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After the York City Council chose two new members to fill open seats at a special meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 24, city residents spoke during public comment about the opportunity for more representation of the Latino community and other minorities on the city council and in local government. The York Dispatch

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After interviewing seven candidates for two vacant York City Council seats during a special meeting Wednesday, Jan. 24, members appointed Edquina Washington and H. Michael Buckingham to join them on the council.

Washington will serve the remaining two years of the four-year vacancy left by former council President Michael Helfrich — now mayor of York City — and Buckingham will fulfill the vacancy in the two-year term won but passed over by Councilwoman Judy Ritter-Dickson, who also won a four-year seat.

More: York City Council to start 2018 with two empty seats

More: Activist, former city administrator on short list to fill York council seats

Councilwoman Sandie Walker said she was pleased with all of the candidates who interviewed for the seats but said it ultimately came down to experience.

"With these positions, you're jumping right in," she said. "There's a big learning curve."

Washington, the Lincoln Charter School board president and director of community relations under former York City Mayor Kim Bracey, has experience in different government positions, Walker said.

Buckingham, who is a certified public accountant and owned a city business for 18 years, brings financial expertise, she said.

Tough competition: Council President Henry Nixon said the applicants had been very difficult to narrow down. 

Twenty-nine applied, and seven final candidates were selected to make their case for a seat at the table, including April Herring, Montez D. Parker III, Louis F. Rivera III, Christine Lincoln and Willard S. Squire III.

Among those interviewed Wednesday were published authors, LGBT representatives, a former poet laureate, military veterans, business owners, nonprofit workers and a school board member.

Latino community: Several residents spoke during public comment after the decision, expressing their desire for more minority representation on the council, especially for the Latino community.

"There's not only the choice to fill the void of representation of the full third of the city of Hispanic individuals who are not represented — there were also two LGBT candidates," activist and York City resident Carla Christopher said during public comment.

Nixon and Helfrich had encouraged Latino residents to apply for the open seats.

Lincoln said she was disappointed — not for herself, but for Latino candidate Lou Rivera, an activist with Centro Hispano Jose Hernandez.

She said she respects the hard job of choosing new council members but felt this was an opportunity for the community to be progressive and move forward.

The words were gratifying for Rivera.

"It's always heartwarming when people support you," he said. 

Rivera said he plans to continue his work in the community, including fundraising for Puerto Rico aid, working closely with the Latino organization CASA and the YMCA, and establishing an American welcome center for immigrants and migrants, as well as a travel resource center opening Feb. 12.

"We're going to be a force to be reckoned with in York," he said of the Latino community.

"I was a little surprised because Lou was such a good candidate," Buckingham said of his victory. But he's pleased to be chosen for the open seat and eager to get started, he said. 

Washington said she was "thoroughly excited" and looks forward to serving the community in a new capacity.

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