“And I Got Up”: Eliazar Posada has an immediate impact on the Carrboro City Council

The May primary was also the general election for the city of Carrboro, as residents elected a new city councilman to fill a vacant seat on the board.

The winner of this race, Eliazar Posada, took the oath of office on June 7th. Best known for his work with El Centro Hispano, Posada’s victory became the first openly gay Latino elected in all of North Carolina. And it wasn’t long before he had an opportunity to make a big impact – he stood up (literally) and took a leadership role less than an hour after his swearing-in ceremony, when an argument broke out between two of his fellow councillors.

Councilor Posada spoke to 97.9 The Hill’s Aaron Keck on This Morning last week.

Listen to their conversation:

Aaron Keck: So tell us about that first month on the Council.

Eliazar Posada: It was fun. We have done great work. Of course I came in at the very end of the budget season and had to catch up really quickly, but it was amazing.

Cheek: How closely did you follow the budget discussions during the election campaign, on the assumption or the possibility that you might need to know this in detail in a few weeks?

Posada: I survived most of it. The bigger stuff, the 203 project, the overall plan. But I just wasn’t expecting this massive document when I sat down. But look, I’m a little nerd. I had a Sunday off and I thought, you know what, let’s do this. I grabbed my iPad and went to a coffee shop and sat there all day going through everything. I enjoyed it.

Cheek: I’m sure a lot of people know you pretty well, but for people who don’t, introduce yourself officially. what is your background

Posada: I’ve been in the area for about six years. Before running for office, I worked extensively with a nonprofit organization, El Centro Hispano, the largest Latin American nonprofit in North Carolina. I started out as a volunteer for one of the LGBTQ support groups and within five years I was acting President and CEO of the organization.

Cheek: And you’re the first openly gay Latino elected in North Carolina, right?

Posada: Yes. And it was interesting, really fun to hear from people. I was (recently) asked to go to an event and a couple of people approached me – they don’t live in Carrboro but they had been watching my race and one person came up and was in tears. I was like, ‘ What’s happening? Are you alright?” And once they were able to gather themselves, they just expressed how much my choice as an openly gay Latino as an openly gay Latino meant to them. And it just hit me: You know, that’s a representation that we needed in this state and I hope we see more of it…

And now I’m trying to move forward, using not only the visibility that comes with the office, but the networks I’ve been able to build to push people and encourage them to be more participatory than anything, if going into these elections in November. We know there’s so much on this ballot, so much, and it’s never the time to be complacent. This is not the time to stay home. You have to register to vote, you have to register your neighbors. You must ensure that your vote is heard in that ballot box.

Cheek: And people have the opportunity every day until the election to stand up and make their voices heard.

Posada: Of course. Email your representative. make phone calls. Partner with organizations that do this work. We just saw a pretty devastating (Supreme) Court decision last week and over the weekend there were hundreds of demonstrations and protests, here in the Triangle, across the state, in the US. And another big thing: we have to look at the long game, right? The long game changes. The leadership of these institutions ensures that people who are pro-our community sit in these elected positions. And that means building a constituency. This means registering people to vote. That means bringing in and educating young people, people of color, people who have been excluded from this process in the past.

Cheek: Speaking of taking a stand, (you had) a really high-profile opportunity to take a stand, literally within the hour of being on the city council. I watched the meeting and only focused on you. “What will he do?” There was a very public, very sudden public argument between two city council members (Sammy Slade and Barbara Foushee) at that meeting, 45 minutes after they had just been sworn in, and everyone on the council had to make a decision: do I sit or stand do I get up and go out? You were the first to get up and step away.

(Editor’s note: The controversy between Slade and Foushee had been blown up at the last city council meeting, which took place shortly after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Slade made the big money role in politics for the shooting responsible and implicitly connecting to his own recent criticism of State Sen. Valerie Foushee for accepting PAC funds in the May congressional primary.Barbara Foushee – who is related to Valerie – was badly offended and left Then Slade doubled down on his earlier statements at the June 7 meeting – with Posada now on the council, prompting Foushee to walk out again.

Cheek: And it was a leadership moment because everyone else on the Council took that initiative and followed you.

Posada: Yes.

Cheek: It was 20 seconds (which passed) before you got up and walked out. What went through your head in those 20 seconds?

Posada: I’ve followed this controversy from the start. And of course it erupts again at my first meeting. Barbara stands up, Councilwoman Foushee. She starts walking out. And in my mind (I thought) I have to get out. If you (watch the video) immediately…

Cheek: You pushed your chair back.

Posada: Immediately pushed my chair back. And then the first thing that comes to mind is, “This is your first meeting. You’ve been here less than an hour. What are you going to do?” My first thought was to move, and then I had a bit of a doubt. Because — you don’t see that in the videos, but a lot of the community members who were in the audience looked at me right away. And I get this moment like, “Do I have to do this?” And then I was like, “No. Eff it. I just have to. Why am I doubting it?”

Watch the video of the June 7 meeting. (Posada takes the oath of office at the 20 minute mark; controversy erupts at the 1:20 mark.)

And part of that was actually seeing Barbara leave the room. And I didn’t want to run after her either. But – it all comes down to who I am. That controversy, you know, the comments that Sammy made (at the previous meeting) – I’m going to be very blunt with you. I grew up in Weslaco, Texas on the border with Mexico. And the school in Uvalde looked very much like the school I grew up in. The kids looked just like the ones I grew up with. And there’s one of the pictures of one of those kids that looked just like my brother, my little brother, growing up. So Sammy’s comments hit me very hard. Set aside where instructed. The fact that this authority was used to make this political (statement) hurt me like no one.

My plan was to address it head on at some point – shouldn’t be my first meeting. But the opportunity came and I just had to get up. And I said to Barbara and (the other) people on the council: You know, I’m going to fight for the issues that are important to me. And one of them is dedicated to helping our community members. The speaker who came before this interaction (Soteria Shepperson) made a very clear point: This wasn’t the first time Barbara had to step out, and (the time before that) the Council did nothing. And I didn’t want to sit there and be the person just watching it happen. I just couldn’t.

cool: And I think 20 seconds is really valuable to people because there are people in the community, and you’re one of them, who are very vocal about publicity. You’re out there, you’re doing stuff, you’ve been an advocate in the community for a long time. And I think people who aren’t in that position look at you and think, ‘Oh, it’s easy for them to stand up and make that point.’ It’s not. It is difficult to make this choice.

Posada: Yes. It is very difficult. You said it lasted 20 seconds – I could have told you the break lasted hours.

cool: I’m sure.

Posada: To me it (felt) so long. So many things went through my head. For example, how will this affect my relationships with other Council members? How will this affect my relationship with my community? How is this perceived by my supporters? And in the end it was – you know what, it doesn’t matter. What matters now is that there is one person who has supported me, who I admire while I have been in Carrboro, who needs support. And I’ll be there for you

Selected photo about the city of Carrboro.

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