Vitalis Lanshima won election to Louisville Metro Council Thursday night, edging out fellow Democrats Nicole George, who secured eight votes, and Yani Vozos, who had two. Lanshima received 14 of 25 votes.
Lanshima was sworn in standing alongside his wife, Beth. She held a picture of her husband’s parents. His father died in 2015, and his mother still lives in his native Nigeria.
Vitalis Lanshima made history Thursday night as the first immigrant and disabled person to serve on the council.
“Twenty-eight years ago, if anyone had ever told me that I’d be standing before you, I would say not in a million years,” he told the council.
At the age of 12, Lanshima lost his arms after being electrocuted. Years later, he caught the attention of Bellarmine’s track coach while competing at the Paralympics. He arrived at Bellarmine University in 2002 to run track.
Becoming emotional while addressing the council he said: “There are people who have died from electric shock accidents. I am lucky to be alive. I want to thank you for the confidence you have put in me. I don’t take this responsibility lightly, not at all.”
Lanshima, whose district’s population is largely made up of immigrants, says he is a good fit. Having been on the brink of homelessness, he has pledged to work to bring more affordable housing to Louisville. He also wants to do more to help the city’s disabled population and said Thursday that he was humbled to have the opportunity to do so.
“We talk about the American dream, a country where you can come regardless of where you’re from and what you look like, regardless of your disability and you can be anything you want to be. To me this is not the end but the beginning for me.”
Vitalis Lanshima, who is currently working to earn his doctorate, is a social justice professor at Bellarmine University.
He will serve out the remainder of Dan Johnson’s term, which expires Dec. 31, 2018, and has already filed to run in the May primary.