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Want to join City Council? This is what Councilors say they’re looking for in an interim member

The application to be appointed to Charlottesville City Council is now available on the city’s website, and councilors say they’re looking for someone who shares the same time, passion — and possibly politics — as resigning Councilor Sena Magill.

Council members are seeking to replace Magill, who announced she will resign effective Jan. 11. The four remaining members will accept applications through Jan. 30, hold a public meeting on Feb. 6 and make an appointment by Feb. 21. By state law, they have 45 days to make the appointment. 

The appointment will last until Dec. 31, 2023. Voters will select a new Council member in the upcoming November election to begin in 2024.

If you are considering applying, think about the time commitment, said Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade, who has served on Council for one year and has been on the city school board. He spends 20 to 22 hours per week reading city reports, researching city issues and processes, attending meetings and spending time with constituents. He also keeps a full-time job with Albemarle County, and uses days off and flexible scheduling to make it work.

“They may be able to get by doing it a lot less, but for me it’s that amount of time. You definitely can’t do this for the money,” Wade said.

The annual salary for a Council member is $18,000 per year.

Read more about Charlottesville’s City Council

It’s possible for the appointed Councilor to do the job in less than 20 hours per week, said Brian Pinkston, also one year into his four-year term on City Council. However, applicants must have flexible schedules. He points out that some of the meetings are during the day and Council meetings often last well into the night.

Anyone thinking of applying should know that there is a lot of detailed, behind-the-scenes work involved in being on Council, Councilor Michael Payne wrote in an email. Public criticism is also part of the job.

“Don’t expect a glamorous position,” he said.

Wade said he’ll be looking for someone who can make the time commitment and is “ready to roll up their sleeves,” who understands the diversity of the city and is community-service oriented. Pinkston has similar standards.

“We’re interested in someone who is serious about the work, is passionate about serving the community — but there’s thoughtful passion and destructive passion,” said Pinkston. “There’s already a strong team here and we want to maintain that through the end of this year.” 

Pinkston is looking for candidates who will take a “thoughtful approach” and “be humble enough to listen to others.” He will be looking for community service, through boards and commissions, nonprofits, community groups or social groups — evidence that candidates have ongoing civic participation.

Don’t expect a glamorous position.

—Councilor Michael Payne on applying to join Charlottesville City Council

Payne is looking for someone who prioritizes many of the same things Magill does.

“I think it will be important to appoint someone who, as much as possible, shares the perspective Sena brought as a City Councilor — someone with a progressive vision of politics, a focus on homelessness, affordable housing, mental health care, social services and the need to prevent Charlottesville from being a place only wealthy people can afford to live in,” he wrote.

Applicants might serve only the 10 month appointment, or could run in the November election — their long-term intentions will not be a factor in Wade’s vote. Payne, too, said he’s open to candidates serving the year or running in the election. Pinkston, on the other hand, will prefer candidates who truly want to be in an interim role.

“What I’m going to argue when we meet is that I don’t think it should be open to someone who has declared and plans to run for City Council,” he said. “I think it would give whoever got appointed a head start on whoever might be running for Council.”

Mayor Lloyd Snook, who will also vote on the appointment, did not respond to questions about the application process in time for this report.

Whoever is appointed will be responsible for some big decisions in the upcoming year: The city is going into budgeting season, will tackle zoning rewrites and likely hire a permanent city manager.

“It’s a really good opportunity for someone who wants to make a difference,” said Pinkston.

Wade is confident that the Council will get a good, diverse pool of candidates.

“I think that people see now that being on Council is more doable, a healthier atmosphere for dialogue, so maybe we’ll get more applicants,” he said.

Applicants must be registered to vote in Charlottesville. The Voter Registration Office at 434-970-3250 can confirm where voters are registered. All applications will be publicly available, so anything candidates submit can be read by anyone.

Apply to join City Council by 5 p.m. on Jan. 30