Back in the hazy far-off days of 2009, I followed the mayor and his team on an fact-finding mission to Maymont Park. I wrote then:
"Several members of the mayor's executive staff are months-old to Richmond, or, they've been away for years. And on this Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 6, they are being tested with a field trip to Maymont.
Mayor Dwight C. Jones
Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones speaking at a press conference at Maymont on October 20, 2015. (Photo courtesy of the Maymont Foundation)
"Some wander around in Byrd Park's adjacent maze of streets looking for Maymont's Nature and Visitor Center. One pulls into the Hampton Street gates by the Dooley mansion and must amble down the hill.
"All this goes to prove one of the points made by Maymont Foundation Executive Director Norman O. Burns II. During his historical, anecdotal and financial presentation, Burns describes Maymont's three separate entrances. Of the half million visitors a year, 100,000 from outside the city and state get confused.
"When Burns asks for a show of hands of those who've come to Maymont before, Jones is among those who haven't. 'I must confess to you,' he says, 'this is my first visit to Maymont.' "
Jones, from Philadelphia, had been in the city a long time by then. He graduated from Virginia Union University in 1967 and then he served in various political offices, appointed and elected, including representing the 70th District in the Virginia House of Delegates (1994-2008).
Examining the potential assortment of announced and probable candidates, there are council members, civic activists and advocates, former and current delegates, the commonwealth's secretary, the director of a public-private cultural group and, perhaps, even a former governor/mayor. Considering these disparate backgrounds and experiences, and given this important hour of our city’s present, the question should be asked: Are any of them qualified to represent the entire city? Wanting the office is one matter. Governing, as has been shown since the charter changed to a mayor-at-large arrangement, is quite another world.
In an increasingly crowded race for the mayor's office, Harry "The Hat" Kollatz Jr. lays out the qualities Richmond's next leader should possess. (Photo courtesy of ThinkStock)
Thus, here I offer a few criteria for consideration when contemplating who should next sit in the mayoral chair.
First, the individual should possess an intimate knowledge of the city — not one neighborhood, or a singular issue, but the kind of perspective one can get if you go up to the City Hall Observation Deck. (Which I recommend, whether you hold an elected office or not – sadly, there are no explanatory plaques).
The person need not to have been born and raised here, but, a long-time resident is preferable – rather than someone who changes address to meet office-holding qualifications. The candidate should have resided here long enough to know Richmond without succumbing to a perverse desire to settle scores or to install unqualified friends into important administrative positions.
The candidate ought to know about the working machinery of a good-sized bureaucracy. Neither a church nor a civic association are equal in complexity to a city government.
Caring about Richmond isn’t enough. Nor is the endurance to agitate on behalf of a particular community or cause. The mayor should possess a native wit and enough resilience of ego to choose wise advisors who can metaphorically find their way into Maymont.