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First Mayoral Candidate Says Tourism Is the Answer

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Activist Rick Tatnall, a community activist and an advocate for Shockoe Bottom’s renewal, is the first person to announce he’s running for mayor. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Activist Rick Tatnall, a community activist and an advocate for Shockoe Bottom’s renewal, is the first person to announce he’s running for mayor.

Longtime local activist and Church Hill resident Rick Tatnall is the first candidate to announce that he’ll run for Richmond mayor.

Tatnall, 54, says he felt compelled to run for office because the city urgently needs to overcome its inertia and develop a long-term plan. “We can’t allow four more years of what’s going on in Richmond,” he says.

Mayor Dwight C. Jones has not made any announcements regarding his plans to run for re-election, says Tammy Hawley, the mayor’s press secretary. Others mentioned in some circles as potential candidates are Councilman Bruce Tyler, former state Delegate Viola Baskerville and former Councilman William Pantele.

As of Jan. 29, the only person to file paperwork for the 2012 local elections is developer David Gammino, owner of City & Guilds. Gammino has filed to raise campaign funds for a fifth-district City Council run against incumbent Marty Jewell.

Tatnall’s main concern, he says, is that “the city’s not being run like a business.” He proposes a simple way to increase revenue without raising taxes: tourism.

One of his first goals as mayor would be to have city government, residents and local businesses join forces to double annual visitors to the Richmond region from 5.75 million to 11.5 million. The region should act quickly to capitalize on its history, he says, instead of letting tourism opportunities such as the Civil War sesquicentennial drift by.

Other priorities Tatnall names are developing a master plan for the city’s four public housing projects in the East End, uniting the city with the surrounding counties and increasing volunteerism among residents.

Tatnall runs Replenish Richmond, a for-profit community development organization. His most recent focus has been the fate of the 17th Street Farmers’ Market and Shockoe Bottom. In October, shortly before the city announced its plan for the area (which centered on redeveloping the Main Street Station train shed), Tatnall released his own plan. In it, he called for “seeding” the Bottom with small businesses and turning over the day-to-day operation of the farmers’ market to a third-party manager.

“There’s nobody that knows this town better than me,” he says.

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