SOUTH BRONX — A Bronx preacher and businessman has jumped into the race for City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo's seat.
Arroyo made a surprise announcement in November that she would resign from her council seat at the end of the year, and Rev. J. Loren Russell has joined a crowded field of candidates vying to replace her.
He cited his diverse work history, which includes time spent as a hospital safety officer, a nurse's aide, a life insurance salesman and founder of his own finance firm The JLR Company, as a factor that would set him apart from other candidates.
"I have a multitude of experiences I bring to the table," he said, "so it’s not a theoretical perspective that I bring but a genuine perspective."
The JLR Company used to provide personal financial services, but it now focuses more on helping churches with their finances, according to Russell.
Arroyo represents the 17th City Council District, which covers South Bronx neighborhoods including Hunts Point and Longwood, and Russell cited economic development, education and foster care as three issues he would focus on if elected to her seat.
He cited the importance of making sure Bronx residents benefit from the developments that come to their neighborhoods rather than get displaced by them and also hopes to protect homeowners by holding developers and regulatory agencies accountable for major flaws in the places they build or inspect.
"People won’t wind up holding the bag years later because their sewer lines are collapsing or their retaining walls are collapsing," he said. "Those need to be rectified. Those are not things that any homeowner would be able to know about until it’s too late."
Russell also wants to provide technical and financial support for schools to help them prepare students for the workforce and address problems in the city's foster care system.
"A lot of children are aging out of foster care," he said, "and when they come out, they have nowhere to go, and they’re ill-equipped for life."
A special election for Arroyo's seat will likely take place in February, and several candidates have already expressed interest in replacing her, including her chief of staff Joann Otero, activist and businessman Julio Pabón, Rep. Jose Serrano staffer Amanda Septimo and Human Resources Administration Director of Business Development Anthony Sanchez.
Although Russell does not come from politics, he said he still understands money, budgets, negotiation and legislation, describing himself as a person who can get things done.
"My background is not in politics. My background is in doing things," he said. "I’ve always been a doer."