VIRGINIA BEACH — City Councilmembers Aaron Rouse and Sabrina Wooten have thrown their hats into the ring to become the next vice mayor of Virginia Beach.
Both council members on Tuesday, Aug. 24, announced they seek the position, which is selected by the City Council from among its own membership.
Earlier that day, Vice Mayor Jim Wood, who represents the Lynnhaven District, announced he is resigning from his council seat effective Wednesday, Sept. 1. The City Council is expected to select a new vice mayor on Tuesday, Sept. 7.
The vice mayor generally fills in for the mayor, as needed, in presiding over meetings and other functions. In Virginia Beach, the duties of a vice mayor can be more varied, as City Councilmember Rosemary Wilson explained in January while nominating Wood to return in that role.
“In our situation, we rely on our vice mayor to fill in and communicate with all the council members, between the mayor and with staff,” Wilson said during a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 5, “and really help us get along through a lot of different issues and protocols – and especially during budget season.”
So far, Rouse and Wooten are the only members of the council who have publicly said they want the job.
“It would be great to continue the work alongside my colleagues and be a bridge-builder,” Rouse said during a telephone interview on Wednesday, Aug. 25.
“With the amount of support that the community has shown me, I just wanted to toss my hat in the ring,” Rouse said. “Vice Mayor Wood served our community well for some time. It’s not about replacing Vice Mayor Wood. It’s just about picking up the baton and carrying it forward.”
In January, Rouse nominated Wooten to serve as vice mayor, while noting that Wood had done an excellent job in the role. Wood was selected, 8-3, to continue as the city’s vice mayor. Rouse, Wooten and City Councilmember Guy Tower, who holds the Beach District seat, backed Wooten.
“For me,” Wooten said during a telephone interview on Wednesday, Aug. 25, “it’s a recommitment to seeking that position — as I did in the beginning of the year — because I think it’s important to bring change and make sure out city is transparent.”
“It is a challenging time for us as a council,” Wooten said. “We have transition. We have people moving off of council.”
She said she wants to help lead the council through that transition.
Wooten won a special election to the Centerville seat in 2018 after then-City Councilmember Bobby Dyer resigned to run for mayor. Wooten won reelection in 2020.
Wooten has served as a police chaplain, and she created a seminar series for small, women, minority and service-disabled business owners. She also runs a professional mediation firm and serves as an adjunct professor, according to her biography.
In a statement posted to social media, Wooten on Tuesday, Aug. 24, urged citizens to reach out to members of the council in support of her becoming vice mayor. The post included the text of a letter to her colleagues on the council. She wrote that community leaders have contacted her about the role.
“Diversity and inclusion at the highest level of our local government speaks volumes to the community,” Wooten wrote. “Citizens have long requested representation at the highest levels across all levels of leadership within the city of Virginia Beach.”
Wooten wrote that she would be someone who can compassionately connect with citizens and bring communities together during a difficult time for the city.
“Now is the time for change,” Wooten wrote. “I would like to work to make much needed change in our current processes, procedures and priorities on council. Additionally, I would like to increase transparency.”
Rouse, who holds an at-large seat and is serving in his first term, wrote his a letter that he, too, has been encouraged to seek the position by others in the community.
He added, “I would like to take this opportunity to seek the support of my colleagues on the City Council to serve Virginia Beach as the next vice mayor.”
Rouse wrote that it “would be an honor to serve our community in this capacity and help navigate Virginia Beach through these challenging times.”
Like Wooten, he asked supporter to reach out to members of the council and back him.
“There is no endorsement that means more to me than from you – the citizens,” he wrote.
Rouse is a former professional football player who returned to Virginia Beach and served as a coach and mentor before founding a nonprofit charity that focuses on education for young people, according to his biography.
He was first elected to the council in 2018, placing first among six candidates seeking two at-large seats in the general election.
Last year, Rouse announced that he would challenge Dyer to become mayor, and he ran as a candidate for change in city government. However, Rouse later withdrew from the race, citing difficulties campaigning and raising funds during the pandemic.
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