‘We need to elect leaders willing to work together’: Portsmouth mayor on how to unite city, move forward

Portsmouth city council
Posted at 11:11 AM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 19:39:34-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover says he’s doing his best to unite the city and move it forward, adding, “We need to elect leaders willing to work together for the best interest of all citizens of Portsmouth.”

Mayor Glover said the city council has managed to get work done, but admits the constant bickering back and forth between leadership has been a huge distraction. He said it comes down to a select few.

“You know, the four,” he said. “I call them, 'Those four.' They vote together all the time.”

During a heated city council meeting Tuesday night, council members, in a 4-3 vote, appointed former Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman to be the next city manager.

Vice Mayor De'Andre Barnes and council members Paul Battle, Chris Woodard and Dr. Mark Whitaker all voted in favor of abruptly firing City Manager Angel Jones last month.

They’re the same four people who were once again in the majority during Chapman’s appointment.

Mayor Glover said the motion was added onto the agenda by Whitaker at the last minute.

“That’s being blindsided; that’s not good governance,” said Glover.

Glover believes the matter was discussed between the four councilmen behind closed doors – a move he says undermines his authority.

“Not only was it unethical, it was immoral. It was out of order,” Glover said. “The trust has already been broken. I shared that with my colleagues. I do not trust them, therefore it makes it very difficult to work with them.”

Longtime community member Mark Geduldig-Yatrofsky was at Tuesday’s meeting.

“It was highly problematic,” Geduldig-Yatrofsky said. “The meeting descended into chaos.”

Geduldig-Yatrofsky said he’ll support Chapman as city manager but worries she doesn’t have the administrative experience to deal with all the ongoing issues plaguing the city.

“My biggest concern is that she will be essentially a hostage to that four-vote block,” he said. “I believe in her integrity. I saw it when she was police chief. She didn’t back away from tough issues. She carried herself well and I’ve not known integrity to be something that just comes and goes.”

Tuesday night, after the city council meeting, Dr. Mark Whitaker told News 3 he believes Chapman has the skill set to get the job done.

“I think she brings a wealth of experience,” said Whitaker. “I think she’s a unifying force, person for our city.”

Glover disagreed.

“Nowhere in our charter does it state the city manager’s role is to unite the council,” Glover said. “In order for us to move our city forward we need good leaders, elected people that are willing to serve at the will of the citizens to bring their ideas and their skills to the table in a collaborative way to work on a shared vision and a mission and goals.”

Both the mayor and Geduldig-Yatrofsky agree, civic engagement and working together is key to bridge the divide and move the city forward.

“If people stay engaged with the process, then I am hopeful we can do great things going forward,” said Geduldig-Yatrofsky. “Democracy is not a spectator sport. You have to be involved directly.”

Glover said, “It’s critical we have good leaders and good stewardship so we’re doing will of the people and not the will of the politician.”

The mayor adjourned Tuesday night's meeting early after bickering among council members and threats of removal of Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes and Councilman Dr. Mark Whitaker.

Glover said Whitaker has called a special meeting for Thursday, June 16 at 5 p.m. to go over details of Chapman’s new contract. At 6 p.m. the non-agenda speakers who signed up to speak Tuesday night will have their chance to take the podium.

“I know these are citizens, who through no fault of their own wanted to have a voice and because of my decision,” said Glover. “I took that voice away and for that, I apologize.”

Chapman will start in her new role on June 22. She will have a yearly salary of $200,000.

Related: Citizens of Portsmouth working to recall Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes and Councilman Mark Whitaker