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Charlottesville's Mayor Will Not Seek Re-Election

Charlottesville Mayor Nikuya Walker

Nikuya Walker is the only person of color on Charlottesville’s five-member city council, and in announcing she would not seek re-election in November, she said Tuesday’s meeting of council was the final straw.

“I’m a very strong black woman, and people don’t like that!” she said.

Walker began the meeting with praise for former Police Chief RaShal Brackney and apologized for the city manager’s decision to terminate her contract. She scolded fellow members of council and called the dismissal shameful. Her statement was followed by 35 seconds of stunned silence. Then it was time for public comment. Tanesha Hudson noted two police chiefs and two city managers – all of them Black -- had been fired in the last four years, Gloria Beard was baffled by Brackney’s dismissal, and Melvin Burris wondered if the decision was prompted by a survey showing most rank and file police officers disliked her.

“I myself was disappointed with the process. We’ve got a bunch of yahoos getting together and saying we’re going to try to get rid of the chief, and you’re helping them do that,” Burris told the board.

“First [former City Manager] Maurice [Jones] is the only one who loses his job for the Summer of Hate – him and Chief Thomas,” Hudson recalled. “Then y’all target [former City Manager Tarron] Richardson. You forced him out of there. Now Brackney’s gone. It’s the same stuff over and over again.”

“Why wasn’t she put on probration or something. Jut to fire somebody in mid-air – I feel like we were left out. I have a heavy heart tonight, because this is a mess!” said Beard.

Walker then began quizzing board members about whether they had colluded in private with City Manager Chip Boyles – discussing the chief’s fate behind her back. Councilor Heather Hill said she learned of the firing after it had happened, but “as things were progressing, we were informed,” she told Walker.

“I thought you said you didn’t know!” Walker shot back.

“I was aware of circumstances,” Hill explained. “I was not aware of the final decision until after it happened, but I was updated within very short order as I believe all of us were.”

Then Walker put this question to Councilor Lloyd Snook:

“Do you think that someone who looks at what is happening will take this city seriously and will feel like if we ask them to come and do a job that centers around reforming an institution that started out as slave patrols will take us seriously?”

“I can’t possibly answer that question,” he replied. “I will say that the odds of them coming under these circumstances will not be helped by having the airing of the entire process that you seem to want.”

And Councilor Sena Magill was rendered speechless when Walker confronted her.

“At this point I’m so tired!” she said, sighing deeply.

Walker condemned board members for supporting transparency during their campaigns but conducting city business privately and cutting her out of the conversation.

“Don’t start changing these things and being okay with an undemocratic process because you don’t like me,” she scolded. “Especially when the changes that you all are making don’t affect you, don’t affect your kids, and when the neighborhoods and the people who are most vulnerable to racist policing practice you don’t have contact with often.”

In her Facebook post Walker said “no matter how outraged the community gets” about events like the firing of Police Chief Brackney, anti-racist candidates would not survive until the public elected more than one. Walker said she’d been fighting racism all her life but was now tired and needed to take care of herself.

Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.