He has long hair, uses public transportation, and lives in a pink house— not your average Republican. “Most people assume,” says Rob Schilling, “I’m a Democrat.”
In City Council races, 100 percent won by Democrats for over a decade, such confusion could be helpful.
Schilling, 40, declared his candidacy mere days before the March 5 filing deadline, a last-minute act that came, he says, largely as a result of attending the Democratic nominating convention.
“I’d been thinking about it for a while,” says Schilling. “When I watched the process at the Democratic convention, I realized there would be three to four hundred people who’d decide the race for the city, and that didn’t seem right.”
For five years, Schilling taught elementary school in California, and that experience has made education a major plank in his platform, specifically the need for an elected school board. “Virginia has 105 elected school boards and 30 that are still appointed,” he says. “We’re behind the curve here.”
Schilling sees an elected school board as a bipartisan issue, and he joined Kevin Cox in collecting signatures for an elected school board at the Democratic convention.
“It’s interesting that 10 people [Council members and the candidates] are all thinking the same way— they don’t want to turn power back to the people. None would sign the petition,” he says.
A realtor and property manager, Schilling calls himself “the common sense candidate.” He believes his degree in business and his experience managing a business will appeal to the electorate— for instance, having a councilor who can decipher the city’s budget.
“We have the highest tax rate in the area,” he says. “I refuse to believe that the city is operating at 90 percent or even 80 percent efficiency. I’m very good at that.”
With his firsthand experience actually using public transportation, Schilling has suggestions for improving the system. For example, after noticing that buses are never more than 25 percent full during the day, and usually only 10 percent full, he proposes using smaller buses or vans when ridership is low.
In Schilling’s Greenbrier neighborhood, CTS Link is available, a program in which you call the city which dispatches a taxi that takes you to a downtown transfer point and provides a transfer from there. He’d like to use it more often, but he finds the four-hour lead-time daunting.
“We’re a one-car family by choice,” say Schilling, who calls the City’s focus on traffic-calming an expensive failure and instead advocates concentrating on traffic flow.
Like many area residents, Schilling came to Charlottesville looking for a beautiful, clean place with a low crime rate. Four years ago, Schilling and his wife put everything they owned in a moving van in California and flew to Charlottesville with no jobs and no house. “We landed on our feet,” he declares.
And now, running for City Council, how do his flowing tresses go over with traditionally staid Republicans? “I’ve gotten a wonderful response to my image,” he says.
Schilling believes he offers voters a clear choice. As a licensed realtor, he’s familiar with housing issues, and as a professional musician (he’s choir director at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church), he has an arts background in an artsy city.
So how does he rate his chances against the Democratic candidates, Mayor Blake Caravati and Alexandria Searls? “There are three candidates and two open seats,” answers Schilling. “My odds are pretty good.”