City Council

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See also: Charlottesville City Council (History) and Charlottesville City Council (1928–present)
Charlottesville City Council
Official city seal of Charlottesville

Council & Manager
Type: Unicameral (officially nonpartisan)
Electoral District Plurality-at-large
Unlimited four-year terms
Term Start March 24, 1922
Preceded by Charlottesville City Commission

Last Election: November 7, 2023

Next Election: November 4, 2025

Biographical Information


The Charlottesville City Council is the lawmaking body of Charlottesville, Virginia. In Charlottesville city elections, all voters cast their ballots for five positions, with the top five candidates who receive the most votes citywide winning seats on the city council. The head of the City Council is the President, appointed by the Council to preside over meetings of the council, give assignments to City Council committees, handles parliamentary duties, and serves as Mayor of Charlottesville. The Charlottesville City Council (2024-2025) is the current legislative body of the City of Charlottesville, its session runs from January 1, 2024 to December 31, 2025.

As a nonpartisan council, the City Council does not have a Majority Leader or Minority Leader, but the Council is currently controlled by a Democratic majority. The City Council has been nonpartisan since the passage of the 1922 city charter.

Council members are elected every four years, with staggered elections taking place every two years in November. Elections happen concurrently with other local and national elections, doing so since 2006.

Council establishes policy, approves the budget, levies taxes and appoints the City Attorney, City Assessor, City Clerk and the City Manager. Council also appoints board and commission members. The overall direction of Charlottesville local government is provided through the City Council Vision.

Current Membership

Council-Manager Form of Government

See also: City Government

Originating in 1908 in Staunton, Virginia, the Council-Manager plan has become the most widely accepted system of local government in the United States. The City of Charlottesville has operated under the Council-Manager plan since September 1, 1946. Under this form, the Charlottesville City Council is elected at-large. The Council then appoints a professional manager to handle the day-to-day affairs of the city. The plan is modeled after the American corporation, with its shareholders (voters), board of directors (City Council) and Chief Executive Officer (City Manager). Of the 38 cities in the Commonweath of Virginia, the City of Richmond is the only city operating under the Mayor-Council form of government. However, it is used by a majority of towns in Virginia, inlcuding the Town of Scottesville.

Mayor & Vice Mayor

The Council elects one of its members as the presiding officer (known as the Mayor), whose position is primarily ceremonial in nature. The Mayor serves as the official head of the city and generally has the same legislative power and duties as other council members. 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 not available.

Vacant Mayor/Council seat

According to the revised (2020) city charter, Whenever, from any cause, a vacancy shall occur in the office of mayor, the council shall elect one of its members as mayor for the remainder of the term.

Vacant City Council seat

According to the revised (2020) city charter, a vacancy on the council is to be filled by the body “in accordance with the general laws of the Commonwealth.”

According to Virginia law, in order to temporarily fill the vacated position:[1]

  • Option A - Special election (by the voters): Within 15 day of the vacancy, the remaining member of the council may call for a special election to fill the vacant seat.
  • Option B - Appointment by Council: The remaining member of the council may appoint a qualified voter of the city. This appointment must be made within 45 days of the vacancy.
1). Appointment by Judge: If the appointment is not made or the remaining council members cannot agree on a nominee, the judges of the circuit court may make the appointment.
a). This appointed person may only serve until the qualified voters of the city fill the seat through a special election, no election to fill the vacancy is required to be held in the year in which the term expires. No election to fill the vacancy shall be ordered or held if the general election at which it is to be called is scheduled in the year in which the term expires.

Holding two elected offices simultaneously

According to the Code of Virginia: § 2.2-2807. Prohibition against holding two elected offices simultaneously: No person shall hold more than one elected office at the same time. This section shall apply to every office elected by the qualified voters of the Commonwealth or any political subdivision or part thereof. The qualification for and taking of the oath for a second elected office by any person shall operate to vacate any other elected office held by him.[2]

Special election

Local elections in the City of Charlottesville are only held in November. Under Virginia law, "If the vacancy occurs within 90 days of the next such general election and the governing body (or the school board) has not requested in its petition a different date for the election, the special election shall be held on the date of the second such general election."[3] If a council member resigns prior to 90 days of the next general election, the special election must be held on or before the next general election in November.

Duties and powers

City Council appoints the City Manager, the Director of Finance, the City Assessor, the Clerk of the Council and members of major policy-making Boards and Commissions. Council makes policy in the areas of:

  • City Planning and Finances
  • Human Development
  • Public Safety and Justice
  • Public Utilities
  • Transportation


Council makes policy in the areas of:[4]

  • City Planning and Finances
  • Human Development
  • Public Safety and Justice
  • Public Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Powers


City Council has specific powers to:

  • Adopt a Budget
  • Borrow Money
  • Collect Revenues
  • Issue Bonds
  • Levy Taxes
  • Make Appropriations
  • Pass Ordinances
  • Provide for the Payment of Public Debts

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.

Committee assignments

City Council makes board appointments during council meetings, viz: March, June, September, December. Council may approve a one-off appointment cycle and extend an application deadline; Board vacancies must be advertised for a minimum of 30 days.

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.[5] 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 (mayor)

  • 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 typically adopts a schedule for its regular meetings at its first regular meeting in January each year. Regular meetings of the City Council begin at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month (or the following day if that Monday is a legal holiday).

The “Open Meeting” Rule

“All meeting of public bodies shall be open.” Va. Code 2.2-3707(A)

  • Includes the right of press to attend and record meetings.
  • Members must generally attend open meetings in person. (All-virtual meetings allowed in emergencies).

“Every public body shall give notice of the date, time, location, and remote location, if required, of its meetings.” Va. Code § 2.2-3707(D)

  • Three days’ notice is required, expect in emergencies. Va. Code § 2.2-3707(D)-(E)

"[A]ll materials furnished to members of a public body for a meeting shall be made available for public inspection.” Va. Code § 2.2-3707(G)

  • Materials must be made public at the time Council receives the materials.

Minutes shall be taken at all open meetings.” Va. Code § 2.2-3707(I)

  • Minutes must include the date, time and location of the meeting and a record of attendance and any votes cast along with a “summary” of discussions.


From 1969 to 2022, council meetings were held in-person in the City Council Chambers (City Hall) and open to members of the public without pre-registration requirements. Seating was on a first come, first served basis and limited to the posted occupancy/fire capacity.

Starting March 2020, City Council Chambers were closed to the public and meetings were conducted virtually via a Zoom webinar.

On Monday April 18, 2022, Charlottesville City Council met in-person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting was held in City Council Chambers (City Hall). Only 23 spots were open for members of the public, with two spots for media members. Not all of the spots were full. People could still speak over Zoom and councilors received some presentations from virtual staff members.[6]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.

Since 2018, regular meetings of City Council begin at 6:30 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 after that (and since rescinded) prevented them from doing so and others changes were made as well. [7] These changes were cited by many as leading to tension in City Council Chambers.

At the beginning of 2018, they expressed interest in changing rules for meetings. [8]

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[9] 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. [10] [11] [12]


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 1990 retreat at Omni Hotel in Richmond [13]
  • November 2006 retreat at Wintergreen [14]
  • September 2008 retreat in Staunton [15] [16]
  • February 2012 retreat at Wintergreen [17] [18]
  • September 2012 retreat in Staunton [19] [20]
  • February 2016 retreat, Morven Farm (carried over to NDS conference room)

Changes to meeting procedure


Council adopted another update of their rules at their meeting on February 18, 2020. [23]


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. [24]


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. [25] However, the biggest controversy centered around a decision to use a lottery system to choose speakers at Council's first public period. [26] Council voted 4-1 on February 16, 2016 to enact the new changes with Bob Fenwick voting no. [27] The new procedures went into effect beginning with the March 7 meeting. [28]


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. [29] 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. [30] 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. [31] 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. [32]


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. [33]

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. [34]

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. [35]


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. [36] 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. [37]

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. [38]


One day before announcing a decision to withdraw from the 2021 election, Mayor Nikuyah Walker said the position of city manager is too powerful and should be elected. Walker was vehemently opposed to the firing of Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall M. Brackney. [39] [40]

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. [41]

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. [42]
  • A resolution, passed Monday February 6, 2013, “calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to adopt legislation prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court,” and “pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.” The resolution passed by a 3-2 vote and was brought to the city council by activist David Swanson and the Rutherford Institute. [43]
  • A resolution before the Charlottesville City Council, entitled “Calling for An Immediate Ceasefire and An End to Violence in Israel and Palestine,” was defeated on a 3-2 vote Monday, March 18, 2024. After initially voting it down, Charlottesville City Council on Monday April 1, 2024 passed a resolution calling for an Israel-Gaza ceasefire on a 3-1-0.[44]

Past councils

See: Charlottesville City Council (History)

See also

External links

City Council Agendas (2009)


  1. Web. § 24.2-226. Election to fill vacancy., Commonwealth of Virginia, retrieved January 20, 2023.
  2. Web. § 2.2-2807. Prohibition against holding two elected offices simultaneously; exceptions., Commonweath of Virginia, 1993, cc. 621, 781, § 2.1-37.01; 2001, c. 844., retrieved Feb. 8, 2023.
  3. Web. Code of Virginia § 24.2-226. Election to fill vacancy, Commonwealth of Virginia, retrieved Feb. 21, 2023.
  4. Web. CITY COUNCIL, retrieved December 6, 2020.
  6. Web. Charlottesville City Council holds first in-person meeting since COVID-19 pandemic began, Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 10:55 PM EDT, retrieved January 15, 2023.
  7. Web. City Council OKs revisions to meeting procedure, Chris Suarez, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 16, 2016, retrieved January 18, 2018.
  8. Web. Public, Councilors seek changes to Council meeting rules, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, January 17, 2018, retrieved January 18, 2018.
  9. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, May 5, 2003.
  10. Web. Council meeting disruption sparks closed session, delay, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, April 2, 2018, retrieved April 9, 2018.
  11. Web. Council chambers cleared after Unite the Right organizer delays meeting, Desiree Montilla, News Article, CBS19 News, April 3m 2018, retrieved April 9, 2018.
  12. 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.
  13. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, September 22, 1990.
  14. Web. Charlottesville City Council Minutes, November 3-5, 2006, Jeanne Cox, City Council Minutes, City of Charlottesville, retrieved November 13, 2017.
  15. Web. Charlottesville City Council identifies new priorities in two-day retreat, Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow, retrieved November 5, 2015.
  16. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, September 5-6, 2008.
  17. Web. Council discusses city vision at retreat, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 4, 2012, retrieved January 18, 2018.
  18. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, February 3, 2012.
  19. Web. Council debates ‘new reality’ at retreat, Charlottesville Tomorrow, September 2012, retrieved November 5, 2015.
  20. Web. City Council Retreat - Informal Notes, Paige Barfield, City Council Minutes, City of Charlottesville, retrieved November 13, 2017.
  21. Web. Council launches new strategic planning process at retreat, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, October 26, 2014, retrieved November 5, 2015.
  22. Web. Council tweaks operating procedures at Morven retreat, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, August 29, 2014, retrieved November 10, 2015.
  23. Web. Council votes in support of affordable housing complex, Nolan Stour, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, February 20, 2020, retrieved February 23, 2020.
  24. Web. Staff report on Council meeting changes from February 5, 2018, City of Charlottesville, retrieved June 10, 2018.
  25. Web. City Council to Consider Revised Council Procedures, City of Charlottesville, Press Release, City of Charlottesville, February 10, 2016, retrieved December 29, 2016.
  26. 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.
  27. Web. City Council OKs revisions to meeting procedure, Sean Tubbs, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, February 17, 2016, retrieved December 29, 2016.
  28. Web. City Council - New Public Comment Procedures, Press Release, City of Charlottesville, retrieved December 31, 2016.
  29. E-mail. City Attorney Craig Brown, City of Charlottesville. "school board ward system." Message to Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow. February 3, 2015.
  30. Print: McCue Bill Would Alter Election of Councilmen, Don Devore, Daily Progress, Lindsay family January 23, 1960, Page .
  31. Print: Change in Election Meets Disapproval, , Daily Progress, Lindsay family January 5, 1960, Page .
  32. Print: Council Candidates Ask Vote on Charter Changes, Staff Reports, Daily Progress, Lindsay family January 30, 1960, Page .
  33. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, November 16, 1981.
  34. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, March 1, 1982.
  35. 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.
  36. 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, .
  37. Web. How might Charlottesville be governed differently in the future?, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 28, 2018, retrieved March 5, 2018.
  38. 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.
  39. Web. September 8, 2021: Walker withdraws from election the morning after pressing Council on Brackney termination, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Community Engagement, Town Crier Productions, September 8, 2021, retrieved September 9, 2021.
  40. Web. Walker withdraws from re-election campaign following contentious City Council meeting, Ginny Bixby, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, September 9, 2021, retrieved September 9, 2021.
  41. Web. Student liaison to council hopes to increase UVa-city engagement, Chris Suarez, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, November 30, 2015, retrieved December 1, 2015.
  42. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, July 21, 2003.
  43. Web. [ Charlottesville becomes first city in the country to pass an anti-drone resolution], By: Matt Knight; Posted at 6:56 AM, Feb 06, 2013 and last updated 6:56 AM, Feb 06, 2013, retrieved April 2, 2024.
  44. Web. Charlottesville City Council passes a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza,, Published: Apr. 2, 2024 at 12:19 AM EDT, retrieved April 2, 2024.


See also: Charter of the City of Charlottesville