“Eight years is enough,” Norris, 42, said in a prepared statement. “It’s time for some new blood on City Council.”
Norris’ current term ends Dec. 31. He said it was an “open secret” that he was not mounting a re-election campaign. He let his political website’s registration expire last summer.
“I am not surprised,” said Vice Mayor Kristin Szakos, Norris’ 2009 running mate. “I think he has really enjoyed being on council, but I know he has the rest of his life he wants to live. I support that decision and think he has done a great job on council.”
Szakos said she would formally announce her campaign plans Feb 14. In an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow in November, Szakos said she plans to seek a second term.
City Democratic leaders are hoping that by piggybacking on the June statewide primary, more people will participate in picking the party’s nominees for the November general election. Two of the five seats on the City Council will be on the ballot.
“We have two slots to fill, and at least one is open now, so we need good candidates,” said James Nix, the co-chairman of the Charlottesville Democratic Committee. “We are opening up the nomination process and giving the citizens a greater voice. We are hoping for a good turnout in the statewide primary on June 11.”
“After seven years, it’s not surprising that he would want to step down,” Nix added. “We are grateful for his service as mayor and as a councilor. He has put a lot of energy and enthusiasm into it and done it well.”
Norris served as mayor from 2008 to 2011.
Asked in a news conference whether he would seek higher office, Norris said he had achieved his political goals.
“My ambition was to get elected to council and maybe someday be mayor of Charlottesville,” Norris said. “I really never saw myself going further than that, and I still don’t see myself going further than that.”
Norris said he was particularly proud of the City Council’s work on affordable housing during his tenure.
“The No. 1 item on my platform when I ran back in 2006 was to create a dedicated fund in the city budget for affordable housing,” Norris said. “To see the fruits of that when we opened the door of The Crossings in April 2012 and to see dozens of people who have been chronically homeless … finally have a place of their own, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”
During the 2011 council election, Norris backed a slate of three Democrats in the primary that included one eventual winner, Dede Smith, along with Colette Blount and Brevy Cannon. This campaign season will be different.
“I am not going to be playing an active role in the election this year,” Norris said. “Partly, I have been very frustrated by the rather toxic impact of partisanship on our body politic.”
“I’ve never been a particularly active partisan, I tend to vote for the person,” Norris said. “When it comes down to the issues and solving problems, some of the best ideas for addressing issues have not come from people identifying themselves as Democrats.”
Norris was asked if the Democratic Party should make it a priority to get an African-American on the council. Holly Edwards was the last African-American to serve when her term ended in 2011.
“I think representation is very important,” Norris said, but if you are choosing someone just because of the color of their skin, who is not going to be an effective city councilor, they are not going to be an effective representative of the African-American community.”
Norris said he plans to devote more time to his work as executive director of the nonprofit Charlottesville Institute, which he launched in January 2012 to leverage resources at the University of Virginia to tackle challenges in the local community.