Police Chief Bryan Norwood: Luckily for Norwood, he works for a politically cautious mayor who takes his time with high-profile administrative hires. Norwood was plucked by former Mayor Doug Wilder in 2008, putting him in a precarious position. Following former Chief Rodney Monroe, a personable, blue-collar cop who oversaw a drastic drop in the murder rate, Norwood finds himself in a politically tough place. If crime suddenly spikes or if the department suffers a public bout of police misconduct, Mayor Dwight Jones can cut him loose without taking a major hit because he's Wilder's guy. Not to mention there are currently two sitting police chiefs, John Venuti at Virginia Commonwealth University and John Dixon in Petersburg, who built their careers in Richmond. Norwood hasn't distinguished himself in the pantheon of Richmond chiefs, and he hasn't endeared himself to the public or City Hall. Jones is a patient mayor, which is good for Norwood, but one source says Jones wouldn't “extend much political capital” on the chief if a public-relations crisis strikes police headquarters.
John Lewis, chief executive of GRTC Transit System: He's a closer call. We actually had an entry written for Lewis, but ultimately cut him -- but barely. Recent disasters, including a driver killing a pedestrian at Main and 14th streets, and battles with the union didn't help. Also, Lewis seems to be fighting a lonely battle to bring a bus transfer station to Shockoe Bottom. The Jones administration isn't sticking its neck out to include GRTC buses in its plans for Main Street Station, either. Lewis was able to win the bus company's first fee hike in 17 years, and he recently got half a million dollars from the Feds for new express buses, so he's clearly holding his own. And buses, or rather improving bus service in the counties, is critical to turning the metro Richmond into a truly regional metropolis.
City Council members, in general: Ellen Robertson and Bruce Tyler are worthy candidates as well, and the behind-the-scenes politicking over the City Council presidency is something to keep an eye on. Current Council President Kathy Graziano is entrenched, but January brings the first time the council president will be selected midterm, which could generate a spark of political theater. At times Tyler seems to get in his own way, though; his comments regarding Mayor Jones needing to be “slapped” during the budget battle would appear to make it more difficult to garner support if Graziano decides to step aside. Jones pushed hard behind the scenes for Robertson as council president in 2009, and a vote for Tyler could now be seen as more of an anti-Jones political statement. Cynthia Newbille seems to be gaining credibility, and could emerge as a political force down the road. It's also worth keeping an eye on Kim Bridges, elected to the Richmond School Board. The mayor likes her, sources say, and she has pull in the West End. Bridges could challenge Tyler in 2012.
Delegates Manoli Loupassi and Jennifer McClellan: Two aspiring politicians who could make statewide bids in coming years, Loupassi and McClellan are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Of the two, a stronger case can be made for Loupassi, the former City Council president, who is gaining clout as perhaps the most important Republican representing Richmond in the General Assembly. City judgeships must go through him, and he's a favorite of the corporate crowd. As Loupassi's rise coincides with the Republican surge, Democrat McClellan drops amid the backlash. She's a much-sought after board director around town, and gained some political clout during Obama's historic election as a superdelegate during the national primary. She's well liked, and when the tide turns blue again she'll likely regain some prominence.