Officials in Petersburg originally informed the public that potential city council replacement applicants needed to live within the seventh ward for one year, instead of 30 days, which is what is written into the Virginia code. An email from a concerned citizen to city officials prompted them to correct the mistake Sunday.
“The residency requirement of living in a Ward for a year prior to consideration was incorrect,” said Public Information Officer Joanne Williams in a statement Sunday night.
Due to health issues and a special investigation into his residency, Councilor John Hart resigned from his post as seventh ward representative last week. Now the councilors are tasked with selecting his replacement until the election in November of 2022.
The advertisement that was first posted by the Petersburg Facebook page incorrectly stated that eligible applicants “currently lives in Ward 7 and has lived in Ward 7 for at least one year.”
It was then pointed out first by Petersburg citizen Barb Rudolph that the state code only requires individuals running for a city council seat in Virginia to live within their designated district for 30 days. The Petersburg charter does not specify anything differently. Rudolph emailed officials informing them of the error.
“City council should have enough respect for citizens to not make it so obvious that they’ve placed their thumb on the scale with this selection process,” Rudolph said in a statement to Virginia Scope on Sunday. “Just open it up to all who qualify under the Code of Virginia. Who knows, they might be surprised to find a great candidate who they didn’t know about.”
In a statement Sunday night, a spokesperson for the City of Petersburg said they would be updating the advertisement. The correct version will say eligible candidates for appointment must have “resided in the ward for which he/she is elected or appointed thirty days next preceding his/her election or appointment.”
Individuals interested in being considered as Hart’s replacement must submit an interest letter and resume to the clerk of council, Nykesha Jackson, by Nov. 14.
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