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Marc Woolley appointed Charlottesville City Manager in special meeting of City Council

Announcement follows contentious City Council meeting Monday during which Councilors denounced Lincoln Project stunt at Glenn Youngkin tour bus

<p>On Monday, during the <a href=""><u>public comment</u></a> section of their meeting, community members — including Tyler Magill, a victim of the Aug. 11 attack who <a href=""><u>worked</u></a> at the U.Va. library — said the city should demand an apology from the Lincoln Project.</p>

On Monday, during the public comment section of their meeting, community members — including Tyler Magill, a victim of the Aug. 11 attack who worked at the U.Va. library — said the city should demand an apology from the Lincoln Project.

Charlottesville City Council held a special meeting Friday to announce Marc Woolley as the new city manager. During another City Council meeting earlier that week, Councilors and members of the public expressed aggravation over a stunt on Oct. 29 during which individuals affiliated with the Lincoln Project mimicked the events of the “Unite the Right'' rally in front of Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s tour bus.

City Council appoints Marc Wooley as Charlottesville City Manager 

The City Council of Charlottesville appointed Marc Woolley, former business administrator for the city of Harrisburg, to be the interim City Manager. Woolley was appointed during a special meeting of the Council Friday afternoon, during which the appointee introduced himself to city residents and took questions from Councilors, reporters and members of the public. 

The city manager is selected by the city's five-member City Council. The City Manager serves as the chief executive of Charlottesville at the behest of the council and serves until replacement, resignation or retirement. The manager has under their purview the responsibility to implement the policy of the Council, manage the finances of the city, work on issues of economic and urban development and lead human rights initiatives. Woolley will be the sixth city manager since 2018.

The City Council currently consists of Mayor Nikuyah Walker, Vice Mayor Sena Magill and three additional councilors — Heather Hill, Lloyd Snook and Michael Payne. A Councilor's term lasts four years, with two being elected in one election cycle and three being elected in the next odd-year November election cycle. 

Woolley will be filling the post after former city manager Chip Boyles resigned after eight months following tension and criticism over his firing of the Charlottesville Police Department Chief RaShall Brackney. 

Boyles' firing of Brackney — the first Black female police chief of the city — led to the souring of his relationship with Mayor Walker, who saw the decision as counter to her goal of institutional reform. Walker cited the incident as the “last straw” in her decision not to run for reelection this year. In firing Brackney, Boyles said he was reacting to a survey by the Virginia Police Benevolent Association that showed 71 percent of CPD officers did not feel supported by leadership.

Referencing recent tensions between City Council and executive City leadership over the unprecedented turnover and leadership changes while answering questions from the press, Woolley said he sees one of his goals as a leader to be to get a handle on some of these bitter dynamics.

"I'd like to be able to further understand the complexity of the relationship between the workers, employees and management and get to know why there may be some discord and causing people in my position to leave and I'd like to see if we could address that in some way,” Woolley said.

The meeting began with questions from the councilors about Woolley's credentials and skills needed for the job. Hill asked Wooley about his management style in the context of a transition. Wooley described himself as "inclusive" and added that he "thrives in a team environment."

"I've realized over the years that when you’re dealing with staff and colleagues, it’s better to include them into the process, give them ownership of projects," Woolley said. "Of course, you’re going to manage those projects but the more buy-in they have, the more invested they are and the better results that I’ve gotten."

Woolley said his main two tasks during the interim tenure is overseeing the budget and the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which is a document containing zoning and development laws that is required by law to be updated every five years. Community activists are attempting to utilize the plan as a mechanism for alleviating the housing affordability crisis in Charlottesville, and approval is an important priority both for the City and activist groups.

In response to a question from the press about his selection process, Walker said he was previously a finalist for the deputy city manager position, which brought him to the attention of City Council. 

Woolley said he intends to apply for the full-time city manager job in April 2022, when City Council will begin a public hiring search for the position. Woolley will begin work as interim city manager Dec. 1 with a salary of $205,000.

In response to a question about how he plans to manage the City’s relationship to the University, Woolley nodded to previous experience in cities in which colleges play a central role.

"It's about getting involved and getting involved in communications with these large landowners and employers [and] making them aware that there is a duty that is owed, at some level, to the municipality that they are a part of," Woolley said. "They should be engaged in a conversation where they know that a city that is doing well and prosperous benefits them in many ways."

City Councilors release letter condemning political stunt pulled by Lincoln Project

Earlier last week, four members of City Council released a letter condemning a political stunt in which a group of five people dressed in polo shirts and carrying tiki torches stood outside of then-gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin’s tour bus Oct. 29. 

The event was a reference to the “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017, during which hundreds of white supremacists marched in downtown Charlottesville. The rally turned deadly when one protestor drove his car into a crowd, killing three and injuring numerous others. The day before, white supremacists marched up the Lawn bearing tiki torches and shouting “White Lives Matter” and “You will not replace us.” 

The Republican group the Lincoln Project took credit for the stunt in a statement, explaining they wanted to remind “Virginians what happened in Charlottesville four years ago, the Republican Party’s embrace of those values and Glenn Youngkin’s failure to condemn it.”

Ahead of the statement’s release, many seemed to believe the stunt was truly a demonstration by white supremacists, while others accused Democrats — like those on candidate Terry McAuliffe’s campaign — of orchestrating the stunt.

Four members of City Council — Vice Mayor Sena Magill and Councilors Heather Hill, Michael Payne and Lloyd Snook — signed the letter, which was addressed to founder of the Lincoln Project Steve Schmidt. 

“You tore open a still-healing wound in Charlottesville with your political prank of having tiki-torch-bearing protesters outside of a Glenn Youngkin gathering,” the councilors wrote. 

The stunt was never supposed to appear real, according to Lincoln Project emails obtained by news organization The Intercept. Instead, the group wanted to visually tie Youngkin’s campaign with former president Donald Trump’s — a tactic which some have deemed insensitive, especially as witness testimony for the “Unite the Right” trial began the same day, just a few blocks away at the Charlottesville courthouse. 

“Please do not bring your cosplaying operatives back to Charlottesville,” the councilors wrote. “We do not wish to be the backdrop for your next exercise in political theater.”

During the public comment section of their meeting Monday, community members — including Tyler Magill, a victim of the Aug. 11 attack who worked at the Alderman Library — said the City should demand an apology from the Lincoln Project.

“We're tired of our pain [and] the pain of our community being used as a prop,” Tyler said. “We're tired of our community being used for everything but the uplift of our community.”

During the meeting, Walker and Snook also requested to have the plan for the city’s statue contextualization timeline put on the agenda before the end of the year. 

The Blue Ridge Health District also provided an update on vaccinations. Booster shots for some vaccinated individuals as well as a limited initial supply of vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 are now available in the Charlottesville area. As of Oct. 4, 59 percent of the district population is fully vaccinated, with 66.1 percent of adults fully vaccinated.