Power players: the ones making the biggest impact

Power players: the ones making the biggest impact

It’s the time of year C-VILLE editorial staffers dread most: landing on the final names for our Power Issue, followed by the inevitable complaints that the list contains a bunch of white men. Sure, there are powerful women and people of color in
Charlottesville. But when it comes down to it, it’s still mostly white men who hold the reins—and a lot of them are developers. The good news: that’s changing. (And we welcome feedback about who we missed, sent to editor@c-ville.com.)

If you’re looking for a different take on power, skip over to our Arts section, where local creative-industry leaders share their most powerful moments (grab some Kleenex!) on page 46.

1. Robert E. Lee statue

More than 150 years after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, he continues to be a divisive figure—or at least his statue is. The sculpture has roiled Charlottesville since a March 2016 call (see No. 2 Wes Bellamy and Kristin Szakos) to remove the monument from the eponymously named park.

As a result, in the past year we’ve seen out-of-control City Council meetings, a Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces, a City Council vote to remove the statue, a lawsuit and injunction to prevent the removal and the renaming of
the park to Emancipation.

The issue has turned Charlottesville into a national flashpoint and drawn Virginia
Flaggers, guv hopeful and former Trump campaign state chair Corey Stewart, and Richard Spencer’s tiki-torch-carrying white nationalists. Coming up next: the Loyal White Knights of the KKK July 8 rally and Jason Kessler’s “Unite the Right” March August 12.

You, General Lee, are Charlottesville’s most powerful symbol for evoking America’s unresolved conflict over its national shame of slavery and the racial inequity still present in the 21st century.

Spawn of the Lee statue

Jason Kessler

Before the statue debate—and election of Donald Trump—Charlottesville was blissfully unaware of its own, homegrown whites-righter Jason Kessler, who unearthed Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy’s offensive tweets from before he took office and launched an unsuccessful petition drive to remove Bellamy from office, calling him a “black supremacist.” Since then, Kessler has slugged a man, filed a false complaint against his victim and aligned himself with almost every white nationalist group in the country, while denying he’s a white nationalist. The blogger formed Unity and Security in America and plans a “march on Charlottesville.” Most recently, we were treated to video of him getting punched while naming cereals in an initiation into the matching-polo-shirt-wearing Proud Boys.


The impetus for the local Showing Up for Racial Justice was the seemingly unrelenting shootings of black men by police—and white people wanting to do something about it. But the Lee statue issue has brought SURJ into its own militant niche. Pam and Joe Starsia, who say they can’t speak for the collective, are its most well-known faces. The group showed up at Lee Park with a bullhorn to shout down GOP gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart, interrupted U.S. Representative Tom Garrett’s town hall and surrounded Kessler at outdoor café appearances on the Downtown Mall, shouting, “Nazi go home!” and “Fuck white supremacy!”—perhaps unintentionally making some people actually feel sorry for Kessler.

2. City Council

Not all councilors are equally powerful, but together—or in alliances—they’ve kept the city fixated on issues other than the ones citizens normally care about: keeping traffic moving and good schools.

Mayor Mike Signer. Photo by Eze Amos
Mayor Mike Signer. Photo by Eze Amos

Mike Signer

Mayor Signer took office in January 2016 in what is widely seen as a step to higher office. He immediately riled citizens by changing the public comment procedure at City Council meetings. A judge determined part of the new rules were unconstitutional, but some council regulars say the meetings do move along much better—at least when they’re not out of control with irate citizens expressing their feelings on the Lee statue. Signer called a public rally, sans permit, to proclaim Charlottesville the capital of the resistance. And despite his vote against removing the statue, he’s not shied away from denouncing the white nationalists drawn to Charlottesville like bears to honey.

Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy. Photo by Eze Amos
Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy. Photo by Eze Amos

Wes Bellamy

Most politicians would be undone by the trove of racist, misogynistic and homophobic tweets Bellamy made before he was elected to City Council. As it was, they cost him his job as an Albemarle County teacher (a post from which he resigned after being placed on administrative leave) and a position on the Virginia Board of Education. But he fell on the sword, apologized and acknowledged the “disrespectful and, quite frankly, ignorant” comments he posted on Twitter. Perhaps it helped that Bellamy, at age 30, is a black male leader, has real accomplishments and has dedicated himself to helping young African-Americans. Despite his missteps, he is the voice for a sizable portion of Charlottesville’s population.

City Councilor Kristen Szakos. Photo by Elli Williams
City Councilor Kristen Szakos. Photo by Elli Williams

Kristin Szakos

Szakos raised the topic of removing the city’s Confederate monuments several years before she teamed up with Bellamy, and she was soundly harassed for her trouble. When she ran for office, she called for town halls in the community and bringing council to the people, and she’s always demonstrated a concern for those who can’t afford to live in the world-class city they call home. She announced in January she won’t be seeking a third term in the fall.

City Councilor Kathy Galvin. Photo by Christian Hommel
City Councilor Kathy Galvin. Photo by Christian Hommel

Kathy Galvin

Galvin, an architect, envisions a strategic investment area south of the Downtown Mall, and her job will be to convince residents it’s a good deal for them. Council’s moderate voice, she, along with Signer, were the two votes against removing the Lee statue.

City Councilor Bob Fenwick. Photo by Chiara Canzi
City Councilor Bob Fenwick. Photo by Chiara Canzi

Bob Fenwick

Even before losing the Democratic nomination June 13 with a dismal 20 percent of the vote, Fenwick was always the odd man out on council. His moment in the sun came earlier this year when he abstained from a split vote on removing the Lee statue, lobbied for pet causes among his fellow councilors and then cast his vote in the “aye” side, joining Bellamy and Szakos. That vote did not yield the groundswell of support he might have imagined from the black community. And although he leaves council at the end of the year as a one-termer, there are those who have appreciated Fenwick’s refusal to join in lockstep with the rest of council, and his willingness to call out its penchant for hiring consultants without taking action.

Coran Capshaw. Photo by Ashley Twiggs
Coran Capshaw. Photo by Ashley Twiggs

3. Coran Capshaw

Every year we try to figure out how to do the power list without including Capshaw. But with his fingers in pies like Red Light Management (Dave Matthews, Sam Hunt); venues (the Pavilion, Jefferson, Southern and, most recently, the Brooklyn Bowl); Starr Hill Presents concert promotion and festivals such as Bonnaroo; merchandise—earlier this year, he reacquired Musictoday, which he founded in 2000; restaurants (Mas, Five Guys, Mono Loco, Ten) and of course development, with Riverbend Management, we have to acknowledge this guy’s a mogul. There’s just no escaping it.

In local real estate alone, Capshaw is a major force. Here are just a few Riverbend projects: City Walk, 5th Street Station, C&O Row, the rehabbed Coca-Cola building on Preston and Brookhill.

True, he fell from No. 7 to 11 on this year’s Billboard Power 100, but in Charlottesville, his influence is undiminished. And now he’s getting awards for his philanthropy, including Billboard’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2011, and this year, Nashville’s City of Hope medical center’s Spirit of Life Award.

UVA's Rotunda. Photo by Karen Blaha
UVA’s Rotunda. Photo by Karen Blaha

4. UVA

In January, UVA President Teresa Sullivan announced her summer 2018 retirement, and directed the Board of Visitors to begin the search for a new leader to rule Thomas Jefferson’s roost, the top employer in Virginia with its state-of-the-art medical center, a near-Ivy League education system and a couple of research parks teeming with innovative spirit.

Charlottesville native venture capitalist James B. Murray Jr., a former Columbia Capital partner of Senator Mark Warner, was elected vice rector of the Board of Visitors, and will take the rector-in-waiting position July 1, when Frank M. “Rusty” Connor III begins a two-year term as rector.

And lest we forget, the UVA Foundation recently purchased the university a $9 million 2015 Cessna Citation XLS—an eight-seat, multi-engine jet—to haul around its highest rollers.

Jaffray Woodriff. Photo by Eze Amos
Jaffray Woodriff. Photo by Eze Amos

5. Jaffray Woodriff

As the founder of Quantitative Investment Management, a futures contract and stock trading firm, Woodriff has landed at No. 28 on Forbes’ list of the 40 highest-earning hedge fund managers in the nation, with total earnings of $90 million. His troupe of about 35 employees manage approximately $3.5 billion in assets through a data science approach to investing.

Woodriff, an angel investor who has funded more than 30 local startups, made headlines this year when he bought the Downtown Mall’s beloved ice skating rink and announced plans to turn Main Street Arena into the Charlottesville Technology Center, which, according to a press release, “will foster talented developers and energized entrepreneurs by creating office space conducive of collaboration, mentorship and the scalability of startups.”

Demolition of the ice rink is scheduled for 2018, so there’s time yet to lace up your skates before you trade them in for a thinking cap.

Keith Woodard. Photo by Amy Jackson
Keith Woodard. Photo by Amy Jackson

6. Keith Woodard

Some might argue that Woodard’s power stems from the unrelenting complaints of people who are towed from his two downtown parking lots. But it’s the real estate those lots sit on—and more. The owner of Woodard Properties has rentals for all needs, whether residential or commercial. The latter includes part of a Downtown Mall block and McIntire Plaza. He was already rich enough to invest in a Tesla, but Woodard is about to embark on the biggest project of his life—the $50 million West2nd, the former and future site of City Market. Ground will break any time now, and by 2019, the L-shaped, 10-story building with 65 condos, office and retail space (including a restaurant and bakery/café) and a plaza will dominate Water Street.

Will Richey. Photo by Amy Jackson
Will Richey. Photo by Amy Jackson

7. Will Richey

When you talk about Charlottesville’s ever-growing restaurant scene, one name that seems to be on everyone’s tongue is Will Richey. The restaurateur-turned-farmer (his Red Row Farm supplies much of the produce in the summer for the two Revolutionary Soup locations) owns a fair chunk of where you eat and drink in this town: Rev Soup, The Bebedero, The Whiskey Jar, The Alley Light, The Pie Chest and the newest addition, Brasserie Saison, which he opened in March with Hunter Smith (owner of Champion Brewery, which is also on the expansion train, see. No. 9). Richey’s restaurant empire seems to know no bounds, and we’re excited to see what else he’ll add to his plate—and ours—in the coming years.

Rosa Atkins. Photo by Eze Amos
Rosa Atkins. Photo by Eze Amos

8. Rosa Atkins/Pam Moran

The superintendents for city and county schools have a long list of achievements to their names, with each division winning a number of awards under their tenures.

This month, Atkins—the city school system’s leader since 2006—was named to the State Council of Higher Education, but she’s perhaps most notably the School Superintendents Association’s 2017 runner-up for national female superintendent of the year.

Pam Moran. Photo by Amy Jackson
Pam Moran. Photo by Amy Jackson

Moran, who has ruled county schools since 2005, held a similar title in late 2015, when the Virginia Association of School Superintendents named her State Superintendent of the Year, which placed her in the running for the American Association of School Administrators’ National Superintendent of the Year award, for which she was one of four finalists. This year, she requested the School Board continue to fund enrollment increases for at-risk students, making closing learning opportunity gaps a high priority.

Hunter Smith of Champion Brewing Company. Photo by Amy Jackson
Hunter Smith. Photo by Amy Jackson

9. Local beer

Throw a rock in this area and you’ll hit a brewery. For one thing, the Brew Ridge Trail is continually dotted with more stops. And new breweries in the city just keep popping up: Reason Brewery, founded by Charlottesville natives and set to open next month on Route 29 near Costco, is the latest. Other local additions include Random Row Brewery, which opened last fall on Preston Avenue, and Hardywood, based out of Richmond, which opened a pilot brewery and taproom on West Main Street in April.

And local breweries are not just opening but they’re expanding: Three Notch’d and Champion both opened Richmond satellite locations within the last year (that marks Three Notch’d’s third location, with another in Harrisonburg). And what pairs better with good drinks than good eats? Champion is adding food to its Charlottesville menu, and its brewers are enjoying a Belgian-focused playground at the joint restaurant venture Brasserie Saison.   

Another sure sign that craft beer is thriving is the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild’s annual beer competition, the Virginia Craft Beer Cup Awards, which is the largest state competition of its kind; this year, 356 beers in 24 categories were entered. And Charlottesville is the new home of the organization’s annual beer showcase, the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest, which is moving from Devils Backbone Brewing Company to the IX Art Park in August. Host of the event, featuring more than 100 Virginia breweries, will be Three Notch’d Brewing Company, which is expanding its brewing operations from Grady Avenue into a space at IX, set to open in 2018.

Amy Laufer. Publicity photo
Amy Laufer. Publicity photo

10. Amy Laufer

 With 46 percent of the vote in this month’s City Council Democratic primary and nearly $20,000 in donations, Laufer also had a lengthy list of endorsements, including governor hopeful Tom Perriello and former 5th District congressman L.F. Payne.

Laufer, a current school board member and former chair and vice chair of the board, is also the founder of Virginia’s List, a PAC that supports Democratic women running for state office. If she takes a seat on City Council, keep an eye out for the progress she makes on her top issues: workforce development, affordable housing and the environment.

Khizr Khan. Photo by Eze Amos
Khizr Khan. Photo by Eze Amos

11. Khizr Khan

Khan launched the city into the international spotlight when he, accompanied by his wife, Ghazala, took the stage on the final day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and harshly criticized several of then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s policies, including his proposed ban on Muslim immigration.

“Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future,” Khan said. “Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of the law.’”

Khan could be seen shaking a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution at the camera—his face splayed across every major news network for days thereafter. At the convention, he discussed the death of his son, Humayun, a UVA graduate and former U.S. Army captain during the Iraq War, who died in an explosion in Baqubah, Iraq.

Khan also spoke before hundreds at Mayor Mike Signer’s January rally to declare Charlottesville a “capital of the resistance,” and Khan and his wife recently announced a Bicentennial Scholarship in memory of their son, which will award $10,000 annually to a student enrolled in ROTC or majoring in a field that studies the U.S. Constitution.

John Dewberry. Photo by Eze Amos
John Dewberry. Photo by Eze Amos

12. John Dewberry

Even though he doesn’t live around here, he’s from around here, if you stretch here to include Waynesboro. Dewberry continues to hold downtown hostage with the Landmark Hotel, although we have seen some movement since he was on last year’s power list. After buying the property in 2012, he said he’d get to work on the Landmark, the city’s most prominent eyesore since 2009, once he finished his luxury hotel in Charleston, South Carolina. That took a few years longer than anticipated—these things always do—but earlier this year Dewberry wrangled some tax incentives from City Council, which has threatened to condemn the structure, and on June 20, the Board of Architectural Review took a look at his new and improved plans. One of these days, Dewberry promises, Charlottesville will have a five-star hotel on the Downtown Mall.

Andrea Douglas. Photo by Eze Amos

13. Andrea Douglas

The Ph.D. in art history, who formerly worked at what’s now UVA’s Fralin Museum of Art, always seemed like the only real choice to head the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, and since it opened in 2012, she’s made it an integral part of the community. The heritage center is far from self-sustaining, but a $950,000 city grant, a fundraising campaign and Douglas’ steely determination keep the historic school—and its place in the city’s history—firmly in the heart of Charlottesville. And Douglas can get a seat at Bizou anytime she wants—she’s married to co-owner Vincent Derquenne.

Paul Beyer. Photo by Ryan Jones
Paul Beyer. Photo by Ryan Jones

14. Paul Beyer

Innovation wunderkind Beyer ups the stakes on his Tom Tom Founders Festival every year. The event began six years ago as a music-only festival, but has morphed into a twice-a-year celebration of creativity and entrepreneurism. The fall is dedicated to locals who have founded successful businesses/organizations, while the week-long spring event continues to draw some of the world’s biggest names in the fields of technology, art, music and more. This year’s spring fest, which added a featured Hometown Summit that drew hundreds of civic leaders and innovators from around the country to share their successes and brainstorm solutions to struggles, was the biggest yet: 44,925 program attendees, 334 speakers and 110 events.

Lynn Easton and Dean Porter Andrews. Photo by Jen Fariello
Lynn Easton and Dean Porter Andrews. Photo by Jen Fariello

15. Easton Porter Group

We know them as local leaders in the weddings and hospitality industry (Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards is often the site of well-to-do weddings, with some totaling in
the $200,000s, we hear), but now the Easton Porter Group has its sights set on a much bigger portfolio: Its goal is to secure 15 luxury properties in high-end destinations in the next 10 years. In 2016, the group, owned by husband-and-wife team Dean Porter Andrews and Lynn Easton, landed on Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the nation.

Their latest project is to our north, with the renovation of the Blackthorne Inn outside of Washington, D.C., in Upperville, Virginia. The historic hunt-country estate, which is being transformed into a boutique inn featuring luxury-rustic accommodations, fine dining and wine, is projected to open in spring 2018.
The Easton Porter Group’s other businesses include Red Pump Kitchen on the Downtown Mall, as well as Cannon Green restaurant and the Zero George Hotel Restaurant + Bar in Charleston, South Carolina.

16. EPIC

Equity and Progress in Charlottesville made a poignant debut earlier this year, shortly after the death of former vice-mayor Holly Edwards, who was one of the founders of the group dedicated to involving those who usually aren’t part of the political process. It includes a few Democrats no longer satisfied with the party’s stranglehold on City Council, like former mayor Dave Norris and former councilor Dede Smith. The group has drawn a lot of interest in the post-Trump-election activist era, but its first two endorsements in the June 13 primary, Fenwick and commonwealth’s attorney candidate Jeff Fogel, did not fare well. The group still holds high hopes for Nikuyah Walker as an independent City Council candidate, and despite the primary setback, says Norris, “We may not have won this election, but we certainly influenced the debate.”

Dr. Neal Kassell. Courtesy photo
Dr. Neal Kassell. Courtesy photo

17. Dr. Neal Kassell

UVA’s Focused Ultrasound Center, the flagship center of its kind in the U.S., has had a banner year. The use of magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound technology to treat tremors has moved from the research stage to becoming more commercialized for patient treatment. And we can thank Kassell, founder and chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, for placing our city in the neurological pioneering sphere.

Two months ago, the Clinical Research Forum named the center’s use of focused sound waves to treat essential tremor (the most common movement disorder) instead of requiring invasive incisions, as one of the top 10 clinical research achievements of 2016. And it can’t hurt to have someone as well-known as John Grisham in your corner. He wrote The Tumor, and the foundation, which works as a trusted third party between donors, doctors and research, distributed 800,000 copies.

Kassell is the author of more than 500 scientific papers and book chapters, and his research has been supported by more than $30 million in National Institutes of Health grants. In April 2016, he was named to the Blue Ribbon Panel of former vice president Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

Jody Kielbasa. Courtesy photo

18. Jody Kielbasa

Since Kielbasa came to town in 2009, he has continued to steer the Virginia Film Festival toward an ever-expanding arts presence in not only our community, but statewide as well. Last year’s festival featured more than 120 films and attracted big-name stars, including director Werner Herzog and Virginia’s own Shirley MacLaine. And Kielbasa expanded his own presence locally, as he was appointed UVA’s second vice provost for the arts in 2013, which places him squarely in the university’s arts fundraising initiatives. Last year there was talk of a group of arts sector powerhouses forming to lobby the city in an official capacity to gain more funding for local arts initiatives—no surprise that Kielbasa was among those mentioned.

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