Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
May 17, 2023: Only one candidate so far for four seats on Charlottesville School Board
May 17, 2023: Only one candidate so far for four seats on Charlottesville School Board
Plus: City Council candidates describe what qualities they want in the next city manager

What about today? Surely there is a fake holiday to mark this 137th day of the year as measured from the wintry start! Or perhaps it is more important to point out that there are 35 days remaining until the solstice and the longest night? These are not questions that the newsletter and podcast known as Charlottesville Community Engagement is intended to answer, but they are fun to ask all of the same. I’m Sean Tubbs. 

On today’s program: 

  • There’s only one candidate so far for four seats on the Charlottesville School Board

  • Two of Albemarle’s four School Board races are contested

  • There’s a new principal at CATEC

  • Charlottesville City Council will hold a retreat this week and it will be livestreamed

  • Four of five candidates for Democratic nominations to Charlottesville City Council explain what they want to see in a city manager

  • An Albemarle design body has taken the first look at a new Home Depot at Fashion Square Mall

First shout-out: Riverfest this weekend 

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: This Saturday, come celebrate and experience your river at the Rivanna Riverfest from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Enjoy fun family-friendly activities, river recreation, live performances, food, drink, and more!

In the afternoon the Rivanna Conservation Alliance and their partners have organized a whole bunch of free activities including: 

  • Meet wildlife, fish, and bugs that live in and around the river

  • Learn about the history of the Monacan Indian Nation and watch a traditional basket weaving demonstration

  • Dress up as butterflies, “pollinate” flowers and build fairy houses

There will be live music, food trucks, and much more! Visit to find out the details including information on paid excursions throughout the day. 

Only one candidate in race for Charlottesville School Board so far 

There are 34 days until party primaries in Virginia including several legislative races and City Council. But there are also races for School Board in Albemarle and Charlottesville and it’s time for a quick check-in.

First, June 20 also serves as the deadline for candidates for school board races in localities that elect people to those positions. There’s still time for people to consider running for a leadership position. 

There are four seats up for election on the Charlottesville City School Board with the terms of James Bryant, Jennifer McKeever, Sherry Kraft, and Lashundra Bryson Morsberger set to expire at the end of the year. 

So far, none of the incumbents have filed for the seat and there’s only one candidate in the race so far. Requests for comment from the four incumbents were not returned by publication time. 

Amanda J. “Mandy” Burns filed paperwork with the Virginia Department of Elections last week and made a statement on her Facebook page this past Mother’s Day

“As a mother to two talented young men, and an accomplished healthcare administrator of more than two decades, I will combine my expertise in project management, implementation, and fiscal responsibility with my deep compassion to affect lasting change and ensure healthy outcomes for young people throughout our community,” Burns wrote. 

Amanda J. “Mandy” Burns (Credit: Amanda J. “Mandy” Burns)
Albemarle races

There are four races In Albemarle County with two of them currently contested. 

There are two people seeking the at-large seat which covers all of Albemarle. Meg Bryce and Allison Spillman are the two candidates in the race so far. 

Rebecca Berlin was appointed last December to the School Board to represent the White Hall District following the resignation of David Oberg. Berlin filed paperwork in late April to seek a full term and will soon hold an official campaign launch. 

She faces challenger Joann McDermid who launched her campaign on April 13. 

Two of the district races are currently uncontested. Judy Le is seeking a second term representing the Rivanna District. Ellen Osborne is seeking a second term representing the Scottsville District. 

New leader for CATEC 

The Board of Directors for the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center has appointed a Charlottesville High School administrator to serve as the transitioning body’s new principal. 

Dr. Stacey Heltz has been assistant principal at CHS since 2016 and will now lead a school that will be solely operated by the city of Charlottesville at the end of the next fiscal year. Earlier this year, the Charlottesville School Board exercised its option to purchase Albemarle County’s share for $5.3 million. 

“I am so excited to step into this role at CATEC,” added Heltz. “I have always been impressed by the opportunities that CATEC offers to high schoolers and adults in our area, and I will begin immediately to learn, connect, and work for continuity.”

Heltz succeeds Stephanie Carter who left CATEC to run Madison House at the University of Virginia. 

Dr. Stacey Heltz

Council holding strategic planning retreat this weekend 

For those who want to make sure they are able to consume every single meeting of the Charlottesville City Council, interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers has good news.

“Our strategic planning retreat will be this weekend and we’re looking forward to it,” Rogers said. “And the event will be livestreamed so we will have our citizens watching in as we contemplate the future of our great city.” 

The event will be held at the Hillsdale Conference Center on bus Route 7 beginning at 4 p.m. Friday and continuing Saturday morning. It’s likely you can watch that on the city’s video streaming page but the event is not listed as of publication time.

While this may seem like a boring event, the strategic plan itself is a key document used to guide the day-to-day activities of local government. In late January, the city announced the hiring of the Raftelis Group to oversee the overall creation of the plan.   

Second shout-out: eBike Lending Library 

In today’s second subscriber supported shout-out, one Patreon supports wants you to know that Charlottesville now has an eBike Lending Library!  E-bikes are a great way to get around community but there are many brands and styles to choose from. Because many e-bikes are sold online, it can be a challenge to try an e-bike before buying one.

The Charlottesville E-bike Lending Library is a free, not-for-profit service working to expand access to e-bikes in the area. They have a small collection of e-bikes that we lend out to community members for up to a week, for free. You can experience your daily commute, go grocery shopping, or even bike your kids to school, and decide whether e-bikes are right for you. Check out this service at

Council candidates on City Manager search

Speaking of the Hillsdale Conference Center, last week I co-hosted held a candidate forum with the Free Enterprise Forum for four of the five candidates in the Democratic primary race for three seats on the city Council. Dashad Cooper was unable to attend.

The four who were present took questions on housing, economic development, and the budget. They also were asked a question by me during the session:

“Charlottesville has contracted with an independent consultant in their city manager search,” I asked. “While the new city manager might be selected prior to the November election, what three skills do you believe are critical for the position of City Manager?” 

One of the slides in Polihire’s search for the open city manager position (read the brochure)

To recap, Michael C. Rogers has served as interim city manager since January 2022 after Council opted to hire the Robert Bobb Group to provide managerial functions. This was after a series of high-profile departures including one city manager appointment who opted to not actually take the job. 

The city is now working with the firm POLIHIRE to identify top candidates. (read the brochure)

Candidate Bob Fenwick said listening is one skill necessary for the next manager.

“If the city manager has a good handle on the citizens and what they’re going to bring to him, it makes things so much easier,” Fenwick said. “And I tell you I have heard some good things about Mr. Rogers.” 

However, Fenwick said community members should be playing a role in who the next manager will be. 

“We have to be comfortable with who will step into that role,” Fenwick said. 

Councilor Michael Payne said the process is underway and he expects interviews to take place soon. He does not know who has applied, but said the new manager needs three qualities.

“One, it needs to be someone who has very thick skin who is not afraid of being out in the community working with organizations really proactively soliciting feedback from the community and being open to criticism over where the city government is getting it wrong and needs to change,” Payne said.

Payne said the second quality is a full knowledge of the nuts and bolts of how government operates. 

“And third, I think someone who is willing to be creative in working with the community, nonprofits, organizations like our housing authority, to really get creative about what does it look like for city government to take a different kind of role in trying to build community wealth, tackle issues like our racial wealth gap [and] the level of inequality in our city,” Payne said. 

Candidate Natalie Oschrin said she agreed with much of what Payne had to say and offered her own comments. 

“I think what is also very important for the city manager is they should foster a culture within the city that makes the city an employer of choice so that folks want to work for the city and the standing gaps can get filled, and filling those gaps will help us achieve all of the goals that we have set out,” Oschrin said. 

Oschrin said the city manager will set the tone for how Charlottesville moves forward.

Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook said with certainty that the decision on a city manager will be made much sooner than the November election. 

“The current plan is to have that choice made by the end of May and hopefully to have that person here by July 1 or August 1 at any rate,” Snook said. 

Snook said the first quality he is looking for is patience and an ability to restrain Council from making a decision too quickly. 

“If you think about the times we’ve gotten sued over the last six or eight years, and there have been a lot of times when that happened, it was almost always been over a decision that thought that for whatever reason we needed to rush to,” Snook said. 

Snook said he’s also looking for someone with experience and someone who understands the Council-manager form of government. 

The next candidate forum in the race for Democratic nominations to City Council is tonight with an hour-long event sponsored by the Greenbrier Neighborhood Association beginning around 8:15 p.m. This is an event on Zoom that is open to a wider audience. (register here)

Albemarle review panel takes first look at plans for new Home Depot 

Last year, a national hardware chain purchased a large portion of Fashion Square Mall in Albemarle County. Less than a year later, plans to redevelop a long-closed anchor store with a new Home Depot location are working their way through the process.

On Monday, the Architectural Review Board took a look at the site plan. 

“The new structure would replace the Sears building that currently stands at the north end of the mall,” said Margaret Maliszewski, a planning manager for the county. 

The project went before the ARB because the location is within two of the county’s entrance corridors. Those are both Rio Road to the north and U.S. 29 to the west. 

“Rio is elevated above the site approximately 20 feet and that allows for views down onto the roof of the existing building,” Maliszewski said. 

A garden center is proposed for north of the new structure on what is now a surface parking lot. County rules a require need a special use permit for any outdoor sales display and had not yet made an application. 

“If items for sale, storage, or display in the garden center will be visible from both corridors, then a special use permit approval will be required for the garden center as well,” Maliszewski said. 

That’s because as depicted, the garden center would not have a roof. 

Attorney Valerie Long with the firm Williams Mullen said not all of the details are known yet about the garden center. 

“We know we are going to need most likely a special use permit for outdoor storage and display,” Long said. “There’s a small chance that the garden center can be completely enclosed. They’re still studying that issue and thinking about designs and so forth.” 

The ARB approved a set of recommendations for the project and must still eventually adopt a certificate of appropriateness. 

Reading material:

End notes for #534:

Thanks to the dozens of Patreon supporters who help support Town Crier Productions. Three years ago I created that site for early supporters of the work I wanted to produce. Now the goal is to figure out how to expand the work to provide more coverage of a community in transition. 

Thankfully there are also hundreds of paid subscribers through Substack, and the audience is slowly growing. I’m grateful for the support and hope you’re finding this work of value. Ting finds enough value in the work that they sponsor the newsletter by matching the initial payment of every new paid subscriber. Join them and you will help me implement my plans for expansion. 

And if you sign up for Ting at this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you’ll get:

  • Free installation

  • A second month for free

  • A $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall

Thanks to Wraki for incidental music in the podcast, which you can’t hear unless you listen to it. Check out the work on BandCamp!

Reading material:

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