Kristine LaLonde completed the transition from passionate campaign volunteer to politician to Metro Council representative on Thursday.
LaLonde won the runoff election for the vacant District 18 Metro Council seat Thursday, defeating Stephenie Dodson in a hotly contested race that took a personal turn at the end.
LaLonde defeated Dodson, a single mother and long-time neighborhood advocate, 672 votes to 476 votes. Only 10 percent of the district’s voters turned out for the special election to fill the unexpired term of Keith Durbin, who resigned in January.
LaLonde was a volunteer on Harold Ford Jr.’s 2006 senatorial campaign, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 and, most recently, the Nashville for All of Us campaign against English Only this year.
“I guess I see it all as a part of the same effort,” LaLonde said of the transition from volunteer to Council member. “You’re trying to work to better the community you live in and sometimes it’s as a volunteer and sometimes you step up as candidate. This happened to be the time I felt called to be a candidate.”
LaLonde ran an organized campaign for the seat, focusing on neighborhood issues and promising accessibility to constituents. Along with Dodson, LaLonde advanced to the runoff by defeating David Glasgow and John Ray Clemmons in the March 30 special election.
The race became heated after a mailer sent out by the Nashville Neighborhood Defense Fund painted LaLonde as pro-development and having a conflict of interest because of her employment at Belmont University. LaLonde works as a professor of leadership studies at Belmont, which is a prominent property owner in District 18.
LaLonde said she didn’t feel like the campaign mailer was a turning point in the race and added that she hoped to be sworn in and seated at Tuesday’s Council meeting.
Dodson’s candidacy was centered around her longtime volunteer service in the district. Dodson, the director of after-care programs at Percy Priest Elementary School, has been a member of the Hillsboro West Neighborhood Association for more than nine years, while also volunteering for various education-centered boards and organizations.
“I’m very happy for Kristine and I think she ran a great race. She really did,” Dodson said. “Every single day I worked, I felt guilty when I didn’t. I don’t aspire to be a bigger politician than this and I learned a lot. This was just something that was in my heart and I jumped in and did what I wanted to do and I accomplished what I needed to accomplish.”
LaLonde will replace Durbin, who resigned to become Metro’s chief information officer for Mayor Karl Dean.