6 Democrats, 2 City Council Seats

The Democratic Nominating Convention meets on Saturday, February 23, to elect two candidates to run for City Council in May. Who are the men and women who have thrown their hats into the ring, and what exactly do they stand for?

We dared each to spend a few minutes in the blazing heat of the Hot Seat, and in the process gleaned little known facts about each of them. Can you guess which candidate turns to stinky French cheese when the going gets tough; who says the best hang out in town is their office; and who claims their confidence grates on people’s nerves?

If you don’t know the answers, you better start reading: after all, May’s not too far away!


Blake Caravati

Occupation:  Owner, Vector Construction, a general contracting business.

Age: Can I lie? 39. (He’s lying.)

How’d you end up in Charlottesville? I moved here by choice. I’m from Richmond and lived in D.C. for nine-and-a-half years. I spent six months traveling around Virginia and Charlottesville stuck out like a sore thumb. I bought a house in July 1977, and moved here in ’78.

Best thing about living here? The diversity of the citizens, the wonderful cultural life, the intellectual environment, and the citizens who really care.

What’s the worst? Route 29 North.

Favorite hangout? Mudhouse.

Why you? My Lord. I believe I can make a productive and creative contribution to the City because of my vision and experience. I really love being accessible to individual citizens and groups and that translates into a better elected official. 

Past political experience? Hubert Humphrey’s campaign in 1968.

George Bush called himself the education candidate.  What candidate are you? I’m three candidates. I’m going to be the education candidate, and I’m going to do something about it. And I’m looking at appropriate economic development and establishing true regional cooperation.

What makes you rant? Why Americans don’t care more about our weakest citizens.

Favorite Constitutional Amendment? The 15th Amendment, Section 1. It guarantees the right to vote to everyone.

Political hero? Winston Churchill.

The most overrated virtue? Consumerism.

Now reading? The Hollow Years by Eugen Weber. It’s about Paris between the wars.

What about you annoys people most? Probably that I don’t give up.

Favorite comfort food? Stinky French cheese.

Proudest accomplishment? Being mayor of the City of Charlottesville.

What do you regret? That I didn’t complete my formal education in college.

What’s a perfect day? Sitting outside under blue skies in the sun, reading a book at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Must-see TV? Anything on the History Channel.

Favorite bumper sticker? Question authority.


Bern Ewert

Occupation:  Private business consultant for development projects.

Age: 59.

How’d you end up in Charlottesville? We came in 1971 when I was deputy city manager and were here until 1976. On the day we left for Stratford, Connecticut, we decided that one day we’d move back here. And we did seven years ago.

Best thing about living here? The people and the quality of life.

What’s the worst? I don’t think there is a worst.

Favorite hangout? The Downtown Mall.  That was one of the projects I worked on when I was here, and I never got a chance to enjoy it. 

Why you? As deputy city manager, I was involved with McGuffey Art Center and the Downtown Mall. I was city manager in Stratford, Roanoke, and Galveston, and I was county executive in Prince William County. My experience is in management. It’s something I know something about and I care deeply about.

Past political experience?  Pretty much zero, other than being city manager, which keeps one in the middle of politics and nonpartisan.  I have the ability to get things done and work with people of all backgrounds.

George Bush called himself the education candidate. What candidate are you? I’m the candidate that gets things done with the record to support him. I don’t think you can get things done by being one-dimensional. You have to balance the environment, culture, and quality of life. That’s not an empty slogan.

What makes you rant? I try never to rant. If you were to say a pet peeve, it would be not maintaining what we own. The Downtown Mall is crumbling. So are school buildings and roads.

Favorite Constitutional Amendment? Probably freedom of speech.

Political hero?  Harry Truman— that’s the Kansas City in me, Noel Taylor, who was mayor of Roanoke when I was city manager, Abraham Lincoln, and my mother, Claire Ewert, who was a political activist.

The most overrated virtue? Patience— with the status quo.

Now reading? John Adams by David McCullough and the Teddy Roosevelt biography by Edmund Morris.

What about you annoys people most? My impatience with patience.

Favorite comfort food? A double cheeseburger.

Proudest accomplishment? In Roanoke, creating a sense of hope and optimism in a city that had given up on itself. I worked on the downtown revitalization and the City Market. We put a design process together, integrated the city government workforce, reduced the tax rate, revitalized neighborhoods, and put the city on a sound financial basis.

What do you regret? Impatience.

What’s a perfect day? My wife and I would be on vacation in Asia, North Africa, or South America, having had a day of exploration. We’d have a dinner of good local food and local wine with my children. Now that they’re grown, I can stand them. 

Must-see TV? I don’t have a must-see TV show, but I liked the original Antiques Road Show, and I watch a lot of public television.

Favorite bumper sticker? “My border collie is smarter than your honor roll student.” That isn’t my favorite, but it did make me laugh.


Joan Fenton

Occupation:  Owner, Quilts Unlimited, a family-owned business of seven retail stores.

Age: 51.

How’d you end up in Charlottesville? I had a business in West Virginia and at the Homestead, and we opened a store in Williamsburg. Commuting back and forth, we stopped in Charlottesville. The more we stopped here, the more we realized this was where we wanted to be, and we moved here in ’91. 

Best thing about living here? The diverse group of people, the Downtown Mall, the sense of vitality, and the sense of community.

What’s the worst? I don’t think there’s anything awful, but there are places where there’s room for improvement: available housing, the homeless problem, communication between the City and the community and maintaining a sense of trust, communication between the City, County and university, public safety issues. And you can always improve education.

Favorite hangout? My office.

Why you? To put somebody on the Council who understands how run a business, balance a budget, and to be innovative when money is tight. It’s my idealism and belief in public service— it’s time to give back to the community. There are a lot of skills that I bring to the table.  Every board I serve on, people want me to be the chair. I work well with people, I listen, and I bring about a consensus. Everybody has to win when you make a deal in business. When working with the university or County, you have to know when to compromise. You can’t look at a problem and look at a problem— you have to go on.

Past political experience?  I’m chairman of the Board of Architectural Review, which I didn’t realize was political when I took the job. I’m chairman of the Downtown Business Association, and I’m on the City’s downtown zoning steering committee. 

George Bush called himself the education candidate. What candidate are you? Everybody says they’re for education. The real proof is what you do about it. I’d actively work for education and talk to teachers, parents and school boards. 

What makes you rant? I’m not ranting. What’s not being addressed are women’s issues: sexual abuse, disparities in income in single family homes, spousal domestic abuse. From my experience as an employer, this is a continuing issue. I’ve had an employee end up with a broken arm, another one was beaten to death, and I had an intervention where I took a woman to a shelter. I am passionate on this.

Favorite Constitutional Amendment? Freedom of speech. That’s what sets us apart from other countries.

Political hero? Ellen Malcolm, the head of Emily’s List, a pro-choice group of Democratic women that’s the largest PAC in the country. She’s so inspiring; it’s one of the reasons I decided to run.

The most overrated virtue? People who claim to be virtuous and aren’t, who hide behind false virtue.

Now reading?  John Adams by David McCullough.

What about you annoys people most? I think the fact that I multi-task and do three things at a time.

Favorite comfort food? My mom’s pot roast.

Proudest accomplishment? I got a W. C. Handy Award, the Grammy of blues, for keeping the blues alive in education. And I’m really proud of the B.A.R. It’s bad rep comes from previous boards. This board works together with the community for quality designs

What do you regret? Reverend Gary Davis was one of the most incredible ragtime blues guitarists. I spent the summer of ’71 learning blues guitar from him. I considered not going back to college for a year to play with him and I didn’t. He died that spring, and that’s something I can’t get back.

What’s a perfect day? The day I get everything done and have time to go swimming.

Must-see TV? West Wing, although I hardly ever see it. 

Favorite bumper sticker? “Don’t blame me, I voted for the real president,” “Re-elect Gore in 2004” and “Martin Sheen’s My President.”


Waldo Jaquith

Occupation: Website developer.

Age: 23.

How’d you end up in Charlottesville? My parents moved here when I was 13. 

Best thing about living here? I don’t know. It’s like asking what you like best about your mother. She’s my mother. This is my home. I love it. 

What’s the worst? I dislike the social stratification. There’s an illusion that there are two degrees of separation in Charlottesville. There’s not. There is among the hip, white and urban— you know, your readers, your target audience. I volunteer at Computers 4 Kids, and everyone is black. They’re very friendly, and I didn’t know any of them. There are no [UVA] students. That’s a whole different world in Charlottesville. There are groups of people separated economically and socially.  

Favorite hangout? Mudhouse.

Why you? Two reasons: First, I feel strongly that if given the opportunity to serve on the council, I can continue my civic work on a higher and more useful level. Two, everybody knows I love Charlottesville and have put a lot of work into making it better. I’ve been asked since I was 16, Waldo, when are you going to run for City Council.

Past political experience? I started a couple of nonprofits (nancies.org and feo2), I’m on the board for the Information Technology Academy, I was on the board for the Charlottesville Downtown Foundation, I’m on the board for the chalkboard with the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, and I’ve volunteered for a lot of political campaigns. 

George Bush called himself the education candidate. What candidate are you? The social justice candidate.

What makes you rant? Social justice issues can get me off on a real tear. I love the ACLU. They caused me to win a lawsuit and to lose one gracefully.  

Favorite Constitutional Amendment? The First. Normally I carry a copy of the Bill of Rights. Without the first, you can’t have anymore. 

Political hero? Carolyn Corry [activist and Democratic operative who died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 40 in 1999].

The most overrated virtue? To know when to take no for an answer or to give up— that’s vastly overrated. 

Now reading? Fellowship of the Ring and Infinite Jest by David Wallace, which is the most pretentious book I’ve ever read in my life.

What about you annoys people most? My confidence.

Favorite comfort food? Beef stew.

Proudest accomplishment? Winning two VH1 music awards [for the Dave Matthews website, nancies.org]. What could be better for someone with no musical ability? 

What do you regret? That I have but one life to give for my country. Unfortunately, I only get 80 or 90 years tops for giving my all.  

What’s a perfect day? Getting up real early at 7am, going to the gym, cleaning my apartment, walking to Bodo’s with friends and getting a late breakfast. Whiling away the afternoon sitting in the sun on the Mall, reading the paper, and talking to friends. Dinner with my girlfriend. It does not involve going to Paris or backpacking the Appalachian Trail.

Must-see TV? West Wing

Favorite bumper sticker? “Vote Waldo” or “Rainbow cowboy boots.” Anything but that “whirled peas” bumper sticker.  


Alexandria Searls

Occupation: Photographer and teacher at Mary Baldwin. And I’ll be teaching at UVA over the summer.

Age: 40.

How’d you end up in Charlottesville? I came here as an undergrad in 1979. I left and came back in 1989 for an MFA in creative writing, and I stayed. 

Best thing about living here? I like the small-town feel, knowing so many people walking down the street. Also, there are so many resources. It’s better than New York because there are opportunities in the arts you wouldn’t have in other places with more competition. There are helpful people and incredibly creative people. 

What’s the worst? It keeps tearing down its old buildings. It doesn’t value its historical buildings and the fabric of its streets. Some people are trying to get it to be something it’s not, and their vision isn’t an appealing one. 

Favorite hangout? It’s changed over the years. Originally it was the Virginian. Now it’s Higher Grounds.

Why you? So there can be a voice to preserve history and speak up for the Charlottesville I see being taken apart piece by piece. That’s not the reason I chose to live here. 

Past political experience? It’s more on the state level. I didn’t get into local politics until three years ago. I became co-chair of my precinct. 

George Bush called himself the education candidate.  What candidate are you? The preservation candidate.

What makes you rant? I’m not a big ranter these days, but maybe the idea that men represent the business community better than women. 

Favorite Constitutional Amendment? The 19th, the one that gives women the right to vote. 

Political hero? Jimmy Carter.

The most overrated virtue? Self-righteousness masquerading as a virtue. 

Now reading? The budget of Charlottesville. It’s more interesting than you might imagine.  

What about you annoys people most? I don’t always defer to what other people think. And I don’t always worry about how I appear.

Favorite comfort food? Baked potatoes with butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.

Proudest accomplishment? I’m proudest of my archive of photography on the environment and American history. 

What do you regret? Wasting time worrying instead of getting things done. 

What’s a perfect day? I’ve gotten a lot of work accomplished, then I relax and take a walk in the park.  

Must-see TV? I don’t get any channels, so I don’t watch TV. I have gotten obsessed with CNN, but I have to go to my boyfriend’s to watch it. I’ve often thought of the show Survivor while running for City Council. 

Favorite bumper sticker?  Our [heart symbol] is with our river— Rivanna Conservation Society.


David Simmons

Occupation:  Registered nurse at UVA in the nephrology outpatient clinic.

Age:  50

How’d you end up in Charlottesville? It was a career move. I’d completed community college with an associate’s degree in applied science, and I moved to Charlottesville in 1972 because it was a teaching school and with the thought of returning to nursing school.

Best thing about living here? It’s a wonderful city with a variety of things for people to do— art, music, skiing, history— and you can do them if you want. My wife is here, and it’s a small university town. I grew up in Caroline County, and the closest city was Richmond, so this is a good fit.

What’s the worst? Knowing that we have land boundaries that we cannot expand beyond. I don’t really have a worst. We have a pretty good life here.  The crime rate is relatively low, and we don’t have capital murders at an astronomical rate like other cities.

Favorite hangout?  Places where you can get out and walk and meet people: Barracks Road, the Downtown Mall, and around the University and the Corner.

Why you? I think I can positively influence the direction the city is going. I can represent different constituencies and groups in the city through my grassroots work. I’m a good listener. I’ve served on multiple boards (Shelter for Help in Emergency, AIDS/HIV Services Group, PVCC, Black Nurses Association, Red Cross, OAR, police chief’s advisory panel) and with all those contacts, I can look at things with a holistic perspective.

Past political experience? I ran for City Council in the last election and withdrew. I’ve attended the General Assembly to alter health policy issues, and I’ve done that on a national level at National Black Nurses Day in Washington on Capitol Hill.

George Bush called himself the education candidate.  What candidate are you?  I’m the consensus-builder candidate.

What makes you rant? When we lose important programs without looking at alternative ways to fund them. And in health care, the way insurance companies dictate to health care providers on how much medicine a patient can take, or when access to care is decided by someone who hasn’t seen the patient.

Favorite Constitutional Amendment? Free speech, the right to free expression.

Political hero? Former President Clinton because he went through hell and he was able to rise above adversity and put things forward that will have an impact later.

The most overrated virtue? They’re very important. It would be difficult for me to say which are overrated.

Now reading?  Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

What about you annoys people most? I think my current demeanor. I’m pretty soft-spoken from years of working with patients. I try not to be overbearing, and that’s a problem for people who want someone to take a strong stance. I’m constantly looking to not come across as threatening. Conflict resolution has made me that way.

Favorite comfort food? Potato chips.

Proudest accomplishment? My nursing career. At first I wasn’t sure that would be the right fit for me.

What do you regret? That I’m not home at times when I believe my wife wants me there.

What’s a perfect day? When I can do my work and not get canned by off-the-wall intrusions, and seeing at the end of it that I’ve had a positive influence on someone.

Must-see TV?  Oz on HBO.

Favorite bumper sticker?  I don’t have a favorite, but probably something with a smiley face.