Charlottesville City Council (History)

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Main article: Charlottesville City Council

The Charlottesville City Council is the legislative body of the City of Charlottesville in Virginia. Legislative powers are dependent on Virginia state laws and the city charter. Charlottesville incorporated as a town in 1801 and as a city in 1888.

Virginia is a Dillon Rule state - as opposed to a Home Rule state - which means that its localities and governing bodies can only take action where they have been delegated authority to do so by the Virginia Assembly.

Current members

The council is composed of 5 members elected at-large. Members serve four years, there are no term limits. The president o the council (mayor) and the vice-president (vice-mayor) are chosen by the council at the first regular meeting of the term. 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. 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 City Hall on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of every month, beginning at 4:00 pm except holidays or unless otherwise stated in public notice.

Municipal elections are held in November in odd-numbered years. The terms of Council members are staggered so that three are elected in one year and two are elected two years later. If a vacancy occurs, Council elects a new member to serve out the unexpired term.

Past councils

The titles for the members of the council has varied over time - some were based according to local customs of the time. These titles have included: councilor, councilmember, councilman, alderman, commissioner, freeholder and trustee. Since 1801, council size has ranged from 5 to 12 members.

1762–1801 (town Trustees)

Main article: Charlottesville town Trustees (1762–1801)

Albemarle County was organized on December 31, 1744. Between 1744 and 1762, Scott’s Landing, later to be known as Scottsville, served as the county seat before the General Assembly divided up the county and relocated its county seat to a Charlottesville.

The General Assembly Act of 1762 established Charlottesville as the Albemarle County seat of government. Like most of Virginia’s towns, Charlottesville exercised some functions of self-government but in many respects was a political subdivision of the county in which it was located. The form of local government changed when Charlottesville incorporated as a town in 1801.

1801–1852 (Town Trustees)

Main article: Charlottesville Town Trustees (1801–1852)

Charlottesville incorporated as a town on July 19, 1801. By approval of the General Assembly, the Town of Charlottesville was granted a Board of Trustees form of government under general state law from 1801 to 1852.

A groups of individuals petitioned the assembly to establish Charlottesville as a town, the legislature authorized these trustees to lay out the town and sell lots. After establishment, towns petitioned the General Assembly were incorporated under acts that gave them town charters and some self-government.

1852–1870 (Mayor & Council)

Main article: Charlottesville Town Council (1852–1870)

Between 1852 and 1870 the council was composed of an elected mayor and a four member council.

Under the first Charter, granted by the General Assembly on May 31, 1851, the municipal authorities of Charlottesville were granted a council form of local government consisting of an executive mayor and a four member council, who were to be 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] The first election under this system was held on February 28, 1852. (At the close of the Civil War (1861–1865), the town of Charlottesville surrendered to Union forces on March 3, 1865 and fell under military rule until January 1870.) The last election under this system occurred on May 26, 1870.

1870–1889 (Mayor & Board of Aldermen)

Main article: Charlottesville Town Council (1870–1889)

Under a new charter, approved March 28, 1871, the Town of Charlottesville was governed by an elected mayor and a four member Board of Aldermen from July 4, 1870 to June 30, 1889.

1889–1900 (Mayor & Common Council)

Main article: Charlottesville City Council (1889–1900)

Previously incorporated as a town in 1801, Charlottesville incorporated as a city on September 1st 1888 following the 1888 annexation of over 500 acres of land from Albemarle County. The city's population doubled to over 5,000, requiring a new charter (adopted in 1889) which did away with a council consisting of a ten-member Board of Aldermen elected annually and replaced it with a new, biennially-elected twelve member council voted upon by wards. A new executive mayor was elected at-large.

1900–1916 (Mayor & Council)

Main article: Charlottesville City Council (1900–1916)

A new charter organized the City of Charlottesville under a mayor-council government (approved March 3, 1900) and remained in place until it was superseded by the 1922 charter. Under the 1900 charter, the city was divided into four electoral districts called wards. The common council was elected under a first-past-the-post voting system in which the top three vote-getters from each ward were seated. The mayor was elected at-large by plurality vote. The mayor and twelve aldermen constituted the council of the city. The mayor presided over the council meetings and held no vote, except in case of a tie, when he gave the casting vote. The first election under that charter was held on May 23, 1901, the new council's first meeting was held on Tuesday, July 2, 1901.

The Mayor’s official duties as Chief Executive of the city included serving as the presiding officer of the Council.

1913

1916-1922 (Councilmanic plan)

Main article: Charlottesville City Council (1916–1922)

1922-1928 (Modified Commission plan)

Main article: Charlottesville City Commission (1922–1928)

1928 and after (Council & Manager)

Main article: Charlottesville City Council (1928–present)