Council suspends search for next Charlottesville City Manager

Charlottesville City Council has suspended its search for a new city manager to replace Dr. Tarron Richardson, who resigned last September. 

“Council has decided to pause working with a search firm for the City Manager recruitment and is evaluating next steps to stabilize the organization over the next 12-24 months,” reads a statement from Council sent to the Daily Progress yesterday by Councilor Heather Hill. “We anticipate providing additional information to the public in advance of our next regular meeting on January 19th.”  

In a Facebook post, City Councilor Lloyd Snook said the city had interviewed five search firms in October and selected Ralph Andersen and Associates in part because one of that company’s officials had made a statement that “it is going to take a special kind of person to want to come to Charlottesville at the moment.”  

That official was Robert Burg, the company’s vice president.  According to Snook, Burg had a virtual meeting with city staff on December 4. A story in the Daily Progress today based on a Freedom of Information Act request from Tanesha Hudson quotes an email from Police Chief RaShall Brackney in which she described Burg as “unprofessional.” 

In his post, Snook said that Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker had disagreed with the hiring of Ralph Andersen and Associates. He quoted a December 10 email from Walker in which she said she would not meet one-on-one with Burg, but only as an entire Council. In the email, she said she did not think the firm was interested in hearing her point of view. 

“I explained to you all in the summer that I believed that it would be extremely challenging to select a city manager with this current council and that I had hoped that things would have worked out with the previous city manager,” Walker said in that email. 

Walker’s first four-year term is up later this year, as is the first four-year term of Councilor Heather Hill. In 2017, Walker was the first independent candidate elected to Council since 1948, and she announced last February she would seek another term. 

In his Facebook post, Snook said Burg told that he had never seen this level of dysfunction before and that it would be difficult to hire a manager at this time.

“In my opinion, we will not be able to hire a permanent City Manager until after the next election, in November, 2021, and we should not try,” Snook wrote. 

Council has now had four managers since the contract of Maurice Jones was not renewed in 2018. Deputy City Manager Mike Murphy served as interim until May 2019, when Richardson took over. City attorney John Blair is serving as interim manager.  Council also recently suspended its strategic plan process. They are next scheduled to meet on January 12 in a joint meeting with the Planning Commission. That meeting will be on the Capital Improvement Program. 

So far, no candidates for Council have filed paperwork, according to an email received this morning from City Registrar Melissa Morton. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the January 5, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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