by Bonnie Miller
If you agree with me that different leaders are the right choice at different times, then the case for Jack Berry as the best choice for our next Mayor is strong. City Hall is broken administratively, financially, systemically. The schools are at a terrifyingly low point. We don’t have time for a career politician; nor do we have time for someone without experience who may be long on charisma but will have a learning curve. Jack is a career public servant with a range of experience and a strong skill set and will be able to get traction quickly to turnaround city government.
I have known Jack for just about as long as I have lived in Church Hill—over 30 years. I’d like to make the case for him as a qualified candidate and I’d also like to introduce him to you on a personal level. Neighbor to neighbor.
Jack was raised in Lynchburg, VA by parents who were civil rights activists. His father worked In local government ending his career as the Director of Lynchburg’s Social Services. His mother was the only white teacher in a black school. Jack attended UVA and while there worked at an organization that exposed urban disadvantaged children to one of his great loves: nature and camping. After UVA, Jack got his Masters in Public Administration from George Washington University.
Jack’s first job after graduate school was as a Budget Analyst for the city of Richmond. That’s when I met him because my husband and he commuted to work downtown by GRTC bus. As young couples just starting careers, we longed to buy a house but had little money. Jack proposed pooling our resources and buying a house together. We moved into a duplex at 2611 East Grace Street here in Church Hill in 1980. Three years later we sold that house and moved one block east and the Berrys moved 3 blocks west on East Grace.
One of our East Grace Street neighbors, Jean Cunningham, went on to become a 12 year member of the House of Delegates and has endorsed Jack for Mayor.
So like many of you, Jack and his wife, Katherine, bought their first house, started their family and spent much of their early careers in Church Hill. It was just as inspiring and exciting then as it is now and, as you know, you don’t live up here and not have it become a part of your DNA. I think it is a reason that Jack is committed to the quality of life in our neighborhoods and will be effective in all parts of the city. The notion that some of his opponents have put out there that he is only interested in corporate interests is ridiculous in my opinion.
Jack was promoted up the ladder at the City of Richmond and went on to become the Director of Finance and the Deputy City Manager under Robert Bobb—with whom he had a great working relationship. Robert Bobb went on to become the City Manager of Oakland CA (Jerry Brown was his Mayor!) and of Washington DC. He has recently endorsed Jack for Mayor.
Jack’s in depth experience in Finance will be essential to his success as Mayor because this is the fourth consecutive year that the City has been overdue in the production of its annual financial statement. In fact, at this point they are almost a year late. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to straighten out the poor delivery of basic City services and strengthen our desperately needy school system until the City knows how much money is coming and going on a consistent basis.
Jack’s next career move was to become the County Administrator for Hanover County. He worked closely with the School Superintendent to get the funding in place for a strong school system and is committed to doing this in Richmond. He also continued to develop valuable relationships. The current administrator of Chesterfield County worked with Jack in Hanover; the current administrator of Henrico worked with Jack in Richmond. They admire and trust each other and will serve as helpful regional partners when Jack is Mayor.
Jack left Hanover to become Executive Director of what was then called Richmond Renaissance and later became Venture Richmond. Venture Richmond is a public / private partnership for the purpose of promoting Downtown Richmond. Under Jack’s stewardship much progress was made.
A common Church Hill criticism of Jack is that he supported the Shockoe Stadium. It is important to remember the context: he promoted this project as the leader of Venture Richmond. As Director of Venture Richmond, Jack reported to a Board of Directors that included leaders from the business community, local universities as well as members of City council and the Mayor. So his advocacy of the Stadium was an effort to implement what was proposed by our Mayor and endorsed by his board.
None the less, Jack does not try to deflect blame when this issue is raised. He accepts responsibility and repeats that a mistake was made by not correctly reading the sentiment of the people sooner.
Jack is a lifelong Democrat as are all of the Mayoral candidates. Even though this is not a partisan race, the Democratic Party has given Levar Stoney a great deal of support. As of the August 31 reporting period, 67% of the funds raised by his campaign came from outside of Richmond and the surrounding areas. He has received more donations from Northern Virginia than from Richmond residents. Money also came from Washington, DC, New York, Boston, and as far away as Denver, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco.
By way of comparison, over 95% of the contributions for the Jack Berry for Mayor Campaign are from Richmond and our surrounding suburbs and are in much smaller denominations.
In contrast, and unlike any of the current candidates for Mayor, this is not a stepping stone for Jack. He will not be beholden to anyone. He is not running to advance his career or enhance his brand. This is it. This is the capstone for his career—a way to give back to the community he loves by sharing the skills and experiences it has taken a professional lifetime time to build.
Vote for Jack Berry. He will be the Mayor our city needs and deserves.
— ∮∮∮ —
Photo via Jack Berry for Mayor Facebook
A few weeks ago I published A case for Joe Morrissey. Not an endorsement, it was for me a way of sharing what struck me as an important understanding of his candidacy. After that published, I reached out to others for words on other candidates. Thad Williamson wrote a piece in favor of Levar Stoney and Chad Ingold wrote in support of Jon Baliles. The above is Bonnie Miller’s case for Jack Berry.