New Omaha City Council District 4 representative addresses criticism

LULAC previously called for Latino candidate to get the nod
Ron Hug answered criticism from some activists who say a Latino person should hold the District 4 seat on the Omaha City Council.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 6:05 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The city’s 4th District once again has representation on the City Council for the first time since April.

Newly appointed councilmember Ron Hug says it’s time to get to work for his district -- but his appointment hasn’t come without early controversy.

Before his appointment at last week’s City Council meeting, there were three Democrats and three Republicans on the council. They had voted along party lines twice when trying to fill Vinny Palermo’s seat, meaning the first two votes were ties. Four votes were needed.

6 News reporter Brian Mastre was told Hug, a Democrat, was the only candidate among five finalists who was going to get that fourth vote.

As 6 News first highlighted Friday, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, LULAC, believes a Latino should have been appointed over a white male. The Nebraska Chapter president says the Omaha City Council “must wake up to the reality that you can’t buy our acceptance or trust.” That comes after Hug paid for an associate membership into the organization two days after his appointment.

“I think the council was tasked with picking the most qualified candidate,” Hug said. “That’s the only measure they had to do. Did they pick the most qualified? I guess time will tell.”

Hug said after he was appointed, he paid for a two-year membership to LULAC -- the organization now criticizing his appointment. He says the proof of his record is his two decades of work as an elected member of the Metropolitan Community College board.

“They’re not familiar with my depth of knowledge with Metropolitan Community College,” he said. “It’s the most diverse educational institution in the region. 35% of students are minority. 30% of 1,000 full-time employees are minority. That doesn’t happen by accident.”

While there have been Latino candidates, South Omaha voters have not elected a Latino to the City Council.

Erik Servellon made the list of five finalists and even received three votes from the Democrats on the council for the open seat -- but, as mentioned, four were needed to get the appointment.

“I supported the Latino candidate,” said council president Pete Festersen. “I thought it was important to do that and have Latino representation on the city council. But that candidate only had three votes, however, and we had to continue the process.”

Some Latinos 6 News spoke with believe this debate may energize the Latino vote when the District 4 seat comes up for election in Spring 2025.

More Vinny Palermo coverage