ANNUAL MANUAL- Government & Economy: Government

The likenesses of three native sons– James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe– adorn City Hall.

The great divide

Unlike every other state, in Virginia, cities and counties are completely separate entities. The downside of that arrangement is that regional issues can involve many players. The upside is that citizens, by their choice of residence within the same general area, get to "choose" between two different governments.


Charlottesville operates under the "council-manager" form of government. That grew out of a national mid-century reform movement to stop patronage and align government with the business model of an elected board of trustees (City Council), which hires a CEO (the city manager) who is insulated from the political rough and tumble. The mayor has no special powers (but earns $12,000 for the position, which will be bumped up in July 2008) and is simply the member of City Council who sets the agenda (and cuts a lot of ribbons). In recent years, there's some buzz about having the mayor directly elected by citizens rather than by fellow councilors (who all get $10,000 annually, and a raise in July 2008). Since city councilors are all officially part-timers, some believe that Jeanne Cox, the City Council clerk, actually runs the city.

Annual operating budget: For fiscal year '07-'08 starting July 1: $123 million

Next election: City Council elections move to November this year to be in sync with traditional election time.

City Council

The five councilors serve four-year terms and choose a mayor every two years among themselves. They're all elected at-large. 

David Brown, Mayor (up for re-election in 2007)

On Council since 2004

970-3113 (clerk)

Kendra Hamilton, Vice Mayor (not running for re-election in 2007)

On Council since 2004

970-3113 (clerk)

Kevin Lynch (not running for re-election in 2007)

On Council since 2000


David Norris

On Council since 2006

970-3113 (clerk)

Julian Taliaferro

On Council since 2006

970-3113 (clerk)

City Council meetings

Meets: 7pm on first and third Mondays. Televised live on Channel 10

Where: City Council Chambers in City Hall

Located: Corner of Seventh Street NE and Downtown Mall

Clerk: Jeanne Cox 970-3113

City Manager: Gary O'Connell 970-3101

The Charlottesville Code is available online or can be obtained at the local library or via the City Attorney's Office (970-3131).


The county uses the same basic structure as the city government, but the ordinance-makers are called supervisors, they're chosen by district, and there are six of them. Unlike the city, where regulating Downtown Mall cafés and maintaining architectural purity grabs all the headlines, growth is almost always the biggest issue the county faces. Supervisors earn $14,071 annually for this part-time job, with the chairman getting $15,871.

Annual operating budget: $305.8 million (FY 2007-08)

The Supes

There are six Albemarle County supervisors, one from each magisterial district. Supervisors are elected for four-year terms staggered at two-year intervals. Typically, they deal with one issue: growth.

Lindsay Dorrier (up for re-election in 2007)

Scottsville District


David Slutzky

Rio District


Kenneth C. Boyd, Chairman (up for re-election in 2007)

Rivanna District


Dennis Rooker

Jack Jouett District


Sally Thomas

Samuel Miller District


David C. Wyant, Vice Chairman (up for re-election in 2007)

White Hall District


Board of Supervisors Meetings

Meets: First Wednesday at 9am; second Wednesday at 6pm.

Where: Second floor, County Office Building

Located: Corner of McIntire Road and Preston Avenue

Clerk: Ella Carey, 296-5843

County Executive: Robert W. Tucker Jr. - 296-5841


The main ones you need to worry about are real property taxes and personal property (car) taxes which are due on June 5 and December 5 of each year in both the city and county. The Commonwealth of Virginia levies income taxes.

Charlottesville rates

Property: $0.95 per $100 value (Down from $0.99 last year)

Personal property (cars and boats): $4.20/$100 value (mobile homes: $0.95/$100)

Restaurants: meals tax 4%

Hotels: 6%

Short-Term Rental: 1%

City Treasurer- Jennifer Brown, in City Hall - 970-3146

Albemarle rates

Property: $0.68 per $100 value (Down from $0.74 last year)

Personal property (cars and boats): $4.28/$100 value

Restaurants: meals tax 4%

Hotels: 5%

County Finance Department- Richard Wiggans, Director of Finance, at the County Office Building (complete with a deluxe drive-thru, bill-payin' window) - 296-5855

Planning commissions

In both the city and county, this board takes a look at new building projects and helps guide development. While the commission's vote is merely advisory, it is usually rubber-stamped by the Board of Supervisors in the county.

Albemarle Planning Commission

Bill Edgerton

Eric Strucko

William B. Craddock

Jon Cannon

Calvin Morris (vice chair)

Duane Zobrist

Marcia Joseph (chair)

Meets: Meets Tuesdays at 6pm unless otherwise noted.

Where: Lane Auditorium on the second floor of County Office Building

Contact: Wayne Cilimberg, 296-5832 ext. 3254

Agendas: Available by phone at 296-5824

Charlottesville has a planning commission, too, but the board that gets more ink is the Board of Architectural Review, which is charged with preserving the city's historic character.

Charlottesville Planning Commission

Jon Fink (chair)

Bill Lucy (vice chair)

Michael Osteen

Hosea Mitchell

Mike Farruggio

Jason Pearson

Cheri Lewis

Meets: 2nd Tuesday at 6:30pm

Where: City Council Chambers

Contact: 970-3182


Thanks to the1996 "motor voter" law, you can register to vote at the DMV and by mail. The deadline to register is 29 days before any election. Bring a photo ID when you come to the polls.


Charlottesville held its last May City Council (and other constitutional officers) elections in 2006. Starting in 2007, local elections happen in November with all the others.  

Registrar: Sheri Iachetta 970-3250


Elections occur along with the general state and national elections on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Albemarle takes "motor voter" so seriously that it moved its elections office to the DMV.

Registrar: Richard ("Jake") Washburne 951-6798



Circuit- Hears big criminal and civil cases. Located in a classic brick building on East High Street. 970-3766

Presiding Judge: Edward Hogshire

Clerk: Paul C. Garrett

Charlottesville General District Court- Located in that small brick building that also houses the police station at 606 E. Market St. by the parking garage. The clerk can explain the procedures for using this as "small claims court." 970-3388

Presiding Judge: Robert H. Downer

Clerk: Mary Alice Trimble


Circuit- Hears big criminal and civil cases. Located in the same historic courthouse that Mr. Jefferson frequented on "Court Square." 972-4085

Presiding Judge: Cheryl Higgins

Clerk: Shelby J. Marshall (retiring after 2007, Charlottesville votes on her successor in November)

Albemarle General District Court- Located in the Courthouse in Court Square. The clerk can explain the procedures for using this as "small claims court." 972-4167

Presiding Judges: Robert H. Downer, William G. Barkley

Clerk: Phyllis Stewart

Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court- This courts serves Charlottesville, Albemarle, and more in the 16th Judicial District. It hears all cases involving those under 18, from traffic to assault, as well as custody, support and visitation cases. Temporariy located at the Levy Opera House on 350 Park St. while its permanent digs at 411 E. High St. undergo a much needed renovation. Its judges are elected by the General Assembly for six-year terms. 979-7165

Presiding Judges: Dwight  Johnson, Susan Whitlock, Edward Berry

Clerk: Jody Ann Shelley 

U.S. District Court Western District of Virginia- Located at the top of Vinegar Hill on the corner near the Omni hotel, 255 W. Main St., 296-9284

Judges: James P. Jones (chief district judge)

Clerk: John F. Corcoran

Appeals: 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. 804-916-2700

Small Claims Courts

See the two "General District courts" above.

Jury Duty

In Virginia, potential jurors are selected randomly by jury commissioners using lists designated by the court, such as the voter registration list and the driver's license list. You are reimbursed $30 for each day you serve.

The jail

The great big pink building facing I-64 and Avon Street is the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Trusties wear orange. Other inmates wear blue or good old-fashioned black and white stripes. Superintendent: Ronald Matthews 977-6981


Originally, the county seat was Scottsville, but that was when Albemarle stretched all the way down over what is now Buckingham County. Since 1762, Charlottesville has been the county seat.


Much of UVA, including its Central Grounds, is considered Albemarle turf. When the City initially annexed the land around the University, it couldn't annex the actual University becase it was state property and thus part of Albemarle County and remains so today. Subsequent expansions by UVA (like the UVA Medical Center) are considered City property. (No official UVA property, whether in city or county, pays taxes.) All this can occasionally create population havoc with the U.S. Census Bureau.


For a small town, Charlottesville has had a lot of government-sponsored neighborhood clearing, including the Vinegar Hill (in the '60s) and Garrett (in the '70s) neighborhoods.


In a deal widely seen as a sort of bribe to prevent Charlottesville from annexing county land, Albemarle has agreed since 1983 to give 10 cents per $100 of its property tax revenues to the city.


The Virginia Coalition for Open Government (540-353-8264) helps citizens keep an eye on public records, meetings, and elected officials. It was instrumental in the state's creation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council (better known as the Sunshine Office). They can be reached toll-free at 866-448-4100.

Tips to citizens: The law limits fees for copies of official records to "actual cost." Contact the Sunshine Office if you get a raw deal. In May 2003, the above Council ruled that failure to respond to a FOIA request is deemed a denial of the request and is a violation of FOIA; a person denied rights under FOIA may file a petition for mandamus or injunction.

During the Hook's existence, there have been several Freedom of Information brouhahas; here's one of them: On June 13, 2002, The Albemarle School Board imposed a gag order on itself. By a 5-2 vote (current chair Ken Boyd and former supe Gary Grant dissenting), the board declared that even post-meeting, topics discussed behind closed doors had to stay that way. But there was a curious and contradictory caveat: "Nothing in this policy shall be construed to limit rights protected regarding freedom of expression or freedom of speech."

In 2004, a citizen named Jim Moore filed a FOIA request with Charlottesville to learn the cost breakdown of its new $6.6 million CityLink computer system. The city denied his request, citing a confidential contract with the vendor. Moore appealed to General District Court. The judge upheld his request, and the city threatened to appeal, but then capitulated and turned over the information Moore requested.

Most recently, in 2007 the General Assembly amended the Freedom of Information Act to include not just "state agencies" but all "public bodies." In March, UVA employee Will Shaw tested that law after filing a FOIA request asking UVA to produce a market salary survey for Central Virginia, only to have his job eliminated after filing the request. However, a judge ruled he should have filed in Albemarle County instead of his home county of Louisa. 

Like the national Citizen Access Project, a group called The Virginia Public Access Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving public understanding of money in politics. 804-353-4300


Virginia laws are made every year by the General Assembly, composed of the House of Delegates (whose members serve two-year terms) and the State Senate (whose members serve four-year terms). Their work writing bills usually happens pretty fast– except when the biannual budget is concerned. In 2004, the normal 60-day session stretched an extra 106 days as legislators grappled with a budget. A new governor was in office in 2006, but the outcome was all-too-familiar for weary lawmakers: a session that lasted an extra three months.

In January 2002, the state government began offering a free tracking service that allows citizens to follow up to five bills per session– via email alerts. Five years later, Charlottesville blogger, political commentator, and cyberwunderkind Waldo Jaquith launched Richmond Sunlight, a free bill tracking website that's searchable by keyword and includes podcasts of legislative sessions, RSS feeds for each legislator, and a comments page for every bill.

Your Governor

He is Tim Kaine, who was elected in 2005 and under Virginia law cannot seek a second consecutive four-year term. His win was largely attributed to the popularity of his Democratic predecessor, Mark Warner. In fact, Warner was such a popular governor that many Democrats touted him as a presidential candidate in 2008, until he announced in 2006 that he wouldn't seek the White House. Now, the speculation is he could run for John Warner's Senate seat in 2008 or the Governor's Mansion again in 2009. Stay tuned. 

State Legislators

25th House District- The Crozet area in Western Albemarle plus some terrain in the Valley counties of Augusta and Rockingham

Current Delegate: Steve Landes (R-Weyers Cave)

Phone: 540-245-5540

Next election: November 2007

57th House District- All of Charlottesville and much of central Albemarle County

Current Delegate: David Toscano (D-Charlottesville)

Phone: 220-1660

Next election: November 2007. Toscano, a former mayor of Charlottesville, is currently serving his first term as successor to Mitch Van Yahres who served 24 years.

58th House District- Part of Albemarle, the western half of Fluvanna, all of Greene, and part of Orange County

Current Delegate: Rob Bell (R-Orange)

Phone: 245-8900

Next election: November 2007

59th House District- The southwestern chunk of Albemarle, Nelson, Buckingham, Appomattox, and Cumberland Counties and even a little swath of Prince Edward

Current Delegate: Watkins M. Abbitt Jr. (I-Appomattox)

Phone: 434-352-2880

Next election: November 2007

24th Senate District- The Brownsville, Crozet, and Free Union precincts of Albemarle, plus parts of Rockbridge and Rockingham, and all of Augusta, Greene, and Highland Counties, plus the cities of Lexington, Staunton, and Waynesboro

Current Senator: Emmett W. Hanger (R-Mount Solon)

Phone: 540-885-6898

Next election: November 2007, after fending off a near defeat at the hands of Lexington businessman Scott Sayre in this year's Republican primary

25th Senate District- All of Charlottesville, Bath, Buena Vista, Nelson, and parts of Albemarle, Alleghany, Buckingham, and Rockbridge Counties

Current Senator: Creigh Deeds (D-Bath)

Phone: 296-5491

Next election: November 2007. After falling just 323 votes (or .00016 percent) short of becoming Attorney General in 2005, many Democrats have touted deeds as a future candidate for the U.S. Senate or the governorship.

17th Senate District- All of Louisa, Madison, Orange and Culpeper Counties plus parts of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County

Current Senator: R. Edward Houck D-Spotsylvania

Phone: 540-786-2782

Next election: November 2007

Can you believe it #1- Charlottesville/Albemarle are chopped into four different House districts. Can you say gerrymandering?

Can you believe it #2 - Most state senators have no opponent in the elections in November 2007. Why? Most pundits blame gerrymandering for putting so many like-minded folks in the same districts.


Your two U.S. Senators (every state gets two, remember?)

John Warner - R


Elected: 1978 (now in his fifth term)

Next election: November 2008, though many speculate the 80-year-old Warner could call it a before the next campaign. Some speculated GOP successors include former governor and senator George Allen, former governor Jim Gilmore, Fairfax congressman Tom Davis, Richmond congressman Eric Cantor, and former GOP state party chair Kate Obenshain Griffin.

Likely opponent: Though many names are bubbling beneath the surface, the Democrats' unanimous dream candidate is Mark Warner.

Jim Webb - D


Elected: 2006

Next election: November 2012

Likely opponent: After pulling off one of the biggest political upsets in American history in defeating one-time presidential frontrunner George Allen, whichever Republican decides to challenge Webb would be a fool to underestimate him again.

Your Representative in the Fifth District of the House of Representatives:

Virgil Goode (R-Rocky Mount)


Represents: Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, Nelson, Fluvanna, and Buckingham Counties, extending all the way down to Danville

Elected: 1996

Next election: 2008

Opponent: Both Chatham businessman and Iraq War veteran Brydon Jackson and former UVA prof David Shreve have announced their candidacies for the Democrats' nomination.

Your Representative in the Sixth District of the House of Representatives:

Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke)


Represents: Most of the Shenandoah Valley, including Staunton, Waynesboro, Augusta and Rockingham Counties, extending southwest down to Roanoke

Elected: 1992

Next election: 2008

Opponent: Sam Rasoul, a Roanoke medical supplies distributor, is the only Democrat to have declared his candidacy, though Sixth District Dems say there will be others.

Your Representative in the Seventh District of the House of Representatives:

Eric Cantor (R-Richmond)


Represents: Madison, Orange and Louisa Counties, extending north to Rappahonnock County and southeast to Richmond

Elected: 2002

Next election: 2008

Opponent: As yet unopposed