The city of Richmond operates under a Mayor-Council form of government. The mayor, elected at large by
a majority of voters in at least five of the city's nine council districts, represents the entire city
and serves full-time in a four-year term of office.
The mayor acts as a chief executive officer (CEO) with responsibilities that include submitting the annual
budget to City Council, selecting a Chief Administrative Officer, issuing regulations and making
recommendations on revenue and funding transfer matters.
City Council's nine members are elected to part-time, four-year terms by voters of their respective
districts. Council's responsibilities include levying taxes, adopting the annual budget, setting
policies for the city and appointing members to various boards and commissions.
Other locally elected officials include the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Commonwealth's Attorney,
the Sheriff and the Treasurer.
The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), appointed with the approval of City Council, is responsible for
day-to-day municipal operations and is answerable solely to the Mayor.
A member of City Council, chosen by a majority of peers, presides over the Council meetings.
An elected Richmond School Board is responsible for the city's educational program. The school system
is a separate administrative organization headed by a Superintendent.
History of City Government
Richmond's first self-government was established when the city incorporated in 1782. Twelve men were
elected at-large and they selected one of their own to act as Mayor, another to serve as Recorder and
four to be Aldermen. The remaining members served on the Common Council.
By terms of the second City Charter in 1851, all city officials were elected. This method was effective
since the city was small, and most voters personally knew both the candidates as well as the requirements
of the positions to which they were elected.
Under the "Strong Mayor" government of the 1918 City Charter, the Mayor controlled administrative policies
and was responsible for many key appointments. The city's population grew from 127,989 in 1910 to 171,677
during the next decade, and the process of electing all officials became too complex. As a result, the
short ballot was adopted, and the Mayor was expected to fill the remaining offices with qualified appointees.
In 1948, the City Charter established the "Council-Manager" form of government in which a city manager,
appointed by and answerable to City Council, oversaw the day-to-day municipal operations. That system was
replaced with the "Mayor-Council" form of local government in 2005.
Early History of Richmond
Captain Christopher Newport first led English explorers in 1607 to the site later named Richmond after a
suburb of London, England. Until that time, Indian tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy had lived in the region.
After two unsuccessful attempts to settle this naturally advantaged location for transportation and trade,
settlers enjoyed a change of luck. By 1644, the construction of Fort Charles began attracting many new settlers.
Soon, the community grew into a bustling trading post for furs, hides and tobacco.
Richmond was founded in 1737 by Colonel William Byrd II. He inherited the former Stegg lands on both sides of the
James River from his father and became known himself as the "Father of Richmond." He visited here in 1733 and
planned to build a city. Four years later, his friend William Mayo developed a map of Richmond and the first lots were sold.
Only 250 people lived in Richmond when it became a town in 1742. In early 1780, the State Capitol was temporarily
moved to Richmond from Williamsburg at the request of the General Assembly, which desired a central location that
was less exposed to British incursions. In May of 1782, eight months after the British surrendered at Yorktown,
Richmond was incorporated as a city and officially became Virginia's new capital. On July 19 of that same year,
Richmond's first City Charter was legalized.