Search for next Beach city manager elicits lengthy wish list

A humble, fiscally conservative, tech savvy woman who isn’t in the pocket of developers, hates red light cameras and loves backyard chickens isn’t exactly what Virginia Beach residents are looking for in their next city manager.

The profile is just one of the many that could be built from the hodgepodge of traits and priorities that people told the City Council to focus on as it prepares to seek a replacement for long-time City Manager Jim Spore, who is retiring at the end of the year.

Mayor Will Sessoms relayed summaries of those comments — and a lengthy collection of the comments themselves — in a thick packet that he handed to his fellow councilmembers this week. The papers included comments that were gathered in September through early October from nearly 100 city employees and about 170 members of the public.

Residents commented in person at town hall meetings and online.

In the packet delivered by Sessoms, a summary of the online comments highlighted a long list of qualities and traits that people said they wanted in their next city manager, including:

  • Financial prowess
  • Passionate
  • Honest
  • Moral
  • Sense of humor, especially about himself
  • Family-oriented individual
  • No political ties
  • Independent of relationships with “higher powers” (developers, etc.)

The summary of online comments mentioned the following references to specific issues:

  • Make VB more bike/pedestrian friendly
  • Ecofriendly vision — environmental awareness/Preserve natural lands/More attention to litter and clean streets/Recycling
  • Removing traffic cameras at all traffic lights
  • Look out for homeowners not just businesses
  • Be able to own chickens
  • Overgrowth/Trees — blocking view at intersections/Grass on medians

The summary also provided an “other” category:

  • Misconception that Virginia Beach is a sanctuary city
  • High cost of living in this city
  • End support of arena, growth at the Oceanfront

And then there were the quotes. The summary of online comments, which were analyzed by the city’s communications staff, pulled out a few, including:

  • “Hire a woman … women are able to budget money and plan for the future because we do it every day as mothers…”
  • “Find a clone of Jim Spore. He has been an outstanding manager.”
  • “Can’t we just have Jim Spore cloned and be done with it?”

Sessoms said in his letter to the City Council that the feedback from the public and city employees “will be extremely beneficial in helping us select another outstanding City Manager.”

“I encourage each of us to keep this input close at hand as we conduct our interviews,” he wrote.

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