After four months at sea, Mayor Dwight C. Jones' ship of state remains staffed by a skeleton crew consisting primarily of just two key members: his chief of staff, Suzette Denslow, and senior policy analyst David Hicks.
But is Jones's ship becalmed, or maintaining a steady and deliberate course set by the captain?
“Nothing has backfired on him yet,” says Terone Green, a frequent political critic with ties to the Jones administration.
It may be that Jones is taking the best course given the city's history of reactionary politics, Green says, in which “you name somebody and you fire somebody.”
The selection of a chief administrative officer may be coming soon, replacing — or hiring — the acting chief administrative officer, Chris Beschler.
Along with Beschler, multiple City Hall sources are floating names under consideration, including such old hands as former Chief Administrative Officer William E. Harrell (now ensconced in Chesapeake) and former Chief Financial Officer Harry Black, who had a controversy-laden run under former Mayor Doug Wilder as acting chief administrator.
Black, who recently solicited to represent the city in seeking federal stimulus funding, says he's never sought the chief administrative officer job under Jones.
“Long and short is I'm not a candidate,” Black says, disqualifying multiple sources who insist he applied for the job.
Also on many lips at 900 E. Broad St. is the name of Selena Cuffee-Glenn, a former city staffer who serves somewhat controversially as Suffolk's city manager. Depending on sources, Glenn is either at the top of the heap or isn't interested in the post.
Jones is expected to make an announcement soon.
“Well, in my conversations with the mayor [he says] that he's close to making a decision,” City Council President Kathy Graziano says, “but that he thought it was better to spend time and find a good fit than to rush into it and to find someone and have to go back to the drawing board in six months or a year.”
That became a pattern under Wilder.
“This is a big decision,” says former City Council President Bill Pantele, who vied with Jones for mayor, but who maintains good relations. Pantele says Jones intimated to him that a decision was imminent: “I just hope they get the right person getting their administrative-business function moving.”
Which is precisely the reason Jones has so far kept his core group so small, Green says. “I think it makes sense [staying small] because he's making a very thorough analysis before he makes any major changes,” he says, suggesting that Jones' administration might take Henrico County's lead and “promote from within. I think he's really searching the local talent.”