PORTSMOUTH, Va. - After weeks of silence, the community is finally hearing from Portsmouth’s new City Manager, Tonya Chapman.
"At the end of the day I am here and I am here to serve this city," announced the new city manager.
Chapman previously served as Portsmouth’s chief of police but was suddenly asked to resign in 2019. The former chief was recently appointed to the new position after the city's previous city manager was suddenly fired.
Thursday morning, Chapman held a press conference where she addressed some of the rumors surrounding her new position and discussed her plans for Portsmouth’s future.
The presser started with Chapman aggressively defending her qualifications for the job, while also admitting that she did not interview with any city council members before being hired. She also said that she got a personal call from one city council member, who she wouldn't name, after the previous city manager, Angel Jones, was fired.
Chapman says she was led by grace to her new position and claims her qualifications stem from her time as police chief, which she believes had a significant impact on reducing violent crime.
She also touted her education, which does include a master’s degree and certificate, before saying she applied for the city manager position in the past for the 2021 term but withdrew herself.
Chapman also addressed a few rumors including the rumor that she was let go as chief because of a relationship with an employee. She claims those rumors are false.
"In my 30-year career I have never had a relationship with someone who worked with me," said Chapman. "It is not my character and it is not who I am”.
Chapman also says she was not given a list of individuals to fire upon her hiring, another rumor that was circulating.
When asked about the hostility between Portsmouth City Council members, Chapman responded by saying it is not her job to be liked or to ensure council members get along.
“I cannot speak to any animosity against me. I can tell you that the animosity started when I left as chief, for and against,” said Portsmouth City Manager Tonya Chapman. “Remember, this council chamber was filled for a month with individuals wearing badges saying reinstate Chief Chapman, so I was very popular at that time and individuals have intentionally and maliciously tried to sabotage my career.”
A few initiatives were shared at the conference including one called 'Roc the Block' where city leaders will meet with neighborhoods impacted by crime one on one. Chapman says cities with the highest reduction in crime will be rewarded.
Interim Police Chief Jenkins was also at Thursday's conference and says the Portsmouth Police Department remains severely understaffed.
“We plan to be visible within the community,” said Portsmouth Interim Chief Of Police Stephen Jenkins. “We plan to get out of our car and have those conversations.”
He says the department is looking into creating a real-time crime center, which will put cameras throughout the community that zooms in and pans to ongoing incidents.
While Chapman says there is an ongoing search for a new police chief, she nodded at Jenkins' qualifications and says she hopes he applies for the full-time position.
Chapman added that she is also discussing the possibility of Portsmouth city council going on a retreat in the fall, so they can connect and move forward together as a more civil, well-organized unit.