Charlottesville City Council (History)

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Main article: Charlottesville City Council

The Charlottesville City Council is the legislative branch that governs the City of Charlottesville. Legislative powers are dependent on Virginia state laws and the city’s charter. Charlottesville incorporated as a town in 1801 and as a city in 1888. The title for the members of the city council has varied and several titles have existed according to local custom of the time. These titles are: councilor, councilmember, councilman, alderman, commissioner, freeholder or trustee. Council size has ranged from 5 to 12 members.

Current members

The Charlottesville City Council consists of five members elected at-large, rather than by district, to serve four-year staggered terms. After the last election, the City Council appoints a Mayor and a Vice-Mayor from its own membership to serve a two-year term.

The councilors are elected by winner-take-all “at-large” city-wide voting, where, instead of using ward districts, all councilors must run “at large". At-Large block voting - also known as the "plurality-at-large voting method" - has been in place since the 1922 election. The president of the council and the vice-president are chosen by the council at the first regular meeting of the term. As of 2020, council members receive an annual salary of $18,000 for councilors and $20,000 for the mayor - not including fringe benefits, city-issued credit cards and discretionary spending funds. Charlottesville has one of the highest average salaries for council members in Virginia.

Regular council meetings are held in the City Hall on the first and third Monday of every month (except holidays), beginning at 4:00 p.m. (unless decided by special resolution) or otherwise stated in public notice. The mayor presides over meetings, may call special meetings, makes some appointments to advisory boards and serves as the ceremonial head of government. The vice mayor substitutes whenever the mayor is not available.


The Code of Virginia states that governing bodies shall be composed of between three and eleven members. Charlottesville, as with most governing bodies in Virginia, has four-year terms of office. In Virginia, city and town councils are presided over by mayors who may be directly elected or, as with Charlottesville, chosen by the council. Counties are presided over by a chair of the board of supervisors.

Past councils

Albemarle County was organized on December 31, 1744. Between 1744 and 1762, Scott’s Landing served as the county seat before the General Assembly divided up the county and relocated its county seat to Charlottesville. Charlottesville was chartered in 1762 to serve as the new county seat of Albemarle County along the Three Notch'd Road from Richmond to the Shenandoah Valley.

1801-1854 (Trustees)

Main article: Charlottesville Town Trustees

Charlottesville incorporated as a town on July 19, 1801. The Virginia General Assembly authorized and appointed a government of five trustees "who were to maintain streets, settle boundary disputes, authorize a market, quiet public nuisances, appoint a town clerk, and collect taxes to no more than $200." Number of councilmen per number of constituents:


Chapter 100 - An ACT to appoint additional Trustees for the Town of Charlottesville. (Passed January 15, 1816) The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia appointed additional Trustees for the Town of Charlottesville “Whereas the Trustees of the Town of Charlottesville, in the county of Albemarle, are so reduced, by death, resignations and removals, that there is not a sufficient number to proceed to business; by which the improvements and regulations of the said Town are much obstructed; for remedy whereof,…in John Kelly, John H. Craven, John Winn, Twyman Waytt, James Leitch, Nicholas Lewis, William Watson, Joseph Bishop, John R. Jones, John C. Ragland, Frank Carr and Alexander Garrett…appointed additional Trustees.”

1854-1870 (Mayor & Council)

Main article: Charlottesville Town Council (1854-1870)

On February 25, 1854, the town of Charlottesville held its first municipal election of a mayor and four aldermen to serve for the ensuing year. The election was held at the Courthouse of Albemarle County, the fourth Saturday of the month. Drury Wood, who received 75 votes for mayor, was the winner. Seven months later Wood quit, and his post went to council president R.T.W. Duke and then to alderman John B. Dodd. Dodd won election as mayor in his own right in 1855 but soon quit again and was replaced by Wood. A year later, Wood re-resigned and was replaced by Eugene Davis.

An ACT, passed by the General Assembly on May 31, 1851, granted the municipal authorities of the town of Charlottesville to consist of a Mayor and a four member Board of Aldermen, who were elected annually on the fourth Saturday in February "by the free white male inhabitants of twenty-one years of age and upwards...four persons, being freeholders, as aldermen, and one other person, being a free holder, as mayor, to serve as the council for one year, and until their successors are elected and qualified." [1]

At the close of the Civil War, town and university officials surrendered to Union generals Philip H. Sheridan and George Custer on March 3, 1865. Union forces initially occupied Charlottesville for three days. Following Lee’s surrender a month later, the town came under the jurisdiction of the Army of the James, and the new occupation force consisted of a regiment of Pennsylvania cavalry.

After the end of the Civil War, Virginia came briefly under military rule during Reconstruction, with the district commanded by John M. Schofield. Pursuant to federal Reconstruction legislation, Schofield called for a new constitutional convention to meet in Richmond from December 1867 to April 1868. Virginia's new Constitution was ratified by a popular vote and went into effect in 1870. Significant provisions included expanding the suffrage to all male citizens over the age of twenty-one, which included freedmen.

Mayor Year Board of Aldermen
President Seat 1 Seat 2 Seat 3 Seat 4 Seat 5 Seat 6
Drury Wood 1854 Office did not exist R. W. T. Duke John B. Dodd Andrew J. Brown William M. Keblinger Office did not exist Office did not exist
John B. Dodd 1855 Robert S. Jones Patrick Martin Julius Munday Oswald S. Allen
Drury Wood 1856 James Lobban James A. Leitch Eugene Davis J. C. R. Taylor
James A. Leitch 1857 William T. Early George McIntire William H. Foster Tekel W. Savage
William T. Early 1858 Tekel W. Savage John Wood, Jr. Robert A. Trice William H. Foster
Thomas Wood 1859 Thomas J. Wertenbaker John H. Bibb Edward. J. Timberlake A . P. Terrell
1860 Edward. J. Timberlake A. P. Terrell John H. Bibb S. M. Keller
1861 John H. Bibb Edward. J. Timberlake Alexander P. Abel Thomas J. Wertenbaker
George Carr 1862 A. H. Maupin Thomas Wood
John H. Bibbs 1863 George McIntire James Alexander Christopher L. Fowler Thomas J. Wertenbaker
George McIntire 1864 James Alexander Thomas J. Wertenbaker Shelton Leake Christopher L. Fowler A. Robert McKee Edward. J. Timberlake
Christopher L. Fowler 1865 Edward. J. Timberlake R. F. Harris George McIntire Dr. E. S. H. Wise Samuel Benson James Alexander
1866 R. F. Harris Alexander P. Abell Joseph W. Lipop Dr. R. B. Nelson
1867 N. Hardin Massie William A. Watkin
T. W. Savage 1868 John Thornley Samuel W. Allen C. L. Thompson Charles Lucas Allen Bacon
1869 Allen Bacon George Sutler
N. M. Massie 1870 Alexander P. Abell Joseph W. Lipop W. C. N. Randolph T. F. Wingfield Alexander P. Abell R. F. Harris

1870-1889 (Mayor & Board of Aldermen)

Main article: Charlottesville Town Council (1870-1889)

Before the 1888 Annexation, Charlottesville's population in 1880 was about 2,676. According to the 1890 Census, the city's population was 5,591 - a 108.93% increase during the decade. Number of councilmen per number of constituents ranged from in 1880 to in 1889.

In accordance with Virginia's new Constitution (1870), a five member Board of Aldermen elected William L. Conchran to serve as Mayor of the Corporate town of Charlottesville on July 4, 1970. A committee was formed to meet with the former mayor to obtain town records and property. In 1871, under Charlottesville's new charter, approved by the General Assembly on March 28, 1871, the municipal authorities of "The Town of Charlottesville" consisted of a mayor and six alderman, who were elected annually by "qualified voters" on the fourth Saturday of June.[2]

Council of the Town of Charlottesville
Mayor Year Board of Aldermen
President Seat A Seat B Seat C Seat D Seat E Seat F Seat G Seat H Seat I Seat J
William L. Cochran ‡ 1870 Joseph Norris W. C. N. Randolph R. F. Harris Joseph Norris B. Obendoffer Bennet Taylor Samuel Comer Office did not exist Office did not exist Office did not exist Office did not exist
1872 C. D. Fishburne S. V. Southall J. H. Bowman
1873 R. F. Harris John McKevers R. F. Harris Spottswood M. Keller J. W. Lipop C. H. Harman
1874 R. W. Nelson John Lewis
1875 R. W. Nelson B. Obendoffer
R. F. Harris 1876 C. D. Fishburne
1877 D. H. Stern
B. R. Pace 1881 C. D. Fishburne M. Trieber John West
R. F. Harris 1883 C. D. Fishburne M. B. Heller R. C. Vandegrift W. C. Payne C. H. Harman W. O. Fry
1886 C. H. Harman
1887 C. D. Fishburne Moses Leterman
1888 Samuel B. Woods E. E. Dinwiddie Samuel B. Woods John L. Walters Thomas W. Bailey
Samuel B. Woods 1889 C. D. Fishburne A. Wingfield John L. Cochran

1889-1900 (Mayor & Common Council)

Main article: Charlottesville City Council (1889-1900)

Charlottesville incorporated as a city on September 1st 1888. Under the first city charter, granted by the Legislature, Charlottesville City Council consisted of the Mayor, elected at-large, and twelve Aldermen who were elected from respective wards. The city was divided into four wards, with three councilmen elected from each one by plurality vote. The Council President presided over the City Council in the Mayor's absence. Number of councilmen per number of constituents ranged from in 1889 to over in 1900.

Ten member of the "old" Board of Aldermen (elected at-large in 1886) held office until June 13, 1889. Twelve members of the "new" city council were elected by qualified voters of the four council wards (districts) of the City of Charlottesville in May 1889 and took over the legislative branch of the government on June 13, 1889. As council members, they represented the concerns, needs, and issues of their constituents (respective wards). The last election under that system was held in 1900.

City Council
Mayor Year President First Ward Second Ward Third Ward Fourth Ward
Samuel Woods 1889 C. D. Fishburne Alonzo Wingfield L. T. Hanckel C. D. Fishburne Thomas M. Bailey George Perkings H. T. Nelson James Perley C. D. Carter G. W. Spooner John W. Coflin B. F. Grove J. M. Murphy
1890 L. T. Hanckel A. D. Cox J. E. Gleason
1891 W. C. N. Randolph F. M. Wells W. J. Tyson J. L. Cochran Jr. A. N. Peyton
L. T. Hanckel 1892 H. T. Nelson C. D. Fishburne J. S. McCue A. D. Payne
1893 W. J. Tyson M. Leterman J. H. Nalls John S. Patton
John S. Patton 1894 W. A. Melborn
1895 B. F. Grove
J. Samuel McCue 1896 W. J. Keller A. D. Payne F. M. Huyett F. C. Fitzhugh J. M. Murphy John S. Patton
1897 Frank Pearce Farish
1898 W. J. Keller G. W. Olivier
1899 Eldridge Turner G. D. Payne J. L. Walters W. A. Melborn J. L. Cochran Jr.
1900 J. E. Gleason

1900-1916 (Mayor & Council)

Main article: Charlottesville City Council (1900-1916)

The second charter organized the City of Charlottesville under a mayor-council government (approved March 3, 1900). The 1900 charter and mayor-council form of government remained in place until it was superseded by the 1922 charter.

Under an ordinance passed by the council, the city's form of government changed on September 1, 1913, whereby the Mayor also became the city's Business Manager, elected as such for one year, and re-elected at the end of that time for two years. All duties of an executive or administrative character, which had previously been performed by several council committees under ordinances, which were in force before the creation of the new office, were then required to be discharged exclusively by a Municipal Business Manager, the committees acting in an advisory capacity.

The city council, elected June 13, 1916, held their last meeting on September 14, 1916.


City Council Business Manager
Mayor Year President Vice President First Ward Second Ward Third Ward Fourth Ward
J. Samuel McCue 1900 Moses Leterman Office did not exist W. J. Tyson L. W. Graves George E. Walker A. D. Payne M. Leterman Dr. H. T. Nelson W. A. Lankford J. F. Harlan Henry D. Jarman Col. Henry M. Lewis J. M. Murphy John S. Patton Office did not exist
Charles W. Allen 1901 W. A. Perley
J. Samuel McCue 1902 G. W. Olivier
George W. Olivier 1904 Judge R. T. W. Duke Henry D. Jarman Judge R. T. W. Duke W. F. Long C. S. Venable F. W. Twyman J. E. Harrison Edward Lawman A. D. Dabney R. W. Holsinger
1905 W. E. Fowler J. P. Ellington
1906 F. W. Twyman R. W. Holsinger W. Rice Barksdale W. P. Lipscomb J. E. Early B. W. Leterman A. C. Brechin A. G. Carter
1907 A. Goodloe H. R. Hawkins James E. Gleason H. M. Lewis
E. G. Haden 1908 E. A. Balz H. W. Tribble E. A. Balz John S. Patton
1909 O. E. Driscoll H. R. Hawkins
1910 R. W. Holsinger J. H. Montague C. W. Hulfish L. T. Hanckel Jr. F. M. Huyett Henry D. Jarman J. H. Montague
1911 Thos. J. Michie
A. V. Conway 1912 H. D. Jarman W. Rrice Barksdale Thomas J. Michie F. M. Huyett E. A. Joachim J. H. Montague J. P. Ellington M. V. Pence
1913 A. V. Conway
1914 W. Rice Barksdale S. A. Birch R. (Bob) C. Walker W. E. Graves W. F. Sounder, Jr.
1916 J. P. Ellington Marshall Timberlake W. D. Harris John S. Patton F. W. Twyman

1916-1922 (Mayor & Bicameral Council)

Main article: Charlottesville City Council (1916-1922)

According to the Fourteenth Census, taken as of January 1, 1920, the population of Charlottesville was 10,688, which represents an increase of 3,923, or 58 percent since 1910. During the same period the population of Albemarle County decreased by 13 percent, while the population of Virginia increased by 12 percent. Number of councilmen per number of constituents ranged from in 1900 to over in 1920.

Between 1916 and 1922, Charlottesville's legislative government consisted of a two chamber city council. Not unlike the current Virginia General Assembly, the city council was composed of a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Board of Aldermen, with 4 members, and an upper house, the Common Council, with 8 members. Each member was elected from one of the four wards and serving staggered two-year terms. The Board of Aldermen was presided over by a member elected president, while the Common Council was presided over by a member elected president. The Mayor of the City of Charlottesville was an elected constitutional officer, the head of the executive branch. The Mayor was popularly elected every two years by plurality-at-large voting. The mayor, when present, presided over the joint meetings of the council, and in his absence, the president of the Board of Aldermen presided. The mayor had no vote in the council, except in the case of a tie, when he gave the casting vote.

On August 1, 1916, the city's the population exceeded 10,000 following the annexation of over 2,500 acres of Albemarle county territory and suburbs surrounding the city. As a result, Charlottesville became a city of the first-class and according to the the Virginia Constitution of 1902, the city's Legislative government was required to consist of a divided government.

A special election was held on September 20, 1916 (3rd Tuesday in June) to elect members of the new city government as prescribed by general State law for a city of the first-class. The Board of Alderman held regular meetings the 2nd Monday of every month. The Common Council held regular meetings the 2nd Thursday of every month. The last regular monthly meeting of the Common Council was held on August 10, 1922.

Mayor Year Board of Aldermen (Upper House) Common Council (Lower House) City Manger
President Vice President First Ward Second Ward Third Ward Fourth Ward President Vice President First Ward Second Ward Third Ward Fourth Ward
E. Geury Haden 1916 R. C. Walker M. Timberlake M. Timberlake R. C. Walker W. D. Harris Albert S. Bolling W. F. Sounder Jr. W. M. Forrest W. F. Long N. T. Wingfield W. E. Graves W. T. Elliott W. F. Sounder Jr. J. E. Gleason Fred W. Twyman W. M. Forrest A. V. Conway
1917 H. A. Stecker
1918 B. E. Wheeler W. M. Forrest Lemuel F. Smith L. F. Smith F. M. Huyett W. N. Via Lacy L. Irvine
1919 Fred W. Twyman Shelton S. Fife
B. E. Wheeler 1920 G. T. Greaver John S. Patton L. R. Whitten L. R. Whitten J. P. Ellington J. T. Greaves Walter Washabaugh
1921 E. G. Haden E. G. Haden J. E. Greaver
W. M. Forrest 1922 John R. Morris F. L. Watson Fred H. Quarles

1922-1928 (Commission)

Main article: Charlottesville City Commission

Under a new charter, granted by the Legislature in 1920, the city was governed under a "Modified Commission Form" of city municipal government. The council was composed of a three members commission serving two-year terms. The council appoints the City Manager and one of their own to act as Mayor. The first election under that system was held on June 13, 1922 and the last on June 8, 1926. The first session ran from September 1, 1922 to August 31, 1924. The last session ran from September 1, 1926 to August 31, 1928 which was the last year this ward system was in use. Number of councilmen per number of constituents ranged from over in 1900 to under in 1928.

Under a new charter, granted by the Legislature in 1920, the city was governed under a "Modified Commission Form" of city municipal government organized in accordance with the act of March 24, 1922. The council was composed of a three members commission serving two-year terms. The executive authority, in the management of the ministerial affairs of the city, was in a city manager elected by the council. Beginning July 1, 1928, the council was increased to five members serving staggered four-year terms under an amended charter.

Session Election Year Commission (City Council) City Manager
President (Mayor) Vice President (Vice Mayor) Seat A Seat B Seat C Seat D Seat E
(1922-1924) 1922 1922 John R. Morris E. A. Joachim John R. Morris E. A. Joachim Jury Y. Brown Office did not exist Office did not exist Boyd A. Bennett
(1924-1926) 1924 1924 Jury Y. Brown John R. Morris
1925 H. A. Yancey
(1926-1928) 1926 1926 Jury Y. Brown

1928–present (Council & Manager)

On June 12, 1928, (the second Tuesday of June), voters in the City of Charlottesville went to the polls to elect five members to the City Council. Under the 1928 charter amendment, the new council would consist of five members, rather than a three; the council would continue to appoint the City Manager and one of their own to act as the City Mayor. Number of councilors per number of constituents has ranged from in 1928 to in 2020.

There were five new seats on the Charlottesville City Council in 1928 election. As outlined by the 1922 charter, the three elected councilmen receiving the highest number of votes held office for four years (Seats A, B, and C); the two elected councilmen receiving the next highest number of votes, held office for two years (Seats C and E).

After the 1930 election, the term of office has been four years for each member - seats designated A, B and C are elected in one year; seats designated D and E are elected two years later. Subsequently, there is a year without a council election. Council members are elected at large under a first-past-the-post voting system in which the top vote-getters are seated.

From 1972 until 2006, City Council elections were held in May of even-numbered years. Since 2007, City Council elections have been held in November of odd-numbered years. If Primaries are held, they are in June of the same year.

Session Election Year City Council City Manager
President (Mayor) Vice President (Vice Mayor) Seat A Seat B Seat C Seat D Seat E
(1928-1930) 1928 1928 Jury Y. Brown Fred L. Watson Fred L. Watson Jury Y. Brown E. A. Joachim John R. Morris Fred W. Twyman [‡] H. A. Yancey
1929 Seth Burnley
(1930-1932) 1930 1930 W. Dan Haden
(1932-1934) 1932 1932 Fred W. Twyman W. Dan Haden Shelton S. Fife George T. Huff Sam Jessup
(1934-1936) 1934 1934 W. Dan Haden Sam Jessup
(1936-1938) 1936 1936 George T. Huff J. Emmett Gleason
(1938-1940) 1938 1938 George T. Huff J. Emmett Gleason
1939 F. Bradley Peyton Jr [a]
(1940-1942) 1940 1940 W. Dan Haden Charles P. Nash Jr [b]
(1942-1944) 1942 1942 J. Emmett Gleason Charles P. Nash Jr Roscoe S. Adams Sam A. Morris
1943 Roscoe S. Adams Fred L. Watson [c]
(1944-1946) 1944 1944 Roscoe S. Adams Sam A. Morris W. S. Hildreth [d]
1945 Charles P. Nash [e]
(1946-1948) 1946 1946 Gus K. Tebell Gus K. Tebell
(1948-1950) 1948 1948 Gus K. Tebell Strother F. Hamm Strother F. Hamm Henry A. Haden James Barr [f]
1949 James E. Bowen
(1950-1952) 1950 1950 Strother F. Hamm William R. Hill William R. Hill [h]
1951 Sol B. Weinberg [g]
(1952-1954) 1952 1952 William R. Hill Sol B. Weinberg R. M. Davis S. Dexter Forbes
(1954-1956) 1954 1954 Sol B. Weinberg R. M. Davis Thomas J. Michie [j]
(1956-1958) 1956 1956 R. M. Davis Thomas J. Michie A. Clayton Coleman Louis L. Scribner [i]
(1958-1960) 1958 1958 Thomas J. Michie Louis L. Scribner
(1960-1962) 1960 1960 Louis L. Scribner Bernard J. Haggerty Bernard J. Haggerty Lindsey B. Mount Robert E. Lee
(1962-1964) 1962 1962 Bernard J. Haggerty Lindsey B. Mount J. Robert Ponton [k]
(1964-1966) 1964 1964 Lindsey B. Mount J. Robert Ponton Burkett A. Reynolds
(1966-1968) 1966 1966 Burkett A. Reynolds Robert S. Johnson Robert S. Johnson [l] "Dutch" Vogt
1967 "Dutch" Vogt Bill Rinehart [m] [*]
(1968-1970) 1968 1968 "Dutch" Vogt Bill Rinehart Joseph W. Wright Jr. Kenneth E. Davis Mitch Van Yahres
(1970-1972) 1970 1970 Mitchell Van Yahres Francis H. Fife Francis H. Fife [**] Charles Barbour
(1972-1974) 1972 1972 Francis H. Fife Charles Barbour George Gilliam Jill Rinehart [*]
(1974-1976) 1974 1974 Charles Barbour Mitch Van Yahres
(1976-1978) 1976 1976 Nancy K. O'Brien Francis H. Fife Laurence Brunton Ed Gatewood Nancy K. O'Brien [**]
(1978-1980) 1978 1978 Laurence Brunton Ed Gatewood Frank Buck Thomas E. Albro
(1980-1982) 1980 1980 Frank Buck Elizabeth Gleason Elizabeth Gleason John Conover E. G. Hall
(1982-1984) 1982 1982 John Conover Mary Alice Gunter
(1984-1986) 1984 1984 Elizabeth Gleason Lindsay Barnes
(1986-1988) 1986 1986 E. G. Hall Darden Towe
(1988-1990) 1988 1988 "Bitsy" Waters Alvin Edwards "Bitsy" Waters Alvin Edwards Tom Vandever
(1990-1992) 1990 1990 Alvin Edwards Tom Vandever Kay Slaughter David Toscano
(1992-1994) 1992 1992 Tom Vandever Kay Slaughter Virginia Daugherty
(1994-1996) 1994 1994 David Toscano Gary O'Connell
(1996-1998) 1996 1996 Kay Slaughter Virginia Daugherty Maurice Cox Meredith Richards
(1998-2000) 1998 1998 Virginia Daugherty Meredith Richards Blake Caravati
(2000-2002) 2000 2000 Blake Caravati Maurice Cox Kevin Lynch
(2002-2003) 2002 2002 Maurice Cox Meredith Richards Rob Schilling
(2004-2006) 2004 2004 David Brown Kevin Lynch Kendra Hamilton David Brown
(2006-2007) 2006 2006 Julian Taliaferro Dave Norris Julian Taliaferro
(2008-2009) 2007 2008 Dave Norris Kendra Hamilton Satyendra Huja Holly Edwards
(2010-2011) 2009 2010 Holly Edwards Kristin Szakos Maurice Jones
(2012-2013) 2011 2012 Satyendra Huja Kristin Szakos Kathy Galvin “Dede” Smith
(2014-2015) 2013 2014 “Dede” Smith Bob Fenwick
(2016-2017) 2015 2016 Mike Signer Wes Bellamy Wes Bellamy Mike Signer
(2018-2019) 2017 2018 Nikuyah Walker Heather Hill Nikuyah Walker Heather Hill Mike Murphy
2019 Tarron Richardson
(2020-2021) 2019 2020 Sena Magill Sena Magill Lloyd Snook Michael Payne John Blair
2021 Chip Boyles
(2022-2023) 2021 2022 Lloyd Snook Juandiego Wade Juandiego Wade Brian Pinkston Michael C. Rogers
(2024-2025) 2023 2024
Session Election Year President (Mayor) Vice President (Vice Mayor) A B C D E City Manager
City Council