Seniority out: First-termer David Brown is mayor
In recent City Council history, the mayorship has rotated according to seniority. Following that tradition, Kevin Lynch should be the new mayor.
But the cycle was broken July 1, when the new City Council elected new councilor David Brown new mayor.
It took all of 15 minutes to elect Brown– and would have taken even less time, except that Kendra Hamilton was late for her first council meeting.
The 10am special meeting was called to order at 10:07am. Lone Republican Rob Schilling immediately made a motion nominating himself for mayor, which, not surprisingly, none of the four Democrat councilors seconded.
Lynch then nominated Brown, and Hamilton seconded it. The vote was 4-0, with Schilling abstaining.
Blake Caravati nominated Lynch for vice mayor, and this time, Schilling did vote– against Lynch. Again, the majority Dems carried the well-orchestrated vote.
So why did Lynch not use his seniority to go after the mayor's job, instead making Brown the first council newcomer to be elected mayor since Bitsy Waters in 1988?
"I really think in a lot of respects, Dave is the logical choice," says Lynch, who first suggested Brown take the job. "He's very much a consensus builder."
City Council has seen its share of contentious times over the past two years. Caravati and Lynch often rancorously disagreed with Schilling. Two-term councilor and Vice Mayor Meredith Richards didn't even get her party's nod for the nomination, which some people believe outgoing Mayor (and Meadowcreek Parkway opponent) Maurice Cox and Lynch had a hand in.
Lynch acknowledges that building consensus takes a lot of time– and says there are some personal reasons he didn't want to take on the mayor's job. He hints that in two years he might be more open to the possibility.
"Being mayor takes a real sacrifice," he explains. "Being on council takes sacrifice from work that gets the bills paid... David's got the right skills at the right time."
When Brown decided to run for City Council, being mayor "certainly wasn't in the equation," he says.
He recognizes the novelty of a first-term councilor also serving as mayor, and thinks this council will be a smoother running machine than the most recent. "I've known Blake for a long time, and campaigning with Kendra and Kevin, we really sort of bonded," he says.
Brown wants to see a "less partisan" council.
"I think the outreach from David is good," says Schilling, who has met with Brown and had "substantive" discussions on procedural matters.
But Schilling abstained from voting for Brown. "I do what's best for the citizens," says Schilling. "There's a huge learning curve to being on council. That's why I put myself forward. I don't think this is serving the city well."
He does concede that of the Democrat councilors, "I think [Brown] will do the best job as mayor."
Schilling had no hesitation in his vote against Lynch. "The skill set and job description don't match," he says. "The vice mayor is very ceremonial. I don't see that skill set, which Meredith filled very well. I think Meredith was the ideal vice mayor."
Does Schilling still see himself on the losing end of more City Council votes for the next two years? "Well, it already happened today twice, so that may be where it's headed," he observes.
Maurice Cox, newly out of office, had his own run-in with the seniority system when he won the most votes in the election of 1996. He tried for the vice mayor's job, only to be told to wait his turn.
"In hindsight, I feel I gained a tremendous amount in watching others lead," says Cox.
"Given this form of election of mayor, it really is negotiation between councilors and their needs," he notes. "It depends on whether the most senior person on council wants to be mayor."
He, too, lauds Brown's consensus building and leadership experience. "He's a great bridge– even to the minority on council," Cox says.
Two days after ending his official duties, Cox describes being out of office. "It feels like liberation. The emails have subsided. The weight of Charlottesville's problems is off my shoulders."
Outgoing and incoming mayors with two very different reasons to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend.
The consensus builder: David Brown dons the mayor's hat as he takes his seat on City Council.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO