City Council

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City Council in January 2018

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. Elections of City Council members are held in November of odd-numbered years for staggered terms. With the seating of a new Council, the Council members elect the Mayor and Vice Mayor for two-year terms.

The overall direction of Charlottesville local government is provided through the City Council Vision. See also: Charter of the City of Charlottesville

Current Membership

See also: History of people serving on Charlottesville City Council

Committee assignments

Body Meeting Time Councilor
Albemarle/Charlottesville Regional Jail Authority 2nd Thursday, 12:30pm Bellamy
Audit Committee (annually) as needed Signer
Audit Committee (annually) as needed Hill
Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT) Adv. Board 2nd Tuesday, 8:30am-10am Walker
Charlottesville Community Scholarship Program 3rd Wednesday, 8-9am Bellamy
Charlottesville Development Corporation tbd Bellamy
Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority 4th Monday, 6:00pm Bellamy
Darden Towe Park Board annually in September / as needed Signer
Darden Towe Park Board annually in September / as needed Hill
Historic Resources Committee 2nd Mondays, 11am-12pm, NDS Conf. Room Hill
Housing Advisory Committee 3rd Wednesday, 12pm Hill
JABA Board of Directors 4th Monday, noon Hill
Jefferson Area Community Criminal Justice Board 2nd Monday, 5pm, every 2 months Walker
LEAP Advisory Board tbd Signer
Metropolitan Planning Organization 3rd Wednesday, 4pm every other month Galvin
Metropolitan Planning Organization 3rd Wednesday, 4pm every other month Signer
Mobilization for Action through Planning and Partnerships (MAPP) twice annually, Tuesday 8:30-10am Walker
Piedmont Housing Alliance – Friendship Court Committee as needed (3rd Thurs of Month 6pm?) Galvin
Piedmont Workforce Network (PWN) Council Quarterly, time varies Walker
Planning and Coordinating Council (typically Mayor & Vice Mayor) Quarterly Walker
Planning and Coordinating Council (typically Mayor & Vice Mayor) Quarterly Hill
Retirement Commission 4th Thursday, 8:30am Hill
Rivanna River Basin Commission 1st Tuesday, 11:30am-12:30pm Signer
Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (RSWA) 4th Tuesday, 2pm Quarterly Galvin
Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) 4th Tuesday, following RSWA Galvin
Hydraulic Planning Advisory Panel (typically Mayor) 2nd/4th Thursday, 2-4pm Galvin
School Capital Projects as needed Bellamy
School Capital Projects as needed Walker
Social Services Advisory Board 4th Monday, 12pm Walker
Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission 1st Thursday, 7:30pm Signer
Virginia First Cities 1st Friday, Quarterly (all day) Galvin (Bellamy, alt)

Mayor and Vice Mayor

Council chooses one of its own to serve as Mayor, and another to serve as Vice Mayor. Both are two-year terms. Nikuyah Walker was elected as mayor in January 2018, and Heather Hill became vice mayor. [2]

See also: former mayors.

Duties & Powers

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 the legislative body, the City Council is responsible for adopting all ordinances and resolutions, approving the annual operating and capital budgets, setting all tax rates, approving the City's multi-year Capital Improvements Plan (CIP), setting all user fees, making land use and zoning decisions, and establishing long range plans and policies.


The City Council is guided by the current City of Charlottesville Charter and numerous amendments, as adopted and approved by the Virginia General Assembly; and by its own rules of procedure, resolutions and ordinances. The council hires a city manager, a and a city finance director. The City Council establishes the City's public policy through resolutions and ordinances, approves proposed programs, and controls the funding of these programs. The city manager's job is to implement and oversee policies crafted by city council.

Budget & levy of taxes

The Council oversees an annual city budget. As outlined in the City Charter, the council has the duty to prepare a budget containing a complete itemized and classified plan of all proposed expenditures and all estimated revenues and borrowing for the ensuing appropriation year.[3] Independent cities in Virginia are authorized to issue general obligation bonds so long as total general indebtedness does not exceed ten percent of assessed value of taxable real property; no referendum required. There is no amount limitation imposed regarding revenue bonds. (Virginia Constitution, Article VII, §10)

Responsibilities of City Council

Among the duties and responsibilities of the the City Council:

  • Choose from within, by simple majority vote, a council president (Mayor) and vice-president (Vice-mayor).
  • Appoint a City Manager, a City Attorney, a City Clerk of Council and a City Finance Director.
  • Prepared a budget containing a complete itemized and classified plan of all proposed expenditures and all estimated revenues and borrowing for the ensuing appropriation year.
  • Pass all by-laws, rules and ordinances, not repugnant to the Constitution and laws of the State.
  • Any and all additions and amendments to the Charlottesville City Code.
  • Creation of council-appointed Boards and Commissions.

Responsibilities of the council president

  • Continue in office two years.
  • Preside over meetings, call special meetings, make some appointments to advisory boards and serve 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.


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 CitySpace.

Traditionally, regular meetings of City Council 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 has been Mayor, this period either last until everyone had their chance to speak or until 7:35 PM. Up until February 2016, councilors had the opportunity to respond to comments. New rules made then prevented them from doing so and others changes were made as well. [4] These changes have been cited by many as leading to tension in City Council Chambers.

At the beginning of 2018, they expressed interest in changing rules for meetings. [5]

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[6] 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.

If there are disruptions, the mayor can call for Chambers to be cleared. This happened on April 2, 2018. [7] [8] [9]


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.

  • November 2006 retreat at Wintergreen [10]
  • September 2008 retreat in Staunton [11] [12]
  • February 2012 retreat at Wintergreen [13] [14]
  • September 2012 retreat in Staunton [15] [16]
  • February 2016 retreat, Morven Farm (carried over to NDS conference room)

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. [19] However, the biggest controversy centered around a decision to use a lottery system to choose speakers at Council's first public period. [20] Council voted 4-1 on February 16, 2016 to enact the new changes with Bob Fenwick voting no. [21] The new procedures went into effect beginning with the March 7 meeting. [22]


Council made several changes to their meeting procedures following a January 2018 retreat at Morven. Council meetings were to begin at 6:30 p.m. with a dedicated public comment period known as Community Matters. The changes were also encouraged to make meetings less formal than they had been under the previous mayor. Other proposed changes were documented in a February 5, 2018 staff report. [23]

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. [24] 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. [25] 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. [26] 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. [27]


A group called the Citizens Committee to Study Council Changes had reviewed possible changes to how City Council was elected.

The NAACP proposed switching to a system with four wards and three at-large representatives and the idea went to a non-binding advisory referendum on November 3, 1981. The measure was approved by six out of the eight wards but soon after, members of Council began to seek a second referendum. Sherman White of the NAACP as well as others questioned the need for a second referendum. Many were concerned that night that the item was not included on the sample ballot distributed by the Charlottesville Democratic Party. Councilor John Conover suggested that a two-thirds majority in favor of the change should be required and called for a second referendum. [28]

A majority of Councilors felt the results of the first referendum were inconclusive and so they voted on March 1, 1982 to hold a second one. [29]

The second referendum was held on May 4, 1982. The question was:

Shall the form of City Council be changed from the present Council of five members elected by the voters of the entire city to a Council composed of seven members, with four members elected from our four separate wards and three members elected by the voters of the entire city?

There were 3,382 "no" votes and 2,453 yes votes. [30]


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. [31] 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 new Councilors to be elected in November were Holly Edwards and Satyendra Huja; incumbent David E. Brown, first elected May 4, 2004, was re-elected. see also: 2007 election. Julian Taliaferro and Dave Norris were the last new Councilors elected in May to serve on the City Council.


Following the events of the summer of 2017, some people new to the political system began to question how the city was governed. As part of that discussion, Charlottesville Tomorrow and the League of Women Voters of the Charlottesville Area held panel discussions in February 2018 to educate people about the possibilities. [32]

Councilor Bellamy told the Jefferson Society in April 2018 that he would call upon Council to switch to a system where the mayor is directly-elected. [33]

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. [34]

Non-city issues

At times, Council has been asked to weigh in on issues that are outside of their scope. For instance, a public hearing opposing the Patriot Act was held on July 21, 2003. [35]

Past councils

1922 and after (at-large)

With the 1922 election, the composition of the council went from a three member (commission) to the current five member City Council. Council members serve four-year terms and are elected on a staggered basis.

The current form of government has been in place since July 1, 1950, when the City of Charlottesville changed from the modified city manager form of government to the straight city manager form. Since the 1922 election, all Council members have been elected "at-large", with no district residency (ward) requirement. Since the 1928 election, the council has consisted of 5-members, Elections are staggered: 3 in year before presidential election, 2 in year after presidential election.

External links

City Council Agendas (2009)


  1. Web. First Independent since 1948 win election to Charlottesville City Council, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, November 7, 2017, retrieved November 8, 2017.
  2. Web. Walker selected as Charlottesville’s next Mayor after public discussion, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, January 3, 2018, retrieved January 4, 2018.
  4. Web. City Council OKs revisions to meeting procedure, Chris Suarez, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 16, 2016, retrieved January 18, 2018.
  5. Web. Public, Councilors seek changes to Council meeting rules, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, January 17, 2018, retrieved January 18, 2018.
  6. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, May 5, 2003.
  7. Web. Council meeting disruption sparks closed session, delay, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, April 2, 2018, retrieved April 9, 2018.
  8. Web. Council chambers cleared after Unite the Right organizer delays meeting, Desiree Montilla, News Article, CBS19 News, April 3m 2018, retrieved April 9, 2018.
  9. Web. Commotion Erupts as Unite the Right Organizer Delays Council Meeting, Victoria Wresilo, News Article, WVIR NBC29, Charlottesville, Virginia, April 3, 2018, retrieved April 9, 2018.
  10. Web. Charlottesville City Council Minutes, November 3-5, 2006, Jeanne Cox, City Council Minutes, City of Charlottesville, retrieved November 13, 2017.
  11. Web. Charlottesville City Council identifies new priorities in two-day retreat, Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow, retrieved November 5, 2015.
  12. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, September 5-6, 2008.
  13. Web. Council discusses city vision at retreat, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 4, 2012, retrieved January 18, 2018.
  14. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, February 3, 2012.
  15. Web. Council debates ‘new reality’ at retreat, Charlottesville Tomorrow, September 2012, retrieved November 5, 2015.
  16. Web. City Council Retreat - Informal Notes, Paige Barfield, City Council Minutes, City of Charlottesville, retrieved November 13, 2017.
  17. Web. Council launches new strategic planning process at retreat, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, October 26, 2014, retrieved November 5, 2015.
  18. Web. Council tweaks operating procedures at Morven retreat, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, August 29, 2014, retrieved November 10, 2015.
  19. Web. City Council to Consider Revised Council Procedures, City of Charlottesville, Press Release, City of Charlottesville, February 10, 2016, retrieved December 29, 2016.
  20. 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.
  21. Web. City Council OKs revisions to meeting procedure, Sean Tubbs, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, February 17, 2016, retrieved December 29, 2016.
  22. Web. City Council - New Public Comment Procedures, Press Release, City of Charlottesville, retrieved December 31, 2016.
  23. Web. Staff report on Council meeting changes from February 5, 2018, City of Charlottesville, retrieved June 10, 2018.
  24. E-mail. City Attorney Craig Brown, City of Charlottesville. "school board ward system." Message to Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow. February 3, 2015.
  25. Print: McCue Bill Would Alter Election of Councilmen, Don Devore, Daily Progress, Lindsay family January 23, 1960, Page .
  26. Print: Change in Election Meets Disapproval, , Daily Progress, Lindsay family January 5, 1960, Page .
  27. Print: Council Candidates Ask Vote on Charter Changes, Staff Reports, Daily Progress, Lindsay family January 30, 1960, Page .
  28. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, November 16, 1981.
  29. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, March 1, 1982.
  30. Web. Letter from Booker Reaves to Circuit Court Clerk regarding advisoryr referendum, Booker Reaves, Letter, Charlottesville Electoral Board, May 6, 1982, retrieved October 12, 2017.
  31. 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, .
  32. Web. How might Charlottesville be governed differently in the future?, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 28, 2018, retrieved March 5, 2018.
  33. Web. City Councilor Wes Bellamy talks Aug. 11 and 12, local politics with Jefferson Society, Geremia Di Maro, News Article, Cavalier Daily, April 3, 2018, retrieved April 9, 2018.
  34. Web. Student liaison to council hopes to increase UVa-city engagement, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, November 30, 2015, retrieved December 1, 2015.
  35. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, July 21, 2003.


See also: Charter of the City of Charlottesville