Virginia Beach City Manager. Gone.
That sound you hear, that wailing in the distance, the gnashing of teeth, is coming from Virginia Beach crony capitalists and the old guard politicians.
With new blood, new faces and a city council that isn’t dominated by developer lapdogs, the top executive, City Manager Dave Hansen, was toppled Tuesday night.
The cronies lost their pit bull and reliable ally in their tireless quest to fleece the public for their pricey projects.
Hansen officially resigned Wednesday morning, five months before his contract was due to end on Jan. 31, 2020.
Ignore the platitudes being tossed Hansen’s way. The politicians have to say those things. Hansen was not a good city manager. He was imperious, rude and belligerent. He had a history of appalling public statements that required apologies. His bosses on city council said Hansen had a bad habit of sharing information selectively with friendly members of that body, while shutting others out.
Hansen should have been fired years ago. What am I saying? He was the wrong man for the job from the start, replacing another flawed city manager, Jim Spore, who canoodled with developers and was tightly aligned with the good old boys who used to run the city.
When Spore retired, the cronies who were then in the majority on city council found someone like him - but a little less genteel - in City Hall to carry on.
Hansen’s list of transgressions is long and I’m not going to print a litany here.
However, I watched in disbelief a few years ago, when, during a public meeting at the convention center to discuss plans to reroute a road to accommodate valet parking for the Cavalier project, Hansen was condescending and impatient with members of the public who had the temerity to politely ask questions.
A woman standing beside me asked why the city manager was shouting at people.
Sources tell me that in a closed-door session Tuesday night, with Councilman Aaron Rouse leading the charge, members of city council debated the future of Hansen and an overwhelming majority - not just the six members needed to make a change - indicated that they were ready to part ways with the firebrand manager.
In the end, Hansen’s only real friends left on that body were Louis Jones and Barbara Henley, according to multiple sources. Both were re-elected last year and have another three years to serve before they can join Hansen on the outside looking in.
Sources tell me that if a vote could have been taken Tuesday, it would have been 9-2 or 8-3 for Hansen’s removal.
When I spoke with him Wednesday afternoon Councilman Aaron Rouse said he’d been “irritated” over council’s decision the week before to postpone a vote on a raise for Hansen until its Sept. 3 meeting.
Rouse is used to playing football not kick-the-can-down-the-road.
“This is a huge issue for the city,” Rouse said of the city manager’s performance. “I wasn’t elected to sit here and pittypat around…We were letting down the people of Virginia Beach.
“How are we supposed to move forward if there’s a lack of initiative to make decisions?”
Was Hansen asked to resign or did he do it on his own? Conflicting reports emerged after the meeting.
“You could see it either way,” said Councilman Guy Tower who was not a Hansen supporter. “It was like a bang-bang call in football.”
When the meeting ended Tuesday night, Hansen was composing his letter of resignation.
Rouse said he was not “glorifying anyone losing his job” but declared that it was time for the city to move forward with new leadership.
Tower, who said Hansen’s temperament “wasn’t ideal” for the job of city manager added that it was a “sunny day in Virginia Beach” now that the search for Hansen’s replacement could begin. Tower said he hoped to play a role in finding a new city manager.
Councilman John Moss, who had been vocal about his desire to sack the manager said that each council member had his or her own reasons for no longer supporting Hansen. Part of the problem was Hansen’s “inability to adapt to new dynamic on city council.”
Mayor Bobby Dyer has been reluctant to criticize Hansen publicly. Yet sources said that the mayor facilitated Tuesday’s meeting, allowed members to speak and “didn’t stop the move to try to get Hansen to resign.”
Virginia Beach has been crawling with cronyism and favoritism for years. Hansen’s sudden departure brings the city one step closer to something that’s desperately needed: