Brian Pinkston, current vice chair of Charlottesville’s local Democratic party, wasn’t sure if he was going to seek a city council seat again after unsuccessfully running in 2019. Now, in doing so, he still sees a lot of the same issues he wants to tackle, but through the lens of the impact of COVID-19.
“In many ways, it’s the same as it was two years ago,” Pinkston said. “I really believe sincerely that we need to think in terms of the common good. We need to think about what’s best for all of us, with a special eye for those most in need.”
Similar to his past campaign, Pinkston still sees affordable housing and enhanced transportation as key areas the city can improve, but he notes that accomplishing those may be even more challenging from the pandemic.
“With COVID, obviously it’s a very different world now,” Pinkston said. “I think that having reasonable expectations about what can be accomplished and being strategic and thoughtful as we work through opportunities will be key here.”
Pinkston, a project manager with the University of Virginia, says that experience has a combination of hard and soft skills that will be useful should he be elected to council– and his passion for philosophy continues to inform his campaign.
“Common good” stems from Catholic social teaching, which Pinkston studied while earning a Ph.D. in philosophy.
“It’s realizing that for a community to thrive, there are certain conditions that need to be met. It’s thinking of a city as less of a system or moving parts and more like an organism,” Pinkston previously told Charlottesville Tomorrow ahead of the 2019 democratic primary elections.
“Humans do have a nature, and what is in the best interest of humans and the best interests of the communities in which they live,” he said at the time. “Part of thriving is having good relationships with each other, material prosperity — from roads to downtown businesses — and justice issues as well and another key component of it is recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of each person in the mix.”
Pinkston also holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and a Master of Arts degree in philosophy and religious studies from Biola University in California. His doctorate program at UVa brought him to Charlottesville, where he has lived since 2004.
In seeking a council seat again, Pinkston says that some community members have suggested he take another shot at campaigning. While he won’t be physically canvassing as he did in 2019, Pinkston says he will engage virtually with the community.
“That’s the fun part of this,” Pinkston said.
Following the results of the 2016 presidential election, Pinkston began channeling his energy into local organizing, serving as a precinct co-chair for CVille Dems before going on to become a vice chair roughly a year and a half ago.
Currently working as an associate director for infrastructure projects at UVa, Pinkston says his more than two decades in management and engineering have given him a collaborative insight that he would apply to a position on council.
“More than managing details of projects, you have to work with different stakeholders and employ enough soft skills to help people collaborate,” Pinkston said. “I’m used to working with different stakeholders to reach effective compromises.”
On priorities if elected, Pinkston aims to help strengthen the relationship between the city with UVa and Albemarle County, help empower temporary city manager Chip Boyles— and whomever fills the role next— and help the local economy bounce back from the impacts of COVID-19.
“Supporting the business community is important— many have suffered due to COVID,” Pinkston explained. “I think it’s okay to say that you support business and want to see them thrive and flourish because they help underwrite our city’s finances.”
If elected to council, Pinkston wants to help council help other boards’ equity work like the school board and the police civilian review board.
“I want to keep a close eye on [PCRB] and keep the flames burning there to make sure that organization can become a model throughout the commonwealth for how we do better policing,” Pinkston explained.
Currently, a director for the PCRB is among city staff vacancies that needs to be filled. As the city has appointed Chip Boyles to city manager for at least the next year, Pinkston says that continued support of the city’s executive will be crucial.
With the city’s ongoing efforts to bring an equity lens into local policy, Pinkston says he looks forward to participating in those efforts should he be elected. He also notes the nationwide and local calls for equity and racial justice from the summer of 2020 continue to “emphasize the importance” of that work.
“Authentic racial justice requires addressing inequities in housing, education, and income. I will advocate for the funding and budget priorities that this entails,” Pinkston explained.
He also noted that maintaining a stable council and city hall will have an impact on council setting legislative priorities for city staff to implement.
“We can’t make progress on the ‘nitty-gritty’ of policy initiatives unless we have a stable, well-functioning City Hall,” Pinkston added.
Having lived in various other states and cities, Pinkston doesn’t think Charlottesville is “as divided as it thinks it is,” noting the community’s civic engagement and ongoing equity work in recent years.
“[Charlottesville] has deep fissures that need to be healed,” Pinkston said. “It’s hard as a white man— there’s only so much you can do or say, but it’s about elevating those who can speak.”