Lisa Robertson, Chief Deputy City Attorney, City of Charlottesville
Your job title is Chief Deputy City Attorney. What, in your own words, would you say you do?
I provide general legal counsel to the City of Charlottesville, its public officials and employees. I work primarily in the areas of zoning, subdivision and development of land, contracts and procurement, and public safety (blight and nuisance abatement, law enforcement services, etc.).
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
The best part of my job is having the opportunity to work with City officials and employees to prepare the documents (ordinances, resolutions, agreements, etc.) that will resolve a dispute, remedy a problem, or implement a new program. I get to help people figure out, procedurally, how to get from Point A to Point B.
The most difficult part of my job is having to explain to people why certain things can’t be done by their local government, or why they can’t be done in a particular way. The explanation often involves not having “permission” from the state government to take action at the local level, or having to follow a certain legal process or procedure. These explanations can exasperate people who aren’t lawyers or professors of government.
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
My job is to help City officials and employees understand the framework of local government, including the processes and procedures that apply to what they do. I see that framework as being the mechanism which protects citizens’ ability to predict how a particular issue will move through the decision-making process and, if they choose, to participate in discussions, obtain information, and learn about services that are available to them. (“Whenever the people are well informed….”)
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you've had while with the City?
I’m not sure that one stands out above all the others. The great thing about my job is that it’s rarely dull. No matter what I have planned for my day, I can count on having something unexpected come up: an urgent question that presents a new “twist” on a topic I thought I knew well, or a situation that couldn’t have been anticipated the day before. During the few years of my career when I was in private practice, my friends complained that my work stories were not very interesting anymore—they didn’t involve Constitutional issues, people with passionate opinions, or local politics.
What is a little-known fact about you?
I love animals, particularly dogs. I adore my Cairn terrier, Lucy Furr.