Richmond VA > City Council > About Council

Last Updated: 2012-5-23

Richmond City Council Overview

The foundation of Richmond's citizen government is established via our national and state constitutions. In Richmond, the local government "constitution" is established in the powers granted it by the Virginia General Assembly, as enumerated in the Richmond City Charter. The Richmond City Charter establishes the governmental framework of the self-governance of the citizens of Richmond.

Richmond resident's chosen form of city government is a Council-Mayor form of government, which establishes Richmond City Council as the governing body of city government and a Mayor is elected to oversee a Chief Administrative Officer in his/her delivery of day-to-day government operations.

In Richmond's Council-Mayor form of government, the city is divided into nine citizen geo-demographic voter districts. These districts are used to elect members of the Richmond City Council, Richmond City Public Schools Board and a Mayor At-Large. These Richmond Voting Districts include the: West End 1st Voter District, North Central 2nd Voter District, Northside 3rd Voter District, Southwest 4th Voter District, Central 5th Voter District, Gateway 6th Voter District, East End 7th Voter District, Southside 8th Voter District, and South Central 9th Voter District.

Nine persons are thusly elected among nine individual voting districts to represent citizens as members of Richmond City Council, which is responsible for creating and amending local laws, providing policy and government oversight, appointing members to boards and commissions, and approving the annual City budget. In 2008 the term of a Councilmember increased from two to four years.

Council elects from among its members one person to serve as Council President and one to serve as Vice President. These positions are elected to serve for two-year terms. The Council President is responsible for providing overall council direction, leading Council meetings and serving as the senior representative of Council on behalf of Council action and working with the Administration.

In delivery of its official duties, Richmond City Council holds an average of 12 official monthly public meetings to discuss, deliberate, and act on laws and policy on behalf of Richmond residents. These currently include two "Council Formal Meeting Sessions", two "Council Informal Meeting Sessions", six Council Standing Committee meetings, and Council Budget Meetings, Special Meeting, Public Hearings and Council Special Events; held on an as-needed basis.

Richmond City Council Standing Committees

A Richmond City Council Standing Committee structure was established in 2004 in order to increase efficiency. This process mirrors the state and federal process in which proposed legislation is sent to a committee for in-depth discussion and review.

Richmond City Council Standing Committees represent six general government areas and include Finance and Economic Development; Health, Human Services and Education; Land Use, Housing and Transportation; Governmental Operations; Organizational Development; and, Public Safety. The Council President reviews all proposed legislation and assigns it to a Council Standing Committee according to subject matter.

Richmond City Council Standing Committees are comprised of three Council members and an alternate who hold public Committee meetings once a month. After the Standing Committee completes its review, it sends its recommendation to a Council meeting. Recommendations could include approval; rejection; continuance; referral; striking (removal of the legislation), or no recommendation.

History of Richmond's Council-Mayor form of government

In 2004, the citizens of Richmond changed the local government from a Council-Manager form (which had been in place for more than 50 years) to a Council-Mayor form of government. This change separated the single management of Richmond government into two separate entities. Now, the legislative governing function of government is separate from the day-to-day management of public government services and Richmond has a newly formed Legislative Governing Body (Richmond City Council) and Executive management of government services (Chief Administrative Officer/At-Large Mayor).

While the change to a new government system did not significantly alter service operations, it resulted in the creation of a totally new and separate legislative branch of government. In the Council-Manager form of government Councilmembers elected a Mayor from among its members and Richmond operated as a single governmental entity. Under the new Council-Mayor form, Council provides the legislative role as the governing body of Richmond and a Mayor elected at-large oversees the day-to-day government operations.

A Mayor is elected "at-large" by all citizens and must win a majority of votes in five of nine voter districts. The duties of the Mayor include the ceremonial support for the city; proposing a draft annual Richmond City Government Fiscal Plan Budget (for Richmond City Council to use in establishing an annual Richmond Government Budget); appointing a Richmond Chief Administrative Officer (with the consent of Council); and, supervising the work of the Richmond City Chief Administrative Officer in the delivery of his/her day-to-day administration/oversight of government service operations. The separate at-large Mayor serves a four-year term and can be re-elected one subsequent consecutive term.

Richmond City Council Mission and Vision

Richmond City Council has consolidated its duties in an official Mission and Vision. The mission of Richmond City Council is to represent citizens in creating and amending local laws, providing government policy and oversight, and approving the city budget. The Vision of Richmond City Council is as follows: Richmond City Council is committed to creating a vibrant community that is great place to live, work, learn, play, visit, and raise a family.

Richmond City Council Offices

Richmond City Council appoints five offices in delivery of its mission. These Council offices include: the Richmond City Council Office of the Council Chief of Staff, Office of the City (Council) Clerk, Office of the City Auditor, Office of the City Attorney, and the Office of the City Assessor of Real Estate.

Richmond City Council Ordinance

Richmond City Council uses ordinances and resolutions in order to affect local government operations and laws.

Richmond City Council Ordinance

An ordinance has the effect of local law in the City of Richmond. The Richmond City Charter requires that certain actions of the Council be only by ordinance.

Richmond City Council Ordinances are collected (codified) in the Richmond Code of Laws. Richmond City Charter §4.13. Adoption of an ordinance requires the affirmative votes of at least five members of the Council. Richmond City Charter §4.07. The Council may not vote on an ordinance until at least seven days after its introduction. Richmond City Charter §4.10. Unlike some other localities, an ordinance is not signed by the presiding officer. Instead, after adoption, a true copy of each ordinance is attested by the Clerk and maintained in the Office of the City Clerk. See Richmond City Charter §4.13. Ordinances are reviewed as to form and legality by the City Attorney prior to introduction.

Richmond City Council Resolution

A resolution is an action by the Council that generally does not have the effect of law. A resolution generally expresses the Council's will, intent or policy on a particular matter. Also, the Council generally appoints individuals to serve on authorities, boards and commissions and creates some ad hoc boards, commissions and committees by the adoption of a resolution. Council Rules of Procedure V(C). Adoption of an ordinance requires the affirmative votes of at least five members of the Council. Richmond City Charter §4.07. Unlike an ordinance, the Council may adopt a resolution on an expedited basis at the same time it is introduced. Council Rules of Procedure V(B). Unlike some other localities, a resolution is not signed by the presiding officer. Instead, as with ordinances, a true copy of each adopted resolution is attested by the City Clerk and maintained in the Office of the City Clerk. Resolutions are reviewed as to form and legality by the City Attorney prior to introduction.

Richmond Government Budget

As Americans, we pool our resources in order to own and operate our citizen-run governments. In doing so, we decide how we want our community to operate (laws); what public services we invest in (funding); the priority (investment levels) of services; and, how we pay for them (taxes/fees).

As the governing body of Richmond, Richmond City Council represents residents in determining the laws and government services they want. Thus, each year Richmond City Council establishes an annual Richmond Government Budget (In practice: An initial biennial (2-yr.) fiscal plan budget is established that is further amended in its second year.) and establishes a Richmond Real Estate Tax Rate to help pay for some of it (estimated 15%).

Richmond's government services include the management and delivery such things as the administration, management and delivery of clean/safe drinking water, streets and parks; trash/leaf/sewage removal; public transportation; police; firefighting/rescue; economic development; and, educating our children.

The Richmond Government Budget includes the following six components: Richmond General Fund; Capital Improvement Plan (CIP); Special Funds; Enterprise Funds; Internal Service Funds; and, Federal, State and additional funds for Richmond Public Schools.

Richmond City Council's review and establishment of a new budget for an upcoming fiscal year includes more than a dozen public meetings, hearings and work sessions.

At the conclusion of the deliberations, Council votes to officially establish an official Richmond Government Budget for an upcoming Fiscal Year (FY), which runs from July 1 to June 30 annually. The Official Richmond Government Budget takes the form of laws, which are approved by Council as Ordinances which it votes on in May of each year. The Budget is typically amended every year.

Council Formal Awards

Of the many duties performed by Richmond City Council on behalf of the community, one of the most rewarding is the recognition and honoring of individuals, businesses and organizations who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others and help to make Richmond an even better place to live, work, learn, play, visit, and raise a family.

Government Boards and Commissions

Critical to the foundation of our citizen-run government, Richmond City Council regularly establishes and/or appoints members to serve on local and regional government boards, commissions, committees and task forces to assist with providing oversight on various topics, programs and services. Appointments are made throughout the year as vacancies occur and new entities are created. Richmond City Council currently appoints members to 55 local and regional public bodies; most of which are volunteer/non-paid positions.

Appointed public bodies provide needed intellectual assistance on subjects that shape the quality of our lives, neighborhoods and city and increase government openness, inclusion and transparency. Membership on these entities offers citizens an opportunity to learn more about their local government and to use their education, experience, skills and abilities in service of the public good. All citizens are invited and encouraged to apply to serve.

Individual membership requirements are different for each public body, which range from advisory to policy to governing. Appointed terms include project-oriented ones that exist for a few months and more long-term ones that last up to four years. Time commitments vary from a couple hours a year, up to 20 hours a month. Meeting times, dates, locations and frequency are scheduled as needed. Incumbents are also considered for reappointment at the conclusion of their terms.

In addition to the 55 current local and regional public bodies, Council appoints members to five (5) non-governmental organizations and one (1) federal government entity; for a total of 61 entities (governmental and non-governmental).

All citizens interested in being appointed to serve as a member of a local or regional public government body or non-government organization are invited to review the descriptions, purposes and individual membership requirements and vacancies and apply online at: or

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