City Council–the players

Who exactly are our representatives in City Council? Our Council reporter gives you a brief rundown of the who’s who and the what’s what.

Who exactly are our representatives in City Council? Our Council reporter gives you a brief rundown of the who’s who and the what’s what.

The right side of the Chamber

Doug Conner–South Central 9th District

Owner of Conner Brothers Collision Centers, he brings the perspective of a small but successful businessman. He’s not much interested in political machinations and is not prone to making speeches, but he plays an important role as an independent. The current City Council is almost evenly divided into three factions, the Mayor’s friends, the Mayor’s detractors and the independents. His vote is often needed for motions to carry. Connor is a white councilman in a majority African American district.

Charles Samuels–North Central 2nd District

Samuels is the only lawyer on the City Council and represents perhaps the most influential district in the city. His district is comprised of The Fan, both Monroe and Jackson Wards, Gilpin, and parts of Northside. His predecessors include former Council President Bill Pantele and former Governor Tim Kaine. Samuels is a Council workhorse, often researching and writing controversial laws like the current and previous noise ordinances. He is independent and patient. He shows flashes of anger, but rarely loses his temper.

Chris Hilbert–Northside 3rd District

Hilbert brings a public housing background to the table. He keeps an ear to his Belleview and Ginter park constituents, but also represents tougher neighborhoods like Barton Heights and Chamberlayne Avenue. He is an independent, but inclined to vote with the Mayor on most issues.

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The left side of the Chamber

Bruce Tyler–West End 1st District

Mr. Tyler has been putting together a power base for nearly a year. He’s got ambitions, but to what? I think he wants to be Mayor. By being a vociferous critic of Mayor Jones he has raised his profile–he has also made some enemies. Last year in a bid to unseat Graziano as President, Tyler and friends accused her of trying to cover up the Jennifer Walle-David Hathcock incident. While the scandal did gain traction in the media, most charges were dismissed in court. Walle still has a civil suit pending and Graziano easily won another term as President. Niether Walle nor Hathcock still work for the city.

Reva Trammell–Southside 8th District

Reva is a woman of the people. She represents the South Side, an area that ranges from low to middle income families to the run-down and crime-plagued Jeff Davis corridor. During council meetings she is known for her detailed neighborhood reports, hawking smoke detectors, and giving out her address and cell phone number in case anyone wants to reach her. When she gets her dander up, she can go off on long and rambling rants that often have little to do with the subject at hand.

Marty Jewell–Central 5th District

Marty Jewell’s colleagues are civil to him in public, less so in private. His role as the ally of Mayor Doug Wilder earned him almost nothing. It was a case of backing the wrong horse–still he stuck with him almost to the end. With Wilder gone, Jewell has stepped into the role of self appointed conscience of council, often giving long winded speeches about doing the right thing.

Cynthia Newbille–East End 7th District

Ms. Newbille is the quietest member of Council. She was elected in 2009 to fill Delores McQuinn’s remaining three years (who was elected to replace Mayor Jones in the House of Delegates). She is very much a part of the Henry Marsh political machine. Her presence on council is always quiet and often constructive. Except for the occasional remark, you almost forget she is there. When it matters, she almost always votes with the Mayor, but on other issues she has shown a keen mind and votes according to her conscience. She represents some of Richmond’s toughest public housing as well as Church Hill.

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Front and center: The leadership

After the city charter was changed to elect an independent Mayor, the title formerly given to the head of City Council was changed to Council President. The Vice Mayor’s title was changed to Council Vice President. It took awhile to get used to calling these people Mr. or Madam President, but now it seems like the normal thing to do.

Vice President Ellen Robertson–Gateway 6th District

I don’t always agree with Ellen Robertson, but I think she is one of the nicest persons on Council. She is very close to the Henry Marsh political machine and hence is very close to the Mayor. She not a cheerleader, but except in extreme circumstances, she usually comes down on his side. She makes a decent second in command, but I’ve seen her clout is slipping, like when she lost the redistricting vote. Nevertheless she took it gracefully. She represents a ridiculous district stretching from Highland Park to the Port of Richmond.

President Graziano–Southwest 4th District

It is Kathy Graziano’s job to herd the flock of cats. Believe me, this is a job you don’t want. Ms. Graziano brings middle class values to the table. She is a stickler for procedure and is not above lecturing the gallery or a fellow council member. In her role as President she is usually the last one to speak and keeps her remarks brief. Her only fault may be in letting everybody else speak too long. Recent meetings have run three to five hours making it tough on both reporters and citizens alike.

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  • We originally reported that Councilwoman Newbille was appointed to fill Delores McQuinn’s seat. Ms. Newbille was elected in November 2009. Betty L. Squire was appointed in February of 2009 to temporarily fill the 7th District seat until the November elections.
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Paul Hammond

Paul has been writing about life and politics in Richmond for 11 years. You can often find him walking his dog up and down Franklin Street and yes, he does bite, the dog that is.

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