. Why do you think the Democratic Party has been able to expand its political power in Louisville?
Butler: I think we listen to what the people want and we follow through and try to deliver. I mean, you saw it on minimum wage, you saw it on several other things. We might get knocked down at the state, but we hear them and we do what we can.
IL: The Democratic caucus has been known for some pretty vicious infighting in recent years. What do you think is the cause of that?
Butler: I think you have 17 strong-willed individuals, and some don’t play as well with others as others do. And when someone loses focus that they’re there to do the people’s business, not their own personal vendetta business, that’s when the problems arise.
IL: Should anyone in particular heed that message?
Butler: I think they all should, because I think everyone has the ability to lose sight of what they’re there for. And you have to stay grounded.
IL: The Democrats now have a larger supermajority on the council and hypothetically don’t really need Republican votes to pass legislation the next couple of years. How do you think they should handle that type of power?
Butler: I think they should handle it cautiously. Again, they need to keep in mind they’re there to do the people’s business, and they need to be fair and equitable about it.
IL: Beyond specific public policy and legislation, are there any aspects to how Metro Council functions that you think need to change — whether that be how council members interact with one another or interact with the mayor’s office?
Butler: I know we used to have our caucus meetings every week, and I think this past year, maybe a year and a half, we’ve had them every other week. I encourage them to go back to every week. I think you need that. Everyone sitting around the table discussing what’s going on and knowing what’s going on.
Most (members), especially the new ones coming in, several of them have jobs. They’re not only council people and if they stay busy in their district, it just helps when you’re sitting around the table and you hear it there, versus having to read everything that comes across. I mean, you can glance at it, you can say “oh yeah, so-and-so was talking about that.”
IL: Do you have any advice for Councilman-elect Kevin Triplett, who’ll be taking over the seat in your district next month?
Butler: Just to stay grounded and to help the people the best way you can. There’s a lot of good people in the district who will work with him, and he’ll work with them. Kevin and I have met several times, we’ve met with some other agencies. He knows projects we have that are partway finished and things that we were hoping to get done. And he’s keeping my staff, so I think he’ll have a good transition.
IL: So what do you what do you plan to do now?
Butler: I plan to do nothing for a while. I still have my day job (with LG&E) — you know people forget that. I’ve been asked by several boards and nonprofits to sit on their board and I’m telling everyone the same thing: I am doing nothing for six months.
I mean, there are a lot of good causes out there that I will continue to help, even if I don’t sit on their board. Like, you know, South Louisville Ministries, they just do … all of the ministries do fabulous work. But how they help the community and do it with such dignity is just really refreshing. And all of them … I mean, I would help anyone with anything. They just do great work, so I’ll still help them whether or not I sit on a board of any type for them … but I’m just going to do nothing for six months.
IL: Is there any chance that you run for an office again, or are you putting that chapter behind you?
Butler: I am closing this particular chapter. I have no idea what the future holds for me. I’m just going to do nothing for six months and not think about anything for six months.