We’re doing something different this week: on January 9, four new members of the Richmond, Virginia city council had their first meeting. One of them, Kristen Nye Larson, joined me right before the meeting AND the day afterward to bask in the fresh-council-meeting glow!
January 9, three hours before the meeting
Q: Does it feel like it’s the first day of school?
A: [Laughs] There’s definitely a little anticipation. We have an informal meeting at 4:00 and a formal meeting at 6:00.
Q: Are you worried that the older council members might say to you new people, “just follow our lead. You just got here. We know what we’re doing. Don’t try to rock the boat.”
A: They all seem really receptive. We’ll see how it actually goes. But you’re right. There are a lot of issues out there that we’re [the new council members] definitely going to come in the middle [of].
A: We have four new council members. We have a new mayor. And on the school board, which I just rolled off of, there are eight new members out of the nine.
Q: Wow! You’ve been on the school board for four years, so you’ve got procedure down. Do you feel like there ain’t nothing getting past you in there?
A: The thing that is different about the council meetings is that they are televised live. That will be a bit of an adjustment. School board was taped and it would be showed a couple of days later. You definitely have to be conscious of how you look on camera. If somebody says something that you might think is unusual, you don’t need to show “unusual” on your face. You just need to show, “hey, that’s an interesting idea.”
Q: [Laughs] It’s like being at the State of the Union when they cut away to Congress. And if you’re caught falling asleep, your face will be on the Internet! Now, the meeting is at six, which is an awkward time. You’ve got the classic question: do I eat an early dinner, a late dinner, or do I have my food in the meeting and make everyone hate me?
A: Since we have this 4:00 informal meeting, council members have time to eat in between the informal and formal meeting. They sent around a menu–they bring food in for us. I think it’s, like, chicken and vegetables. I’ll take a picture for you.
Q: Please do!
January 10, 18 hours after the meeting
Q: How did it go?
A: It was short. I feel like the next meeting will be a little more robust. This is something that’s interesting: I was on school board and we sat in numeric order [by district]. But with city council, they get to choose their seats. So there was a whole seating chart that went around and phone calls, like, “what seat do you want?” I didn’t know it was such a big deal.
Q: When people were calling around asking for seats, do you know if anyone said, “I’d like to sit next to Kristen Larson!”
A: I have no idea if anybody requested to sit next to me!
Q: During your first-ever comments at the council meeting, you gave out your cell phone number on live TV. That was a bold move! How many hundreds of calls have you gotten since last night?
A: [Laughs] None! At least in Richmond, I think that’s an expectation [that you give out your number]. I think people feel empowered if they just have your number.
Q: One loose end from yesterday is that you guys had dinner delivered. And you thought it would be chicken and vegetables. You texted me a picture:
A: It was hot! And we had time to sit down and eat it. I know not every night is going to be like that!
Follow Councilwoman Kristen Nye Larson on Twitter: @