RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — He’s never been elected to public office but spent nearly four decades in public administration, most recently leading Venture Richmond.
In a crowded field of candidates, Jack Berry is banking on experience.
“I’ve been very successful in municipal government, both as budget director in Richmond, deputy city manager, Hanover County Administrator,” Berry told 8News. “I’ve been very successful at Venture Richmond–we’re the folks that bring you the Folk Festival and the RVA branding campaign.”
According to Berry, Richmond’s “Strong Mayor” system is too politicized to work properly.
“In the process, there’s been less attention to the professional management side of city government, so were seeing all this dysfunction,” Berry suggested.
Dysfunction that leads to chronically overdue financial reports and squabbling between City Council, the School Board and the Mayor’s Office.
“We also see a case where leaders in City Hall are there because of who they know not what they know,” Berry said.
“I’m going to get in there, roll my sleeves up, find out what the issues are, be a strong manager, be a CEO, run this place.”
Berry claims Richmond’s poor — his top concern — suffer most under bad management.
“They can’t nurture their kids, they have difficulty preparing them for school and educating them because they’re in survival mode, worrying about day to day,” Berry said. “So that’s where the first priority will be, wrapping these single moms in services that can help them get their kids ready for school. We’re going to make a big difference there.”
Berry touts his connections in surrounding counties as path to regional cooperation — a goal rarely achieved in recent years.
“The county administrator for Hanover used to work for me, Rue Harris,” Berry said. “The new person they just appointed in Chesterfield, great guy, Joe Casey, he used to work for me. The county manager in Henrico used to be John Vitholoukas, (he) used to be a budget intern in the city budget office.”
For someone pegged as a technocrat …
“Well, I’m characterized as the old, white, business guy,” Berry said.
Berry is also eager and enthusiastic, and says he can’t wait to serve.
“I’m going to get in there, roll my sleeves up, find out what the issues are, be a strong manager, be a CEO, run this place,” he said. “It’s a $700 million a year corporation with almost 5,000 employees. We need someone to get in there, straighten things out and bring the community together.
“I can unite the community. I can bring people together,” Berry added. “I can bring people together to work on schools and I can tackle poverty problems and I can make city government a high-performing city government that provides essential services really well in all 9-districts.”
Berry told 8News that he’s also a fan of the mayor’s Office of Community Wealth building, which he believes will show big dividends.
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