- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

Richmond Mayor-elect L. Douglas Wilder won’t be sworn in for another two months, but already he is forming commissions, warning City Council members to stop spending money and telling two of the city’s top officials to seek employment elsewhere.

The Democrat who once was governor of Virginia makes no apologies for taking action quickly.

“You have to hit the ground running,” Mr. Wilder, 73, told The Washington Times yesterday. “You can’t afford to miss the spirit of the moment. People said this is what they want and what they need.”

Over the weekend, Mr. Wilder said Police Chief Andre Parker and City Manager Calvin D. Jamison, who currently oversees Richmond’s day-to-day operations, will not be a part of his administration.

Calling both of them “good men,” Mr. Wilder said he wants a management team that will find solutions to the city’s problems, which include a high murder rate of youths. Richmond’s population is estimated at 200,000.

“Richmond needs to make a clean break from the failed policies and politics of the past. A handful of power brokers have had their way for far too long,” he said. “Last Tuesday, the people spoke. They gave me a mandate for change.”

Mr. Wilder, who won all of the city’s nine districts with a total of 78.6 percent of the vote, cautioned current City Council members to hold off on taking action on issues until he takes office the first week of January.

“To be blunt, it’s a period in which there has to be a recognition of change on behalf of the former members of the council,” he said. “Some of them have got to have a period of adjustment. It’s not business as usual.”

Mr. Wilder, who will now oversee the city budget, said the council should not spend money until he assumes the post. “I don’t want the present council to hire new people,” he said. “I told them not to go too heavy with their expenditures.”

The council does not seem to be heeding his warnings, however.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Tuesday that two council members have proposed hiring at least three more workers — a council chief of staff and aides for budget work and public relations.

Under the city’s new form of government, the mayor will have more powers and the council will operate separately. Last year, Richmond voters approved by a 4-to-1 ratio a referendum calling for the mayor’s popular election — a measure that Mr. Wilder had pushed for, with help from former Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr., a Republican.

Lame-duck Mayor Rudolph C. McCollum Jr., one of three candidates Mr. Wilder defeated in the election, did not return calls yesterday seeking comment. He is one of the council members who will leave when Mr. Wilder takes over as mayor.

Mr. Wilder on Monday announced his transition team, made up of 15 city residents, several of whom volunteered for the Wilder-Bliley Commission. The commission worked toward getting the city a popularly elected mayor.

The team, led by co-chairmen James C. Cherry, chief executive officer for the Mid-Atlantic region of Wachovia Bank, and Melvin D. Law, president of the Richmond Crusade for Voters, is charged with finding replacements for Mr. Jamison and Chief Parker.

“The city has spoken pretty loudly with the overwhelming election of Doug Wilder that they are looking for a new direction and for change,” Mr. Cherry said yesterday. “How that will be embodied is for Doug Wilder now to share. [The team] is there to give Doug Wilder the best advice we can.”

Mr. Cherry said Mr. Wilder chose to include residents on his team so they could evaluate candidates on their merits, and not on their political worth.

Mr. Wilder plans to meet with Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, to ask for more federal money to fight gangs. He also wants to meet with Sens. George Allen and John W. Warner, both Virginia Republicans, to bring more attention to Richmond.

He will meet with House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell to ask the state for money to fight crime and “to let him know I’m on my way.”

Other plans include a crime summit with state and federal officials and the formation of a Commission on Efficiency and Effectiveness and a Regional Cooperation Commission.

To eliminate waste inside city government, he will meet with each department head and conduct citywide structural and performance audits.

Mr. Wilder plans to establish a political action committee with the more than $200,000 left over from the estimated $365,000 he raised during his mayoral campaign.

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