I would also like very much to thank Lee Richards for his years of hard work and service to this community. If you’ve ever seen Lee walking up Park Street to work in the early morning hours or returning home after dark, you know that he is one of the hardest working individuals ever to serve this City, famously laconic, completely dependable, and deeply knowledgeable about the workings of City government. He has been an exemplary public servant, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for his diligent, selfless service. Let’s please give Lee Richards a hand. (pause)
Now, I’m no politician, though I’ve knocked on doors, made get-out-the-vote phone calls, and rustled up volunteers on behalf of other candidates as co-chair of Walker Precinct. This is my first time actually running
for office and mounting a campaign, so my campaign will not always seem as polished as that of my good friend and opponent, since that is what he does for a living. But when I was approached about being Commissioner of the Revenue a month or two ago, I realized that the position would be a good fit for my skills and personality and that it was time to increase my participation in the civic life of the community. Since my time teaching civics, I’ve felt strongly about the role of civic engagement in fostering a vital and healthy democracy.
On the other hand, I’M NO POLITICIAN. If someone knocks on your door or calls your house on my behalf, you can be sure that it won’t be a paid staffer. It will be ME personally or a friend or volunteer doing it on my behalf because of their faith and confidence in me. I think that’s an important distinction.
What’s more, the office of Commissioner of the Revenue is not a political position. The Commissioner of the Revenue’s job is to help keep the City’s fiscal house in order and serve as an integral part of City administration, without regard to party or ideology. There is no public policy-making component to the office, so words like “conservative” or “progressive” are simply misplaced. By the way, for those of you so lulled by the security of having Lee in the office that you have no idea what the Commissioner of the Revenue does, the office is in charge of assessing and collecting an array of business taxes, as well as assessing our personal property taxes, and also oversees a number of tax relief programs. The Commissioner is the chief elected tax-assessing official in City government.
Now, a little bit about me…
I came to Charlottesville in the late summer of 1990 to attend the University of Virginia, fell in love with the place, and never left. After graduating from the Curry School of Education with a master’s degree, I spent a number of years teaching civics and economics in the Greene County Public Schools. I later practiced what I preached as a participant in Charlottesville’s Neighborhood Leadership Institute, as Democratic co-chair of Walker Precinct, as I mentioned, and as a participant in the candidate training program of UVA’s Sorensen Institute.
In 2005, I left education for the business world. I went to work for a small full-service sign company, one of the many small businesses that drive our local economy. I quickly discovered that sign companies are uniquely situated, coming into contact with many other small businesses and assisting fledgling entrepreneurs at the most formative stage of their development—literally at the moment they hang out their “shingle.” In the process, I acquired the accounting and computing skills necessary to help run the business.
Twenty-three years after arriving in Charlottesville, having planted deep roots in this community, I believe it is time to give back.
What do I intend to emphasize as Commissioner of the Revenue?
First, Small Business - Charlottesville is a landlocked city with limited space for industrial development; If you subtract UVA (which pays no taxes to the City), small business is and will remain the backbone of the Charlottesville economy. My experience and sensitivities working with other small businesses will be a great asset to my office as I help small business owners navigate licensing and taxation issues. The Commissioner of the Revenue’s office can attract and nurture small businesses—and promote economic development—by providing online account access and payment options and by streamlining taxation and licensing processes.
Second, Customer Service - In the tradition of Lee Richards, my office will provide timely, efficient, and courteous service, along with accurate assessment information. I will expand the City’s tax- and rent-relief programs to the extent possible, through the innovative use of technology and staffing. I would also like to re-examine the feasibility of making certain DMV services available at Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office, at the very least DMV 2Go Mobile customer service once or twice a month, at no cost to local residents.
Third, Objectivity - As I said before, once elected, I will do my level best to insure that the office of the Commissioner of the Revenue is in no way politicized. I will fairly and equitably identify and assess those sources of revenue to which the City is entitled according to the laws of the Commonwealth and the City of Charlottesville.
Do I expect to realize an increase in assessments and collections as a result of enhanced technologies and processes? Yes.
Am I willing to make vague promises, let alone exact ones, about how those funds will be spent, in order to garner the support of certain constituencies? No. Because that is not the Commissioner’s job; it’s the job of City Council in collaboration with the City Manager. The Commissioner of the Revenue MUST be a public servant, not a politician.
If elected, will I be a 24/7 model of decorum? Not always. I reserve the right to put on a loud Hawaiian shirt occasionally and take Annie to a Drive-By-Truckers concert over at the Jefferson.
Again, my name is Todd Divers. I’m a twenty-three-year resident of this community. I’m dedicated this community and ready to serve it in a more substantial way, working harmoniously with staff, fellow administrators, the business community, and the public.
I ask for your vote in the Democratic primary on June 11thand again in the November 5th general election.