Richmond may have a new political dynasty in the making. Felix Schapiro, the teenage son of veteran Times-Dispatch political reporter Jeff Schapiro, currently in his freshman year at the College of William & Mary, confirms that he’s entertaining a bid for a city council seat in Williamsburg this May.
“I’m still in the exploratory phase of the whole thing,” says the younger Schapiro, who has yet to declare his major or his platform, though the latter likely will aim to build on progress he’s seen in relations between students and townies. “There are issues I have in mind, but I’m not intending to go into areas of policy until when and if I formally declare a campaign.”
Schapiro’s father, a respected political reporter and columnist at Richmond’s stalwart daily paper, has been a familiar face to Virginia General Assembly watchers for more than 30 years, easily identifiable by his trademark professorial spectacles, bow tie and rakishly Fitzgerald-esque hair worn longish and swept back over his ears.
Local public-radio listeners know Schapiro by his refined anglophile’s diction and grandiloquently insightful Friday-morning reports on state and local politics on WCVE.
And Felix, with his carefully measured manner of speech and a keen, lifelong interest in politics, appears set to prove he’s a chip off the old block.
“Boy, what a neat kid,” gushes Gary Shelly, a Williamsburg resident and longtime proponent of students at the 300-year-old state university. Shelly calls Felix’s potential bid “a big deal here in Williamsburg.”
Not because he’s Schapiro’s scion, but because Felix represents the latest in a line of college students who’ve chosen to engage in the process in a town where students — despite all they bring to the local economy — often receive short shrift.
“The last election, we actually had a student get elected,” Shelly says, referring to City Councilman Scott Foster, who was the first student elected after a spate of student candidates dating back to 2004, when political tensions flared over whether students had the right to register to vote locally since many left town during the summer months to return home.
"What would be different should Felix win, Shelly says, is that he’d be the first student elected who'd be likely to serve the majority of his first term while still an undergrad. Foster, who's still serving, graduated shortly after he won office in 2010. (He's now attending law school at William & Mary.)
“Felix is the real embodiment of a student,” Shelly says. “He’s just another student living in the dormitory.”
Despite his youth, Felix strikes Shelly as particularly prepared to serve.
“I’m very impressed with his understanding of how politics work,” says Shelly, who was equally impressed with how unassuming the young man was about how he came by this understanding. “I asked him, 'Do your folks have an interest in politics?' And he said, 'Yeah, they keep up with it a little bit.' ”
Even after providing more details about his father’s knowledge, Shelly says, it remains clear that for Felix, “this is his effort.”
In fact, Felix demurs when asked about how his father feels about his son's possible council bid.
“I’d like to not speak to that, just out of regards to my dad’s profession and protecting his professional integrity,” says the younger Schapiro. “I’m very proud of my dad and all that he does.”
As for dad, the elder Schapiro has this to say about his son's political interest: "I fully expect my son Felix is learning as much outside the classroom as he is inside."
Felix does acknowledge that growing up in the Schapiro fold means that an understanding and appreciation for politics came early in life. “I’ve always had a very strong interest in ideas, and as I’ve grown, I’ve come to realize that politics is one of many ways that someone can enact real and substantive change on the world around them.”
NOTE: This blog post has been corrected since publication.