A day after the Richmond City Council appointed attorney Vinay Pimple to fill a vacant seat left by Tom Butt’s election as Mayor, perhaps no one was as surprised about the appointment as Butt himself.
Mayor Butt said Wednesday that the biggest shock of the Tuesday council meeting was City Councilman Eduardo Martinez breaking with other members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) to vote for a candidate the RPA had not previously handpicked.
“It was interesting,” Butt said. “It could have been anybody but I jumped on it because we needed one RPA vote. If he (Martinez) was going to vote for anybody, I thought, let’s do it and get it over with.”
The Richmond City Council had failed for three weeks to select among the 18 residents who applied for the seat. While Tuesday night started off in an apparent gridlock – with Butt earlier saying he would nominate former Councilman Jim Rogers — Martinez made the motion to appoint Pimple, which was seconded by Nat Bates. Butt and Jael Myrick joined with the majority to appoint Pimple with Gayle McLaughlin and Jovanka Beckles abstaining.
Butt said he did not know much about 47-year-old Pimple other than he’s a frequent speaker at City Council meetings.
“He seems interested in Richmond affairs,” Butt said. “He doesn’t seem to have a really defined political position. I’m as interested as anybody to watch how it’s going to turn out.”
The selection of Pimple is likely to surprise others who saw RPA members as unwavering in their insistence that a member of their organization fill the vacant seat.
Pimple wasn’t City Councilman Jael Myrick’s first choice but “that’s how compromise works,” he said, adding that Pimple seems like a smart choice.
“He’s got a very creative mind,” Myrick said. “He’s not even on the council yet but he’s already putting forward proposals to help with the City’s bond issues.”
City Councilman Nate Bates said credit goes to Martinez, who made Pimple’s appointment possible by breaking with his RPA allies to appoint a candidate “well suited for the role.”
Pimple was Bates’ top pick, who said he admired Pimple’s backstory. After becoming blind at age 10, Pimple went on to become a software engineer at Verizon, an English teacher at Rutgers University in New Jersey and a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law. According to his candidate statement, Pimple is also an active volunteer with Richmond Trees, a writing coach with WriterCoach Connection, a math tutor for Literacy for Every Adult Program (LEAP) and a volunteer with the Richmond Activities Leah (RPAL).
“He’s highly qualified,” Bates said. “He represents an underserved community, the disabled and handicapped, and I think that’s a good addition on the council.”
As for Pimple, he told the Richmond Confidential that once sworn in on March 3, he’ll push for greater transparency and, with his software engineering background, a greater use of technology in government.