After Tuesday’s Omaha City Council meeting, Council President Pete Festersen announced a list of 12 candidates to fill the vacant seat left by former councilmember Vinny Palermo.

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The following applications have been verified by the Douglas County Election Commission:

  • Andrew Adams
  • Rebecca Barrientos-Patlan 
  • Terri Blackburn 
  • Samuel Canova
  • Garry Gernandt 
  • Ron Hug
  • Margo Juarez 
  • Mark Martinez
  • Anita Rojas
  • Ben Salazar 
  • Erik Servellon 
  • Joseph Velasquez

The City Council will evaluate the candidates and conduct public interviews with all 12 on Sept. 7 starting at 9 a.m. The new representative would be elected during the Sept. 12 City Council meeting and take office on Sept. 26.

The South Omaha-based District 4 has been without a representative at City Council meetings since Palermo was arrested in April on charges of fraud and conspiracy. He is currently in jail awaiting trial. A former police officer also charged in the case plans to plead guilty, KETV reported Tuesday.

Despite his absence, the City Council wasn’t able to officially remove him from the seat until Aug. 1. According to Section 2.05 City Charter, a councilmember is considered to have forfeited their seat after three months of unexcused absences, a mark Palermo reached on July 25.

Palermo could be succeeded by his predecessor, former Councilmember Garry Gernandt. Gernandt retired in 2017 after 16 years on the City Council, including two years as Council President. 

The field of candidates includes current elected officials like Margo Juarez, who serves on the Omaha Public Schools Board of Education, and Ron Hug, a member of the Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors.

South Omaha activists Ben Salazar and Rebecca Barrientos-Patlan will also seek to serve District 4. Barrientos-Patlan ran for the seat in 2017 before losing to Palermo in the general election. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council approved a $9.5 million tax increment financing plan for Forever North, a redevelopment at 24th and Lake streets that will include a four-story mixed-use building and a 99-unit apartment building with a fitness center and daycare.

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