Andreas Addison has just come from a lunchtime meet-and-greet with “influential people” — or as he describes them, “people who are involved with life.”
They sound important. I hope to be involved with life one day myself.
We’re meeting at Star-lite Lounge for beers at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday, because it’s close to my house and I like to drink beer.
At 34, he’s a former city employee, now candidate for the open 1st District council seat. Originally from Alexandra, he graduated in ’04 from Virginia Tech with a degree in political science, making his way to Richmond and working as an analyst for the City of Richmond.
Before he quit to make a run at office, he was the city’s civic innovator — a title that has gained some cachet in other cities but was unheard of here before Addison started adding it to his email signature.
I’ve known Addison for a while, but honestly I have no idea what that job title means. It sounds like one of those quirky and meaningless executive job re-brands like chief idea officer or director of first impressions.
“Civic innovation is really simply using technology, data and people — whether in government or in the public — to find ways to improve government,” Addison says.
“And basically,” he adds, “I started throwing the title out there on my email and no one said no.”
I still don’t understand what the job entails, but he explains it in such a confident way that I feel stupid to ask again. I’ll just go ahead and drink more.
Because city employees can’t run for council, he’s using what he learned as a civic innovator to consult for other cities, and presumably bill them large sums of money.
I call that getting involved with life.
Addison is running against nonprofit consultant and former Army pilot Harry Warner Jr. and information technology project manager Jonathan Cruise. And in a district race that has seen little drama, you may have noticed Addison’s recent announcement on Facebook that he’s taking a stand against Joe Morrissey as Richmond’s next mayor, calling him “the biggest threat facing the city’s future.”
Second District candidate for City Council and local developer Charlie Diradour has also come out against Joe Morrissey.
“Richmond doesn’t need to be on the front page of The Washington Post for electing Morrissey,” he says. “Joe’s style of leadership has plagued our region for decades.”
I openly wonder to both Diradour and Addison whether perhaps these public pronouncements are just designed to win votes, with both their districts showing little support for Morrissey in recent polls. Could these public stances be simple pandering for votes?
Morrissey seems to think so. “Look at why they do this,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “They have taken a reading of some of the constituents in their districts, and they believe it helps their candidacy.”
But Diradour — who’s running against School Board member Kim Gray and community organizer Rebecca Keel — doesn’t want to take the bait.
“I, like many long-term residents of this city, know Joe’s history, and am in no way taking a safe approach here,” Diradour says. “Good judgment was the basis for my answer.”
Addison also defers, saying, “The reason I made that statement, was as a leader, I want people to know where I stand.”
Do I believe them? Not exactly. But they’re both smart, politically minded guys and I don’t expect them to say anything different.
“Given all the things that I’m running for in my campaign,” Addison says — “a 21st-century City Hall, driving change to really engage and fix our schools as a community, to fixing things from a budget standpoint, accountability — I just see Joe Morrissey not being that kind of candidate.”
Will all of these men get to join hands and sing “Kumbaya” in a month? Who knows? But I get the impression that both council candidates understand the importance of making a splash late in their respective races in order to draw attention to themselves — and who can blame them with council members pulling down a fat $25,000 a year.
Seriously though, that’s not enough money, regardless of how poorly our elected officials are doing. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Facebook proclamations and weird job titles aside, Addison is young, idealistic and hopeful.
I think he’d make a fine City Council transformation agent. S
Jack Lauterback also is co-host of “Mornings with Melissa and Jack” on 103.7 Play weekdays from 6-9. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @jackgoesforth.