Julie Laut is to be sworn in Tuesday to fill the Ward Two seat on the Urbana City Council.
The Urbana City Council voted Monday night to appoint Laut, who will serve out Eric Jakobsson’s term, which ends on May 3, 2021. The 81-year-old Jakobsson resigned last month.
In her statement before the council last week, Laut said she wants to collaborate with others to work for racial equity in the city. But she noted the COVID-19 pandemic has made things more difficult.
“It is therefore more important than ever for our city leaders to be engaged with our constituents, and aware of their evolving needs,” said Laut. “We’ll need to think creatively together, to continue to provide the essential municipal services, despite what we know will be a reduction in revenues.”
Laut has a history degree from the University of Illinois and has worked as a freelance writer. In nominating her, Mayor Diane Marlin cited her extensive community outreach, development and volunteer work, including her service on the board of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Urbana, and her hosting of a Little Free Pantry at her home.
“She is committed to achieving access and equity for all Urbana residents in terms of housing, food, education, transportation, technology, health and safety,” said Marlin about Laut, in a statement released earlier on Monday.
But some council members also praised Christopher Hansen, another applicant for the council seat. Hansen, an electrical engineer who has been a persistent critic of local policing, following a 2015 arrest in Champaign, for which charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence.
Council members Jared Miller and Dennis Roberts both said they would like to find a place in city government for Hansen.
Roberts said that while he believed Laut was qualified to serve on the city council, Urbana could benefit from Hansen’s ideas on policing, at a time when the city government is being asked to effect “dimensional change.”
“I think I would have liked to have put Chris to real work, and make him come to the council and actually put his shoulder to the wheel, and assist the community in getting something changed in a democratic and judicious manner,” said Roberts, who ultimately chose not to cast a vote.
Marlin says Laut will be sworn in at the Urbana city clerk’s office on Tuesday, and take her seat on the Urbana City Council at the August 10 meeting.