Family friendliness certainly is one of Richmond's strongest points. "You just kind of hear it over and over again," says Jim Bacon, publisher of Virginia Business magazine: In larger cities "opportunities for professional growth and advancement are greater, but you'd have to be comfortable working 60 to 80 hours a week, which means your family has no value."
Virginia Business Editor Peter Galuszka knows something about that. The former Business Week bureau chief has spent most of his professional life hopscotching from Washington to Chicago, Moscow to New York. He, his wife, Marina, a teacher, and their two girls arrived in March from Cleveland. ("Compared to Cleveland? Jeez. All they want to talk about there are the Indians and the Browns." Richmond may not have big-league teams, but: "Hey, at least I can get a ticket to a ball game here.")
Galuszka lived in D.C., West Virginia and North Carolina when he was growing up, and the region held a special place in his heart as he traveled far and wide. When the latest career opportunity called, he and Marina decided to downshift: "We'd been talking about, 'Where do we really want to go?' I really didn't want to go to New York again, and I missed Virginia."
He may have exited the journalism fast track, but so what? "I have kids," he says. "I have a place where I can do what I want to do and make an impact."
As a young reporter in Norfolk during the late 1970s, he visited Richmond frequently to cover VEPCO, got to like the city, and worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the early '80s before heading off to Business Week. Now: "I find the state subtly but substantially changed" - mostly for the better, he says. He's also been struck by the number of fellow newcomers he's run into lately, who make Richmond "so much less provincial that than it otherwise might be. You've got some real variety and it's extremely well located."Location, location, location:
three of the things about the city that appeal most to University of Richmond sociology department chairwoman Joan Neff. Two hours from D.C., the mountains, the beach: "When we are recruiting faculty members, those are some of the things we tell them."
But what about the place itself? Neff, a native of suburban Philadelphia, moved here 20 years ago. "I, too, got the sense from older people of being an intruder, an invader." But now she feels at home.
"If you want to talk to ex-Richmonders, you might ... get that sense of angst. I do know of people who have come here and hated it and left. The ones that stay are the happy campers." Friends of hers from Northern Virginia, for example, have moved back there, calling Richmond "a stifling environment, parochial."
One of her own experiences sums it up: "In our church one Fourth of July Sunday, the minister decided to do a rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic." An older parishioner refused to participate. "'That's the song that the Union troops sang as they marched into Richmond,' she said. And there was no way she was going to sing that."
So some sang, some didn't. The point is that the service went on. Tensions between old and new, white and black, undoubtedly remain in Richmond, "particularly in the city itself, but, as a whole, it has many things going for it," Neff says. There is a "stability, a Southern civility that make it a pleasant environment. Richmond seems to be looking to preserve the past and yet not being hopelessly stuck there."
And for all its history of slavery and segregation, Richmond's race relations seem to Neff less problematic now than those in the North. "Everything still seems to be done in an air of rational discourse here," she says.People try to be polite, to work through
differences. That's something you don't necessarily find in other cities."
"It's a city where a dialogue can be opened," agrees Janine Bell, founder and director of the Elegba Folklore Society, a nonprofit group that promotes African-American arts and culture.
Bell arrived in 1984. The Greensboro, N.C., native has lived in Washington but found more opportunities here "to present quality Afro-centric art and to provide educational opportunities. Hopefully the work that we do helps to heal, strengthen, enlighten and build bridges of understanding."
While Bell doesn't see the city's race relations as fine and dandy, "they're going to get better. Absolutely. Richmond is an old, old city and there's a lot of wisdom that comes from that. There's a lot of wisdom that comes from outside Richmond, too, more and more.
[image-1](Chad Hunt / Style Weekly)University of Richmond's Joan Neff, right, says UR cites our proximity to natural wonders when recruiting faculty.
Elegba Folklore Society founder janine Bell, below, thinks there's much potential in the city's wealth of history.
"I think when you put all those things into the mixing bowl, you can come up with a sweet cake."
What's the recipe? "What I would change is the resistance to change. I've found Richmond to be a very conservative place. At the same time, there's a wealth of a story to tell - and a wealth of a story to sell. Richmond looks back often at history, and often only partial history. I would like to see that history as more of a backdrop for progressive thought and movement."
Wishful thinking, says graphic-design studio owner and self-described "social advocate" Kent Ruffin.In many respects, Richmond is like a bunch of
old folks in a nursing home, ranting and raving
about things that have passed, that everybody else has gotten over," Ruffin says.
The focus on the past means Richmond can only react to the present and pray for the future. "It does not plan. It has no identity. And it let's everybody else control it." By that he means influential neighboring counties and a "power elite in this city that keeps the others held hostage."
"The everyday person has no problem working together, living together, playing together" with people of other races and backgrounds. "It is the people who have power" who "talk to each other, but they don't talk to anybody else."
Richmond's pleasantness is superficial, a fa‡ade: "I smile at you, but that doesn't mean I love you. All it means is I smile at you, while behind the mask I could be plotting your demise," he says. "It's almost like a Jekyll-and-Hyde. One day it's one thing, the next day it's another thing.
Richmond is masked by a pleasant and kind demeanor, but behind it is a mean-spirited, vindictive type of attitude."
And while he feels there are "so many pluses that outweigh the negatives," Ruffin is maddened by what he calls the city's inability to get its act together: "It's almost like there's a hidden agenda to fritter away all of Richmond's assets."
Ruffin came to Richmond from his native New York in 1988. With family ties and business opportunities here, "I just decided to stay." He felt Richmond to be "analogous to New York in its neighborhood feel." And while Ruffin thinks Richmond's neighborhoods are vital and distinct, ultimately this is "a livable, walkable, intimate city that just has no identity."
At least, he says, none beyond the conquered capital, the victim of history, the stick in the mud of the past.If there's a Richmonder who embodies what
may be an emerging identity, one of can't-we-all-just-get-along consensus, it's Mayor Tim Kaine.
He's from Kansas.
Kaine spent a recent Saturday out playing on the rocks of the James River with his kids. Then Sunday he took a bike ride in Goochland with his wife. "How many other places could you just go out and do that? No place has what we have."
Perhaps, but others have more. For a while, they tempted the young Kaine. "I graduated from Harvard Law School and my colleagues all went to the largest cities and firms." Kaine's marketability was further boosted after law school by clerking for a year with a federal circuit court judge, "but I was very interested, for quality of life issues, in smaller-size communities."
He and his wife, Anne, whom he met in law school, arrived in 1984. He was from Kansas City, Kan.; she, Northern Virginia, the daughter of former Gov. Linwood Holton. "Richmond really impressed me," he says, citing the city's cultural offerings. But he gave Richmond two years three, tops.
"I thought, 'I'll give this a try,' but I really had a strong feeling that in a couple of years we would move to Kansas City."
Richmond won him over. Kaine was particularly struck by the "ease of getting involved in civic activities. I was like a lot of people who come and just decide, 'Hey, there's a lot about this community that's great."
Whether it was apathy or openness that led Richmonders to embrace and elevate the Midwesterner to City Council, he got involved, and has thrived. Now he's a candidate for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
Kaine is 42. What could have been, had he sought a larger stage?
"That thought has never crossed my mind. The only time I second-guess my decision is about my family [back in Kansas]. But overall, when I think of Richmond?
"Wow. I just have to pinch myself sometimes." Jump to Part 1, 2,