Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook announced Tuesday he would be seeking a second four-year term on City Council. His announcement, however, was marred by news that city police were engaged in a standoff with an armed man that turned deadly.
It was a painful reminder of the recent rise in gun violence in the city of Charlottesville.
"We know that gun violence is a serious problem for Charlottesville right now," Snook, a Democrat, said at his announcement on the Downtown Mall. "We have to do a lot better than we’ve been doing."
Snook praised the work Police Chief Michael Kochis has accomplished since he joined the force in mid-January.
Kochis held a public forum on the rise in gun violence on Monday evening, less than 24 hours before the standoff at the Red Roof Inn on Tuesday that led to the death of gunman Billy Sites.
"The discussion last night was remarkable for the number of people saying we haven’t seen the police in our community in years," said Snook. "I think that Chief Kochis is going to be the guy who’s gonna be able to bring us back to a community policing model."
Snook said that he was running to get the things done that he hoped to get done before the pandemic slowed things down.
"I said four years ago that I was interested in two things: the procedural piece of making the city work again and the second was a series of substantive issues,” Snook said. Those substantive issues include “affordable housing, climate change, school reconstruction projects,” according to Snook.
“Those are the kinds of things that we have started, and I would very much like to be a part of continuing to move these things forward,” he said.
After the Unite the Right rally in 2017 brought white nationalists and violence to the city, City Council meetings became known for heated arguments over the fate of the Confederate memorials that sparked the rally-turned-riot.
Nikuyah Walker, an independent who was elected to the council in 2017, served as mayor for two consecutive terms until she left City Council at the end of 2021.
Snook, who was elected in 2019, was elected mayor in January 2022.
Now halfway through his two-year term holding the largely ceremonial title – which primarily allows him to set meeting agendas – Snook said he wants Charlottesville to acknowledge that it is a city “and not just a small town.”
A longtime Charlottesville Democratic Party insider, Snook has served as the party chairman and served two four-year terms on the city’s Planning Commission in the late 1980s.
A lawyer, Snook works part-time as a city councilor in Charlottesville’s so-called council-manager form of government, which features a five-member City Council that sets major policies but gives most of the day-to-day control of running the city to a city manager.
The city has been operating with an interim city manager after the last regular city manager, Chip Boyles, resigned in October 2021. The city currently has a contract with the Robert Bobb Group consulting firm which has installed Michael C. Rogers as city manager until such time as City Council makes a permanent replacement.
There will be three open City Council seats on the November ballot, but the election may be essentially decided on June 20, when the Democratic Party nominations will be secured in a primary.
A Democratic stronghold, Charlottesville elections routinely see more than 80% of the vote go to Democratic presidential contenders. City Council has remained majority Democrat for the past several decades.
Snook said the current council works well together.
"Almost every vote that we’ve had has been a unanimous vote or pretty close to unanimous," said Snook. "And usually by the time we get to the actual vote in Council Chambers, the councilors have talked about the issues enough so that we are able to understand what the problems are. One of the things I’ve liked most about the last year or so is the way that we’ve worked together as a team, as a council team."
One of those councilors, Juandiego Wade, stood behind Snook as a show of support at Tuesday’s announcement. Another, Michael Payne, came by to watch.
Snook said in an email to The Daily Progress after Monday’s announcement that over the course of his time on the council he was proudest of one thing.
"I am proudest of our budget, prepared last spring, because it included money for additional project managers to let us complete more projects; it funded the Buford [Middle School] reconstruction, it added a staffer to continue our work on climate change, and we set aside $10 million for affordable housing – all of my priorities,” Snook said.
Among the other two seats up for election this year: Payne announced on Monday he too would seek a second term on City Council, while Leah Puryear, installed Monday to fill the final 10 months of the term vacated by the January resignation of Sena Magill, has not indicated whether she will seek election to a full term.
Snook has not said whether he wants to remain mayor if reelected to the council.
"I would frankly expect to hand the baton," he said. "I’m not expecting to be mayor next year."