Acting City Manager: Will 'Mo Jo' have the mojo?

hotseat-jones-mug City Council is expected to approve next week the appointment of Maurice Jones as Acting City Manager, following the announcement that Gary O'Connell will step down after nearly 15 years in the position.

A former NBC29 sportscaster, Miller Center fundraiser, and City communications director, Jones has been an assistant city manager for two years with a focus on neighborhoods.

Under Charlottesville's council-manager form of government, the five-member City Council directs policy but leaves day-to-day operations to the City Manager.

Outgoing Manager O'Connell came under fire about two years ago for pushing a controversial pipeline plan concocted by the Nature Conservancy that includes building a new dam in the Ragged Mountain Natural Area. After some investigative reporting and a mayoral counter-press toward dredging the existing reservoir, O'Connell began retreating from his "full steam ahead" position to the point that he issued a sort of stop-work order on the dam.

But now O'Connell moves to the other side as the director of the Albemarle County Service Authority. That means he changes hats but gets to keep a seat on the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority that was held by Gary Fern, the man O'Connell succeeds on the ACSA.

The big question now is whether Jones–- who, by virtue of his new position, gets a seat on the board of the RWSA–- will have the nerve to stand up for the mayor and Charlottesville citizens against the pipe-line dream of his former boss.

–file photo by Jen Fariello

–updated 4:16pm

Read more on: maurice jones


More of Mr. O'Connell's legacy. He was a board member that voted to oust Mr. Tropea and hired Tom Frederick as director of RWSA/RSWA .

Mr. Tropea was the RWSA director at the time of this meeting and the comments by the League are interesting, remember this is 2002, discussing the plan agreed upon by both the City and County. This was an affordable plan that would have been flexible, given us additional water supply at an affordable cost, and maintained our major South Fork Reservoir after years of neglect.

Oct. 28,2002 RWSA Board Minutes:

Tropea :" RWSA's strategic game plan is to fast track the Board-approved future water supply plan, especially the four foot crest controls. He further stated that RWSA would also like to move forward with the "opportunity dredging" and in the future seek new incremental water supply additions. "

The League:
"In regard to the future water supply the League was very pleased on August 26th when the RWSA Board approved the Water Supply Strategy ,produced several official reports which included numerous public meetings to discuss and debate the Future Water Supply Alternatives available to our community.
The problem we see is that in spite of widespread media coverage many people in the community still don't seem to be aware of either the existence or the substance of the whole, integrated strategy. Rumors and speculation should be put to rest, and people should be made to understand what to expect or not expect in the future. Then let's hope the community can move on, confident that water supply planning is under control for the next several years."

My question is what happened to this plan ? If this had gone forward we would have saved tens of millions of dollars both on consultants and lack of action, making any plan now more expensive ?

And look at the budget if we'd carried through then, with the signed contract and signed cost share agreement between the City and County

From the RWSA Oct 28th 2002 minutes report by consultant:

4-Foot Crest 7.5
Mechums River Pump Station 0.5
Dredging(2002) 1.0
Other Measures 0.9

Subtotal 9.9

Related Non-supply Measures 3.3

Total $13.3

non-supply measures--improvements Observatory and North Fork Rivanna water treatment plants and related facilities to make system more effective and flexible

Dumbfounded, chill out. Mo has been appointed ACTING city manager. Someone has to work in the position until a successor is chosen.

Kinda surprised Judy Mueller's name hasn't surfaced as a possible (temporary?) replacement. She and Gary have been thick as thieves on the RSWA and RWSA boards for some time... don't get me wrong, I think giving her any more responsibility would be a terrible idea, just surprised Gary O isn't pushing her as his successor.

Hiring from within is not always a prudent thing to do. the powers that be will do well to place the job opening to a wider scope of candidates

That's a good idea. Let "triple-dipper" Aubrey Watts do it. In fact, wasn't he bestowed the dual title of "Deputy City Manager" at one time? Guess they did that just to augment his salary. Talk about your "Golden Parachute".

Gasbag, quit living in the past dude. You are always talking about events (many probably rumors, mind you) that happened over 10 years ago. Many times in your case, in the 70's and 80's.

If I was the hiring authority for any position, I would select the best person for the job - the most qualified -- regardless of what color people in the community say we "should" have. That to me is reverse racism.

@city resident, now do you see why our government has so many problems in its management? The public thinks its as serious as a parade.

In other words, you don't have to have any qualifications to be in it, just friends.

Heck, Sarah Palin read the sports on tv. Apparently that qualified her for the governorship of Alaska!

Ohh, what a touchy subject. But, I must admit, I can't keep up with what anybody wants to be called from decade to decade. First, it was "colored". Next it was "negro". Then it was "black". Nowadays it's "African American".

The only problem I have with any of it is a group of people who decide to change their preference of what they prefer to be called every 10 years or so.

My family... we're just the plain old moonshine running rednecks! And proud to be American! The term "Prussian American" just never did a thing for me.

Why does the Hook always seem to think that "The big question..." is always related to the water supply debate? There seems to be a constant echo of the same refrain in this room...

The big question is can Mr. Jones successfully "run" the City in the face of a very difficult economy. I hope that he does and wish him luck.

The answer to your qwuestion, Ragged, is "Of course not. Why would anyone think that he can?" Next thing you know, we'll be taking people off the street and allow them to do heart surgery.

No Cville Eye, truthfully, I am spouting off because of the well qualified black from Northern Virginia that pretty much withdrew his application when he finally realized a "good ole boy" was going to be appointed police chief back in 1997 or 1998. He knew he was wasting his time.

Todd is apparently selling houses and is as candid as ever:

I'd buy a house from the dude.

He read the sports on Channel 29! I think that qualifies him for a caretaker position.

By the way, wasn't Hawes's wife on Channel 29 back in the day? Perhaps she should run Albemarle County for a while. She could clear up these water issues.

Want to know why Gary took the ACSA job-- so he could join with John Martin to protect the Moorman's and make ratepayers foot the bill--Gary loves trout fishing in the Moorman's , just ask him, and we certainly wouldn't want our water supply plans to interfere with his hobby.

Oh No!
Mo Mo?
No No Ho Bo Mo.

Good for Mo!

He's a good guy and will do just fine as interim. Best wishes Mo!

Well others have acted like a city manager before- how's this different?

Correction: He is unqualified, or at best, a poor choice, at least according to his credentials. Charlottesville might do better with a very experienced [i.e. older, tested architect &/or engineer - with finance experience] and practically wise, manager of difficult tasks.
Tasks that require meeting the needs of all or most concerned under the pressure of balancing budgets as against that which might actually justify the hubris of world class city status.

It's safe to say that O'Connell doesn't have any say whatsoever on who his successor is or isn't.

And I think he's glad he made that decision because he wouldn't want to deal day-to-day with issues of race instead of doing his job. So why are you asking that other blacks be put in the same miserable position? Do you really think maurice Jones is going to have a good time of it because he's a "good guy?"

Yeah, my bad! African American!

African American Commonwealth's Attorney. African American General District Court judge. And African American Circuit Court judge.

You think this community will ever scrap the good ole boy system and catch up with the rest of the country?

Thank you Dumbfounded! Now if the following would only stop using those hurtful words:

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
The National Council of Negro Women
Congressional Black Caucus
Black Caucus of the American Library Association
California Legislative Black Caucus
United Negro College Fund - An educational assistance organization with 40 private, historically black, member colleges and universities.

Another major offender is Henry Louis Gates's website The Root. These are a few titles of current articles there.
"DADT Disproportionately Affects Black Women"
"This Week in Blackness: 13 Black Truths"
"Black Unemployment Is Not News"
"Celebrating 100 Years of Black Cinema"
"Twitter for Black Folks: The Ultimate Guide"
"The Blackest White Folks We Know"

Guess it’s time for my opinion in this thread too.

I don’t know if Jones is qualified to become the permanent city manager or not. Is he even qualified to be an interim city manager? Don’t know that much about him. But I do know it’s time for a black city manager in this city. It’s also time for a black police chief.

I wonder how much longer the good ole boy network can keep withholding these two positions from well qualified black applicants?

Not good ole boy, liberal lemmings.

Guess it's time for my opinion in this thread too.

I don't know if Jones is qualified to become the permanent city manager or not. Is he even qualified to be an interim city manager? Don't know that much about him. But I do know it's time for a black city manager in this city. It's also time for a black police chief.

I wonder how much longer the good ole boy network can keep withholding these two positions from well qualified black applicants?

What does race have to do with it Steve? Can you prove that the city has "withheld" these positions from well- qualified blacks in the past?

Yes, Aubrey Watts was once titled Deputy City Manager. That was doing the big shake up. All of the department heads with the exception of Ric Barrick were re-assigned from reporting to Rochelle Small-Toney to reporting to Aubrey Watts. Gary O'Connell was supposed to be traveling, investigating "best practices."

I think you mean reverse discrimination. :)

I think you're still living in 1970 when people didn't know the difference between racism and discrimination. :)

Actually, I think both terms apply - wouldn't you agree?

There is much talk about the failure of the city and county to see eye to eye on the future water plan, but let us remember, that in 2002 they had a signed contract and cost share agreement ready to go, that would have dredged and put a bladder on the South Fork Reservoir, as well as a plan to repair the spillway at Ragged Mt. giving us decades of additional water, and by now, we would have a Dam Safety Certificate, for the Ragged Mt. Dam, from the State. It was Mr. O'Connell, and his board, that scrapped this plan, and led us down the path of endless consultants-- the most recent being fired, after putting $12 million of the ratepayer's dollars in their pockets.

city resident, please keep reminding us of this.

My apologies Ragged, I see the water supply issue is part of the update to the original article, but you see, that is Mr. O'Connell's legacy, and he will be remembered for years of neglect of the city's assets, the most valuable being the dams and reservoirs, and his continual attempt to guide Council away from what would have been the prudent decision; to repair the spillway at Ragged Mt. years ago ( when the estimate was $3million) and to dredge the South Fork Reservoir when the city and county had a signed contract ready to go and doubled ratepayers rates to do it. He was the one who guided the Council's decision not to maintain their most valuable reservoir.

And most recently he will be remembered for his attempts to mislead Council, with the rest of the RWSA board, concerning the cost and feasibility of dredging the South Fork Reservoir. This was a costly mistake that the community should hold him responsible for. He was the RWSA board member, representing the city with Ms Mueller. RWSA made these decisions and it was his advice to Council that was followed until Council wised up and realized he was working against City interests. He and his board have easily spent over $15 million over the years and doubled ratepayer rates, stockpiled close to $40 million and have not a drop of additional water for this community to show for it. What business would ever have renewed his contract ?

Ragged, I'd say a 200 - 300 million dollar community expense,if that's what you mean by the water supply question, is a pretty major community issue, not to mention the loss of a mature forest ( 54,000 trees), and natural area and the purchase and tearing up of 10 miles or more of Albemarle land for a pipeline- to feed the new reservoir, that requires water to be pumped uphill with electricity ( have you looked at your electric bill lately). And the minor issue of allowing our major water supply reservoir at South Fork to fill with silt, and be a total loss for both water supply and recreation. Just glad to see that Mr. O'Connell will not be representing the City on this issue anymore, and I hope Mr. Jones is someone who will look our for the ratepayers and not represent the special interests of the county. Looks like you were the one to bring up the water supply this time Ragged, not the Hook.

I'm glad that Tim Brown brought up Mo's association with Todd Hawkins. That guy was a trip.

Mr. O'Connell is now a County Water official so, how does he explain, and the County Board of Supervisors defend, their moaning and groaning about changing a plan which has tripled in price, and was based on false and misleading information to begin with ?

Looks like they didn't have a problem changing plans in 2002 even after the contract and cost share agreement was signed.

@city resident, excellent comment. I believe the estimate for dreding is only for the year 2002. I have been asking for quite some time whatever happened to the original remedy as presented in 2002. I suspect it was Sally Thomas, trout fishers, Gary O'Connell, John Martin, Don Wagner, Free Enterprise Forum and others of that ilk. As they peel away from the issue, I hope they realize what their legacy is. And they are peeling away, fast. I'm still waiting to see the 2004-requested survey from Dr. Neves of VA Tech for the James Spinymussel.

Maurice Jones is the best sportscaster this area has seen. Just when we all thought nobody could fill the shoes of Todd Hawkins, Mo stepped in and revolutionized the GAME. Keep doin ya thing Mo, keep doin ya thing

Fire mo fire mo

And how does that qualify him for the job of city manager if he applies ?

He is unqualified, or at best, a poor choice, at least according to his credentials. Charlottesville might do better with a very experienced [i.e. older, tested architect &/or engineer - with finance experience].

@ Dumbfounded: "African American" is politically correct nonsense. Just my opinion. And actually, a lot of black people choose NOT to use that term. Not to sidetrack this into a racism debate, but do we hear everybody specifying "Irish American," "German American," "Australian-American," "French Canadian-American," "Hungarian Italian-American," "Mexican Panamanian-American," "Korean Swiss English-American"..... I mean, come on. It just gets ridiculous after a certain point. If you live here and you're a legal citizen then we're all just Americans, we're not the country of our distant ancestors. And when people feel the need to refer to the color of a person's skin then the color itself suffices. Enough with the political correctness. Most of the blacks here in America have never been to Africa, and are 300-400 years removed from it. Why are we referring to them as African? I don't want to be referred to by the countries of my ancestors' origins. Just call me American. Or white. Either one is fine. Not the country of my ancestor's origins from almost 100 years ago, hyphenated with "-American." But that's just my opinion, and I'm sure others disagree!

On second thought, it's also time for a black Commonwealth's Attorney, a black General District Court judge and a black Circuit Court judge as well. Charlottesville and Albemarle County are still living in the good ole boy 1960s.

Ahem...African American please.

@Gasbag, you're just spouting off about having black positions just to get everybody going. You know it's illegal to hire somebody solely on the basis of "race." I've never been hired just because I'm Korean Swiss English-American.
It's interesting that there's no mention of Aubrey Watts taking over the position. He's been the city manager for two cities in his career. Maybe he's planning to leave, too. Since Jeanne Cox is retiring and nobody much thinks that qualifications are important, why not throw in her name, too. Or her husband, Buz. At least he's headed up Social Services for years without a lot of complaints.
BTW, they named another former Assistant City Manager as the interim Ex. Dir. of the housing authority and it has taken that body about six years to get out of failing status.