Byrd Heads New City Council
Vice Mayor Elevated By His Peers
Posted: January 3, 2013
HARRISONBURG — City Council unanimously selected Ted Byrd as Harrisonburg’s mayor for the next two years during a reorganization meeting Wednesday morning.
Byrd, 49, is halfway through his second four-year term on council and succeeds Councilman Richard Baugh as mayor.
Byrd thanked city staff for keeping the local government well run and residents for their support of the five-member council.
The panel elects one of its own mayor every two years. Byrd was vice mayor under Baugh, who was in turn vice mayor to Councilman Kai Degner when Degner was mayor from 2009 to 2010.
Typically, the vice mayor steps up to become mayor, Councilman Charles Chenault said. He nominated Byrd for mayor, noting that Byrd has been a “loyal and collegial” member of council.
Chenault, halfway through his second nonconsecutive council term, was selected as vice mayor on Wednesday.
“It’s important to me … that we try to rotate mayors so that, hopefully, everybody gets a chance to serve in that position,” he said.
That puts Chenault on track to become mayor next, if he seeks and wins re-election in 2014. If that happens, Councilman Abe Shearer, who was sworn into office for his first term Wednesday, would be the only current member who hasn’t been mayor.
The role, largely ceremonial, does not involve any additional power over other council members. Byrd is responsible for conducting council’s twice-monthly meetings, which occur the second and fourth Tuesday.
As mayor, he will also represent the city at an assortment of functions, basically serving as an ambassador for Harrisonburg.
City Council is now made up of two Democrats (Byrd and Degner), two independents (Chenault and Shearer) and one Republican (Byrd). But while philosophical differences may run along party lines, political affiliations rarely come into play the way they do in more partisan bodies, such as the General Assembly or Congress.
Byrd, a farm manager for Ad Infinitum LLC, said he wants to follow the “traditions set forth by former mayors,” including “fair, collegial” discussions.
“We agree to disagree [at times],” he said.
Byrd grew up in Rockingham County and moved to the city about 20 years ago. He is a former executive director of the Rockingham Development Corp., which promoted industrial development in Harrisonburg and the county.
He holds an economics degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in public administration from James Madison University.
Baugh, meanwhile, has said he would have accepted another stint as mayor if council members wished. But he also joked of not wanting to make it a “lifetime commitment.”
Before nominating Byrd for mayor, Chenault commended Baugh on his two years wielding the gavel.
“It is apparent to me that Mr. Baugh has been certainly one of the best mayors that Harrisonburg has ever had,” he said.
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or email@example.com