- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 29, 2004

RICHMOND — Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder plans a return to Virginia’s capital city to make a bid for mayor under a new form of government he helped promote.

First, he must move back to the place of his birth 73 years ago and wait for the U.S. Justice Department to approve the new way Richmonders will govern themselves.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr. Wilder said, “I am now in the process of making arrangements to meet the necessary legal requirements to be on the ballot in November’s city election for the office of mayor.”

Paul Goldman, a longtime political aide and an architect of the new city charter, said Mr. Wilder must establish residency in the city by Aug. 1. Mr. Wilder, who was born on historic Church Hill, now lives in Charles City County.

Mr. Goldman said Mr. Wilder was not available for an interview.

Mr. Wilder, a Democrat, purposely chose Memorial Day weekend to signal his intentions, Mr. Goldman said.

“He’s a Korean War veteran. He won a Bronze Star for bravery. He’s still fighting for the city and he loves the city of Richmond,” Mr. Goldman said.

Mr. Wilder, the nation’s first elected black governor, and former U.S. Rep. Thomas J. Bliley, a Republican, initiated the reform campaign in July 2002. They said the city’s primarily ceremonial mayoral system did not yield the strong leader the city needed.

Richmond, with a population of just under 200,000, in recent years has had one of the nation’s highest murder rates and has had two council members convicted within the last year of bribery and tax evasion.

“Leaders don’t shy from problems,” Mr. Goldman said of Mr. Wilder’s willingness to tackle the city’s problems. “I know that crime is something he has talked about. Crime is right there at the top of the list.”

In November, city voters approved the charter change, and the General Assembly provided its approval this year.

The biggest provision in the charter is the popular election of a mayor. City Council members now elect a mayor, who answers to the council. A hired city manager administers day-to-day operations.

The Justice Department must review the legislation under the federal Voting Rights Act, which prevents voting discrimination in states with histories of racial discrimination, such as Virginia.

Mr. Goldman, who headed the state Democratic Party during Mr. Wilder’s term as governor, said he expects federal approval of the plan any day.

Mr. Wilder was a state senator from Richmond and lieutenant governor before being elected governor in 1989. He has remained active in public life as chairman of a Warner administration committee streamlining state government and by leading the drive to create the U.S. National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg.

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