When Brown stands down

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Thinking about running for public office in the city? Start getting your ducks in a row. While City Councilors Satyendra Huja and Holly Edwards contemplate reelection bids, David Brown—arguably Council’s most outspoken member—will not seek a third term. The seats currently occupied by Brown, Huja and Edwards may find new occupants following a November reelection.

"If I have a position on an issue, I make it known," says City Councilor David Brown. Will the next councilor in his place follow suit?

While Brown says he enjoys the duties that accompany his position, the time has come to hang up the decision-making hat. “I never really thought I’d do more than two terms,” says Brown, who also served as mayor from 2004 to 2006.

In several instances, Brown’s seat functioned as a threshold vote. In 2007, Brown supported construction of the YMCA in McIntire Park—a 3-2 vote that drew criticism from city residents who viewed the vote as a threat to open space, and prompted a lawsuit from fitness club owners who alleged a violation of the state’s Public Procurement Act. (An Albemarle County judge dismissed a similar suit.) He also voted in favor of city portions of the Meadowcreek Parkway, another 3-2 split over a project that has strained city-county development relations for decades. Mayor Dave Norris and Vice-Mayor Holly Edwards voted against the project.

And months after Council unanimously passed an amended 2006 community water supply plan, Brown called out Norris for meeting with Department of Environmental Quality officials without disclosing it to fellow councilors. “This is not the first time I have learned of the mayor’s initiatives from reading the newspaper or from a member of the media,” Brown told local news source Charlottesville Tomorrow. “I am discouraged because [the water supply] is an issue Council agreed to work hard together on.”
“I never want to leave people with the wrong impression about where I really am,” Brown tells C-VILLE. “If I have a position on an issue, I make it known.”

Depending on whom you ask, Brown is either one of a kind or, with other city Democrats, one and the same. Former mayor and city Democratic Party co-chair Tom Vandever calls Brown one of the best councilors of the last 30 years, and praised his ability to “shape consensus.”

“I appreciated his guidance in what were some difficult times in terms of shaping the city budget, [and] in positioning the city in what was a relative cooperative status with Albemarle County,” he says.

Rob Schilling, who served as the sole Republican on council while Brown was mayor, refers to him as a “marionette.”

“I believe other people were pulling his strings during the time he was on City Council,” says Schilling. “I don’t think he really had an agenda of his own.”

Schilling, the last Republican elected to City Council, says he has no interest in being on Council again, and would discourage any Republican interested in running.

“Charlottesville has manipulated the electoral system by holding at-large elections,” rather than mirroring district elections for county supervisors, says Schilling. “There is a fix, as I would call it, in Charlottesville on elections. I would encourage people to work on the system from the outside rather than waste time and money trying to run an election that is essentially unwinnable.”

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