It’s our first trip into West Virginia and we couldn’t have gotten a better guest! Andy Richardson is a councilman on the Charleston city council–and also a professor 160 miles away at WVU (go Mountaineers). Interestingly, he once served on the South Charleston city council, too. We talked about the differences there, his front row seat, and his favorite “Take Me Home, Country Roads” version.
Q: I am a little outraged at you because Charleston city council does not post the videos of its meetings online. What’s the deal there–are you not wearing pants?
A: [Laughs] No, it’s a very old, historic council chamber. And perhaps that’s something we should look at.
Q: Is there assigned seating?
A: Yes, we each have a specific seat to sit in and that’s determined by the mayor.
Q: The mayor! So, does he play favorites? Put his friends up front, put the troublemakers in the back?
A: No, I wouldn’t say that. He’s pretty fair about where he sits people.
Q: Where do you sit?
A: In a prior term I was on the back row. In the current term, I’m on the front row.
Q: Ooooh. And did you get that front row seat by doing anything special for the mayor?
A: There are those who would say a seat in the back row is a better seat!
Q: There are 26 people on the Charleston city council. Twenty-six! What, are you starting a football team or something?
A: Well, it’s a very community-driven city council. What it means is, if there are issues of concern in your neighborhood, there’s a strong likelihood that a neighbor is a member of the city council.
Q: Now, something that’s fairly rare about you is that you were a councilman in two different cities. In 1987 you were on the South Charleston city council. Did it feel like when you got on the Charleston city council, that everything was familiar to you? Like muscle memory?
A: The Charleston city council experience is significantly different from the South Charleston city council–partly because of the size of the council. There’s far less paper today than there was back in the 1980s. There was no “website” for the city in that era.
A: Charleston actually has written in the charter and ordinances the procedure for conduct of the council. South Charleston used Robert’s Rules of Order.
Q: Do you prefer being one of nine or one of 26?
A: They’re different. I feel blessed to have been elected three different times to two different city councils. [Charleston] is similar in feel to a lot of legislative bodies. [South Charleston] was a nine-member council and the positioning of the seats was like a board of directors meeting or something.
Q: Have you ever gone to meetups for local government officials and tried to find out if anyone else was in the elite platinum multi-city councilman club?
A: [Laughs] I have not! I’m sure they exist, but I’ve never thought of it like that.
A: I’ll take John Denver, but you really ought to hear Me First and the Gimme Gimmes sometime.
Follow Councilman Andy Richardson on Twitter: @