Durbin to vacate council seat in January for city’s IT department

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He became the first openly gay person elected to the Tennessee legislative body when Keith Durbin won his bid for Metro Council District 18 in August 2007.

Now, nearly a year and a half later, Durbin plans to resign from his council seat to take a full-time position with Mayor Karl Dean’s administration as Metro’s chief information officer beginning Jan. 5.

"It was a very tough decision to leave the council, but in the end, I’ll have the opportunity to serve the Nashville community on a broader scale in my new role," Durbin said.

Durbin ran unopposed for Metro Council and received 1,692 votes according to unofficial results. A write-in candidate received 32 votes. Durbin chairs the council’s Health, Hospitals and Social Services Committee and serves on two other committees.
A special election will be held to fill Durbin’s vacant seat.

As director of information technology, Durbin said he will be responsible for the strategic operations of Metro’s IT infrastructure and services including managing and maintaining thousands of government computers and other devices. He has a background in information technology having worked as an IT analyst for HCA Information and Technology services.

"A focus on information security is something that Mayor Dean and I agree is top priority," Durbin said. "In addition, ensuring that the IT department maintains a focus on great service to our customers, who are the other Metro departments and thus by extension Nashville’s citizens, will be a key to our success as a department."

The previous ITS director, Sandy Cole, resigned at the end of September after two laptop computers containing 337,000 voters’ Social Security numbers were stolen from the Davidson County Election Commission late last year.

Some GLBT community leaders say the change is a great opportunity for Durbin to make positive changes in the greater Nashville community.

"It is a wonderful day for the GLBT community in Nashville when the mayor can appoint an openly gay person to such an important position in his administration," said David Taylor, board member of The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. "It is a very important job and I’m glad the mayor thought so highly of Keith to have him serve in that role."

Durbin is the second openly gay person the mayor has brought on to his administration in the past three months. Dean appointed long-time GLBT community leader Sam Felker to the Metro Board of Health in October.

Christopher Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project, said Dean’s latest appointment is further evidence of his understanding of the importance of diversity.

"With years of experience in the field, Durbin will bring expertise and leadership to the position. TEP congratulates Keith in his new role," Sanders said. "The appointment demonstrates Mayor Karl Dean’s commitment to professional excellence and diversity."

Local ‘out’ attorney Maria Salas, who lives in District 18 which includes the Belmont-Hillsboro area and Hillsboro Village, said she is considering running for the vacant council seat.

"I seriously considered it when Keith ran and I’m seriously considering it now," Salas said. "Keith did a great job [on the council] and I hope that, whether I or someone else takes over the seat, we get a great advocate for the district. The most important is having someone who’ll be an progressive voice on the council."

Taylor said it may be rare for a council person to step down in the middle of a term, but he thinks Durbin made the right choice in seizing the new opportunity.

"When opportunities like this come up, it’s important that people take them," Taylor said. "Keith knows that district is full of talented people who can step in and take over that role and not leave us without appropriate leadership. It is one of most gay friendly districts in the state and it is important that we run qualified and interested GLBT candidates, if we have them, to fill Keith’s place."