Friday will be the first Juneteenth that is a paid holiday for many government employees in Central Virginia.
Following Gov. Ralph Northam’s announcement that he would introduce legislation to make June 19 a paid holiday for state employees, Albemarle County, Louisa County and the University of Virginia also decided to make the day a paid holiday,
Greene and Orange counties, which both follow the state’s holiday schedule, will close county office buildings Friday, according to news releases. Fluvanna County also will close Friday, except for the courts and the Sheriff’s Office. In Nelson County, departments and offices will be closed Friday, the county transfer station will observe holiday hours and county convenience centers will remain open.
Charlottesville City Manager Tarron Richardson has given city employees an administrative leave day on Friday. The city made Liberation and Freedom Day, on March 3, a paid holiday last year.
Juneteenth commemorates when enslaved people across the South learned of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which declared slaves in the Confederacy free during the Civil War.
The last slaves were informed of the proclamation following the end of the war on June 19, 1865, by Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas. People immediately took to the streets to celebrate, starting the tradition.
Albemarle’s county executive, Jeff Richardson, proposed the holiday late Wednesday night to the Board of Supervisors.
“This will be a transition year … where we will either formally close and observe the holiday Friday, and for our employees who will have to work to provide the citizen services that are critical, based on the timing, they will be awarded the eight-hour holiday to be taken at a later time,” he said.
Albemarle’s community development intake will remain open and tax payment assistance will be available on site Friday.
At the board’s July 1 meeting, Jeff Richardson said he’ll bring back the entire list of holidays for the upcoming fiscal year and will look at how many holidays other localities have.
“If the data is not there, I’ll come back and make a recommendation that we basically just switch another holiday out and remain at 12 [paid holidays],” he said. “In taking a cursory look at our holiday calendar for next year, that recommendation that staff is looking at if we switch one out will probably be Presidents Day, Feb. 15, in exchange for the memorialization of Juneteenth as a formal holiday for county employees.”
Charlottesville employees who cannot take off Friday can use the administrative leave day on another day.
“This does not change the calendar for future years related to our holiday schedule,” city spokesman Brian Wheeler said in an email. “That may be a topic for council and the city manager to discuss at a future meeting.”
In a message Wednesday, UVa President Jim Ryan and Provost Liz Magill said Friday will be a paid holiday for employees in the Academic Division, with the exception of designated employees who are required to maintain operations.
“Given the short notice and the fact that thousands of people are scheduled for medical visits, surgeries, and elective admissions on Friday, this holiday will not apply to those Medical Center team members and faculty and staff at the School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and the UVa Physicians Group who are needed to care for patients,” the message said.
UVa spokesman Brian Coy said in an email that each fall, university leaders review a holiday calendar for the upcoming year, and the Juneteenth holiday will be included in discussions about the calendar.
In announcing Louisa’s Juneteenth holiday, Supervisor Duane Adams said in a news release, “As we continue to examine our response to historical inequality, I’m pleased that Louisa County will recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday. This date is an important milestone in our history as we celebrate the emancipation of enslaved people. Together, we continue to make Louisa County a special and inclusive place.”
The Louisa Board of Supervisors determines the county holiday schedule on an annual basis. It’s unclear if it will be added to future schedules.
Any changes in Buckingham or Madison counties could not be determined by press time.