City Council

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City Council in January 2012

The Charlottesville City Council is a five-member elected body that serves as City's legislative and governing body. Each member is elected at-large and serves a four-year term.

The overall direction of Charlottesville local government is provided through the City Council Vision.

Current Membership


Council chooses one of its own to serve as Mayor, and another to serve as Vice Mayor. Both are two-year terms. Mike Signer was elected as mayor in January 2016, and Wes Bellamy became vice mayor.

The Mayor presides over meetings, calls special meetings, makes some appointments to advisory boards and serves as the ceremonial head of government. The Vice Mayor substitutes whenever the Mayor is unavailable.

While the Mayor has no more power than any other Councilor, the position carries with it the ability to set the agenda. That means the Mayor can control how the meeting flows.

See also: former mayors.


Council holds public meetings on the first and third Monday of each month. If one of those dates falls on a holiday, Council will meet on the Tuesday following the holiday. Meetings are held in City Council Chambers in City Hall and are televised on Cable Channel 10, as well as streamed online.

Council occasionally holds additional work sessions in the City Hall basement conference room.

Council guides policy decisions concerning city planning and finances, human development, public safety and justice, public utilities, and transportation.

Council has the power to pass ordinances, levy taxes, collect revenues, adopt a budget, make appropriations, issue bonds, borrow money, and provide for the payment of public debts.

City Council appoints four top City staff positions: City Manager, the Director of Finance, the City Assessor, and the Clerk of the Council. As of February 2010 Council has the opportunity to appoint a new City Manager, with the recent announcement that Gary O'Connell is stepping down to lead the Albemarle County Service Authority[1].


Councilors are paid $14,000 a year for their work. The Mayor is paid $16,000. On June 18, 2012, Council will vote whether to allow itself to receive health and dental insurance. Supporters of the move say it could increase the diversity of people who could spend the time as a Councilor. The consideration was made at the request of City Councilor Dave Norris. [2]

City Council Strategic Initiatives Account

Every year, Council allocates some funding for items and funding requests that come up outside the annual budget process. [citation needed]


Regular meetings of City Council generally begin at 7:00 PM in City Council Chambers. They begin with the pledge of allegiance, followed by any awards, recognitions or announcements that need to be made. Then, Council will invite the public up to speak during for up to three minutes on any item that is not on the agenda. Depending on who is Mayor, this period will either last until everyone has had their chance, or until 7:35 PM. Afterwards, Councilor may choose to respond to the comments.

Next, the Council will consider the consent agenda, which is a list of resolutions and ordinances that Council has agreed in advance to approve. Beginning in 2003, Council moved this section to the front of the agenda[3] rather than at the conclusion of the meeting. Any item pulled from the agenda, however, will be deferred until after all regular items have been heard.

After the consent agenda is passed, Council will hear any number of resolutions, ordinances or reports. Public hearings are required for certain items to move forward.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the public is offered one more chance to make a public comment. Then, Councilors are asked if they have any other business they'd like to bring up. After that business has been discussed, the Mayor will call for Council to adjourn.

Different mayors have had different policies regarding taking public input. Some mayors have strictly held to the stated policy that says the public comment period stops at 7:35PM. However, Mayor Dave Norris generally allows comments until all have had a chance to speak.


Council frequently holds strategic retreats to address the City Council vision. While no votes are taken at these meetings, staff acts on priorities identified at these meetings.

  • September 2008 retreat in Staunton [4]
  • February 2012 retreat at Wintergreen [5]
  • September 2012 retreat in Staunton [6]
  • February 2016 retreat, Morven Farm (carried over to NDS conference room)

2016 changes to meeting procedure

At the February 2016 retreat, a majority of Councilors agreed to make changes to the way meetings were to be conducted. They included a stricter adherence to Robert's Rules of Order, moving work sessions to the second Monday meeting of each month, imposing time limits on discussions, and limiting City Councilor comments to three minutes. [9] However, the biggest controversy centered around a decision to use a lottery system to choose speakers at Council's first public period. [10]

Town halls

Since 2010, Council also holds occasional town hall meetings in the community.


The current configuration of a 5-member City Council has been in place since the 1920's according to City Attorney Craig Brown. Before then there were 12 alderman and a Mayor. [11] Other attempts have been made to change the system.


In 1960, State senator Edward O. McCue Jr. introduced a bill that would change the city charter to require a ward system with four districts and one at-large. Citizens would still elect all of the councilors, but those elected by wards must be residents of that district. The move was not popular with the city council at the time. [12] Delegate Harold M. Burrows filed another bill that would require the mayor to be elected by the public. That bill was also panned by City Councilors because they had not been consulted. [13] The issue came up during the Democratic Primary for City Council. Candidates and sitting councilors protested and said any charter change should itself require a referendum. [14]


A referendum to move to a ward system passed in 1981 but did not pass in 1982. A group called the Citizens Committee to Study Council Changes had studied the changes and recommended a system with four wards and three at-large representatives.


In 2004, an Election Task Force was appointed to study changing council elections to November from May. Councilor Rob Schilling had wanted to try to expand the scope to also include expansion to a ward system, but was voted down 4-1. [15] Schilling said a system of four members elected by ward and 3 elected at-large would be representative of the city.


Charlottesville switched from May to November City Council elections in 2007. Councilors elected in May 2004 have shortened terms that end December 2007 (instead of June 2008). Councilors elected in May 2006 have shortened terms that end in December 2009 (instead of June 2010).

The first two Councilors to be elected in November were Holly Edwards and Satyendra Huja.

Former Members

Main article: List of City Councilors

UVA liaison

The UVA Student Council selects one person to serve as liaison to the City Council, a practice that began in 2004. However, the position has been vacant since the first appointee graduated. Maeve Curtain was appointed to the position in January 2015. [16]

External links

City Council Agendas (2009)


  1. Web. Charlottesville City Manager Gary O'Connell to lead Albemarle's water authority, Brian Wheeler, News Center, Charlottesville Tomorrow, January 28, 2010
  2. Web. In change, councilors could get same benefits as city workers, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, June 11, 2012, retrieved June 12, 2012.
  3. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, 5 May 2003.
  4. Web. Charlottesville City Council identifies new priorities in two-day retreat, Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow, retrieved November 5, 2015.
  5. Web. Council discusses city vision at retreat, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 4, 2012, retrieved February 6, 2011.
  6. Web. Council debates ‘new reality’ at retreat, Charlottesville Tomorrow, September 2012, retrieved November 5, 2015.
  7. Web. Council launches new strategic planning process at retreat, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, October 26, 2014, retrieved November 5, 2015.
  8. Web. Council tweaks operating procedures at Morven retreat, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, August 29, 2014, retrieved November 10, 2015.
  9. Web. City Council to Consider Revised Council Procedures, City of Charlottesville, Press Release, City of Charlottesville, February 10, 2016, retrieved December 29, 2016.
  10. Web. Winning the lottery: City Council’s new commenting policy draws controversy, Samantha Baars, News Article, C-Ville Weekly, February 16 2016, retrieved December 29, 2016.
  11. E-mail. City Attorney Craig Brown, City of Charlottesville. "school board ward system." Message to Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow. February 3, 2015.
  12. Print: McCue Bill Would Alter Election of Councilmen, Don Devore, Daily Progress, Lindsay family January 23, 1960, Page .
  13. Print: Change in Election Meets Disapproval, , Daily Progress, Lindsay family January 5, 1960, Page .
  14. Print: Council Candidates Ask Vote on Charter Changes, Staff Reports, Daily Progress, Lindsay family January 30, 1960, Page .
  15. Web. Poor and ignored? Schilling makes the case, Lisa Provence, The Hook, Better Publications LLC, March 18, 2014, retrieved February 3, 2015. Print. March 18, 2014 , 311, .
  16. Web. Student liaison to council hopes to increase UVa-city engagement, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, November 30, 2015, retrieved December 1, 2015.