By Shrey Dua
Three finalists, out of a field of 37, are vying for the job of Charlottesville city manager, and roughly 100 people showed up to see them at an open-to-the-public interview.
City councilors questioned the candidates at a Jefferson School African American Heritage Center event on March 6, which was followed by a meet-and-greet so citizens could ask their own questions.
The candidates, all men, have city or county management experience, although two were fired from previous jobs, according to the Daily Progress. Apparently that’s not a disqualifier for city managers, as former Charlottesville city manager Maurice Jones was hired for the same job in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, after City Council declined to renew his contract post-August 12.
The position has been open since July 31, with Mike Murphy serving as interim city manager.
Michael Mallinoff had previously been county administrator in Charles County, Maryland, and city manager in Annapolis. Tarron Richardson is city manager in DeSoto, Texas, a Dallas suburb of about 54,000, and Theodore Voorhees is Powhatan county administrator.
Each candidate was met with a similar battery of questions from the five city councilors: They asked about public safety, race relations following the events of August 11 and 12, 2017, and the growing concern over gentrification within the Charlottesville community.
Mallinoff focused on maintaining a transparent governing body, and stressed the similarities between Charlottesville and Annapolis, where he was city manager for four years. He was let go when Annapolis elected a new mayor in 2014.
Richardson emphasized his commitment to working with any and all members of the community to further the city’s goals. “We want to create an environment for those who graduate from high school and college, where they want to come back to the community so you’re bringing folks who have lived here, and gotten their education here, and they can be the ones to work in our businesses and expand our economic development.”
Voorhees almost exclusively answered the questions with stories related to his long local government background, often getting bogged down by overly complex anecdotes. He stumbled a bit on his closing statement, as well as on some of the race questions, earning a few bewildered laughs from the audience during his remarks.
“Around the country people know what you’ve been through,” he said. “I hear it, people are sending me emails, messages, making little jokes about what happened and it’s unfortunate that the name Charlottesville is synonymous with tragedy.” His encouragement that the city would get through this drew hoots from the audience.
Voorhees served as city manager in Fayetteville, North Carolina, from 2012 to 2016, when he was asked to resign because of what the Fayetteville Observer called “perceived missteps and occasional political gaffes.”
Councilors met behind closed doors March 7, and the candidates continue to meet with community members. Timeline for a decision? Councilors say by April.