A Mental Maze: what we can learn from Tarron Richardson’s brief time as city manager

“It is hard for me to see this as an issue that is so important that his disagreement with Council on this would be a cause for termination or a condition of his continued employment. If it doesn’t rise to that level, we have to let him [Richardson] do his job, even if it means that he rejects Council’s advice.” – City Councilor Llyod Snook, May 2020

When Tarron Richardson became Charlottesville City Manger in May 2019 the local media didn’t seem particularly interested in finding out much about who he was and where he’d come from. A profile by Charlottesville Tomorrow ran a mere 326 words — compared to a 1,350-word piece that introduced current city manager Chip Boyles — and nowhere in that story, or in others by local media, did we learn that Richardson had been the first in his family to get a college degree, or that he had become the first African-American city manager of Desoto, Texas in his 30s, the position he’d held for nearly a decade before coming to Charlottesville. As for Desoto, Texas, no local media pointed out that it was the demographic mirror opposite of Charlottesville — roughly the same population and median income, but with a population that is 68% Black and 17% White. Desoto’s Black and White populations were about the same in 2000, but by 2010 the Texas city had transformed into a majority Black community. As for Charlottesville, its demographics haven’t changed for decades, despite a 13 percent growth in population over the last one, and is roughly 70% White and 20% Black. In fact, the Black population in Charlottesville was larger (22%) in 2000 than it is today. Read more

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