NEWS- Job jockeying: Local notables don new hats
January is typically a time for fresh starts, and some high-profile locals are starting fresh in a big way, with fancier new jobs– or in one case, a highly publicized firing.
Former city councilor Rob Schilling is back on the air. The lone Republican on City Council from 2002 to 2006 put in nine months on WINA's Morning Show, leaving in September when Rick Daniels took the permanent slot once held by Dick Mountjoy.
At the time, Schilling wanted to focus on real estate and had signed on with Roy Wheeler, but January 7 marked the debut of the Schilling Show Monday through Friday from 1 to 2pm and on Saturdays from 6 to 9am.
Schilling sees the new program, which will be sandwiched between conservative talkmeisters Neil Boortz and Bill O'Reilly, as an "advocacy" show. "I'm looking to give a voice to people who don't get enough voice," he explains. "It won't be a partisan show."
After his term on council, "Certainly I have a different perspective," says Schilling. "I was an outsider who was an insider for four years. No one else has that unique position and perspective."
He believes a lot of people in Charlottesville have "given up" under Democratic rule and would like to see a more nonpartisan City Council. "My contention is, if Peter Kleeman had a 'D' after his name and [Satyendra] Huju didn't, Huja would have lost," says Schilling.
Clearly, Schilling doesn't shy from strong opinions, and as a result, he says, "I've had a lot of blow-back from City Hall."
City spokesman Ric Barrick acknowledges speaking up when Schilling was on the Morning Show.
"My job is to make sure the city is being fairly portrayed on their morning show, which I consider a news program and not an opinion show," says Barrick. "I had issues with the fact that the city was being portrayed without the option for us to defend ourselves. Mr. Schilling having his own show, which is opinion, is certainly their right. He's actually a friend of mine, and I wish him the very best. I just have to do my job from time to time, and that's one of the instances when I was called into action."
Schilling, who has been selling real estate for 20 years, says that career complements his radio show. One other thing to keep him busy in 2008: a new baby is on the way.
Top-gun litigator Matt Murray, who won Virginia's largest defamation award ever– $10 million against NBC29 over a botched drug possession story (later reduced to $1 million)– leaves the firm of Richmond and Fishburne to open a local branch of the hefty-monikered Allen, Allen, Allen and Allen, the largest personal injury law firm in the state.
"They made me an offer I couldn't refuse," says Murray, who's vice president of the Virginia Trial Lawyers and past president of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Bar Association. "They have resources so deep, it's a plaintiff lawyer's dream."
"We want him, and he wants us," says Allen firm president Doug Barry. "It's a match made in heaven." An added bonus: the law firm has long sought a branch in Charlottesville. "A lot of us went to school there," says Barry. "I love Charlottesville."
Murray will be shareholder and managing partner of the Charlottesville office located at the former Albemarle Veterinarian Hospital at the corner of Seminole Trail and Rio Hill Shopping Center.
He describes the split with Richmond and Fishburne as amicable. "I've left one of the greatest groups of lawyers in Charlottesville," he gushes. "They're lawyers' lawyers."
Meanwhile, he's going to be practicing saying, "Allen, Allen, Allen and Allen."
In the Albemarle Commonwealth's Attorney Office, Darby Lowe gets a promotion to deputy commonwealth's attorney, taking the job recently held by Rick Moore, whose firing under the new Denise Lunsford regime has sparked some controversy.
"It is a poor decision to fire such a top-notch, well-respected, and time-tested asset of our community in favor of hiring a far less experienced assistant commonwealth's attorney," blasts former Charlottesville prosecutor Fran Slayton in a letter to the Daily Progress. She also takes Lunsford to task for refusing to allow Moore to stay until he found another job.
Melinda Harlow calls herself a victim aided by Moore in a January 4 letter. "It is my feeling that Denise Lunsford came to her decision from political and professional trepidation about Mr. Moore, giving little to no regard to his constancy and fidelity to those whom he serves," she writes.
"I don't have a reaction," says Lunsford about the controversy, sticking to her original statement when the firing was reported in the Progress: "I will say that I had to feel completely comfortable with and confident in every attorney who is going to be staying in that office."
Moore also declines to comment on his pink slip but says he has several possibilities that will allow him to remain in the area and in prosecution.
"Rich has been personally supportive to me in the new position," says Lowe, who prosecuted the so-called school bombers in 2006, a case that brought no shortage of controversy, particularly after the one case that went to trial ended in acquittal.
Besides the bombless bombers, Lowe has prosecuted over 100 child abuse cases, and she says people may not know she also enjoys document-driven, white collar cases. One she's particularly proud of from last fall involved elder-care fraud, and she obtained convictions when the victims couldn't speak for themselves.
"I love pieces of paper because they don't lie," she says.
Other new jobs and tasks that have come with the new year: attorney and former City Councilor-turned-Miller School headmaster Lindsay Barnes Jr. will say aloha in June and head west to lead the Hawaii Preparatory Academy. Former UVA treasurer Alice Handy, who runs an investment fund for colleges, will chair the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Board of Trustees for the next two years. And Crozet-based county growth critic Tom Loach takes a seat on the Albemarle Planning Commission.
Matt Murray changes firms, the better to sue you with, my dear insurance company.
PHOTO BY WILL WALKER
Darby Lowe is promoted to deputy commonwealth's attorney after her new boss, Denise Lunsford, cans former deputy Rick Moore.
PHOTO BY WILL WALKER