Charlottesville’s City Council awarded a contract to the Robert Bobb Group, LLC to perform interim city manager services during Monday’s meeting. City Council voted 4-0, with Mayor Nikuyah Walker abstaining.
The Robert Bobb Group is a D.C.-based national consulting firm specializing in public and private sector consulting and advisory services. Bobb, a former city manager in Richmond, has provided his services to the city of Petersburg and other localities.
The city posted a Request for Proposals on Dec. 3, which states the city is looking to enter into a contract with a firm for a six-month term with a one-renewal term option.
“The City organization has been under extreme stress in recent years, with instability in multiple key leadership positions,” the RFP says. “Between the date of this RFP and April 2022 the new City Council (who will be seated January 1, 2022) will need to establish a strategic plan for the government and capital improvement and general fund budgets for Fiscal Year 2023. City Council’s desire is to be in a position to commence a robust, community-engaged process to recruit an individual to serve as the next City Manager, during the second quarter of 2022.”
The RFP also says the firm will be responsible for working with the City Council to develop an updated job description for a city manager, along with a prioritized work plan for a permanent city manager, tied to a written plan of goals and priorities approved by City Council for calendar years 2022 and 2023.
City spokesman Joe Rice could not be reached for comment on how much the firm will be paid to perform these duties.
Walker said she abstained because she had suggested the city should go in a different direction instead of hiring a firm, but she did not say what her suggestion was. She also implied she thought this should have been a decision made by the incoming council.
“I think that [the Robert Bobb Group] may be beneficial to the city and with more information worked out at this point, I would have likely said yes. With that, I did recommend that we go a different direction,” Walker said. “But this individual is coming with a lot of experience and I enjoyed the information that was shared and the presentation that they put on and believe that they could be of some benefit.”
Monday’s meeting marked the last for Walker and councilor Heather Hill, who were both recognized for their time on City Council early in the meeting. Hill served as vice-mayor from January 2018 to December 2019 and as a councilor from January 2020 to December 2021. Walker served as mayor from January 2018 to December 2021. She was the city’s first Black female mayor.
Hill commended the work of the council and thanked city staff for their work and dedication, but also said she wishes the council could’ve gotten more done.
“This small city has carried a lot on its shoulders and I believe these challenges have impacted the work that Council and staff have been able to accomplish. I acknowledge there’s been missteps, and I’ve been a part of some of those and take ownership of that. They all will weigh heavily on me. And there’s much more I was hoping that we could have made strides on before the end of this council term and that I would have had the opportunity to be a part of,” Hill said.
Hill, who announced early this year that she would not be seeking re-election, said she has mixed emotions about leaving.
“Reflecting back, there’s so much about this work that has energized me,” she said, adding that there is still much work to be done. “I would love to be part of it in this capacity, but at the same time, this has taken its toll in a way that I could never have predicted,” Hill said.
Walker read a passage written by author and activist bell hooks, who died last week.
“Progressive visionary leaders have always known that any action which liberates and renews oppressed and exploited Black people strengthens the nation as a whole. Not only do these actions provide a model for ending racism, they provide strategies for the overall healing of America,” Walker read from hooks’ book Salvation.
Walker went on to say she hopes the incoming City Council continues to push forward on the equity work she started. Walker dropped out of her re-election campaign in September following the termination of Police Chief RaShall Brackney. On Monday, Walker said that she had considered quitting in December 2020.
“Charlottesville is a local model of the work that’s going to have to be done [in the country]. Anyone that thinks that we’re going to be able to hold hands in a circle around a campfire and kumbaya, they are not being realistic about what it’s going to take to actually ensure an equitable society exists,” Walker said. “I hope that you all are about the business of continuing that work. I hope that when there are challenges that you confront them and that you don’t just place blame on what has occurred the past four years … it is all of our duties … you have to right the wrongs.”
Hill and Walker will be replaced by Brian Pinkston and Juandiego Wade in the new year.