Former City Manager John Rowe enters mayor’s race

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Former Portsmouth City Manager John Rowe formally announced Thursday he is running for mayor in November.

Rowe called for a change in leadership in Portsmouth. He said, the city has been the subject of criticism recently, that is not only embarrassing, it’s justified. He said the city needs to see change at city hall.

Rowe made the announcement in front of a crowd of supporters at Mario’s Italian Restaurant Thursday evening.

“We need to restore our credibility,” said Rowe. “We need to restore the vitality of Portsmouth. We need to bring back good government.”

Three city council members attended the event in support of Rowe: Elizabeth Psimas, Bill Moody, and Danny Meeks.

“We need John,” said Psimas. “You need John. We all need john. So it’s very important to get John elected as mayor.”

Moody and Sheriff Bill Watson, who have both had public disagreements with Wright, made contributions in front of the crowd at Mario’s. Both Moody and Watson donated $500 to Rowe’s campaign.

“John, I want to be the first one to publicly endorse you,” said Watson.

Rowe, who has 45 years of public administration experience, was appointed city manager in 2012. But, in April 2015, council ousted him and city attorney George Willson at the same time. Willson was present at Mario’s on Thursday in support of Rowe.

“It comes with the job of being city manager,” said Rowe.

At the time, Wright said it was because Rowe presented a .17 cent real estate tax increase in the city to close a budget gap.

“It would take .17 cents to continue to provide the services that council wanted to provide,” said Rowe, explaining his past proposal.

While he’s been away from city hall for nearly a year, many said they are eager to see Rowe back in a new position. Barbara Smith said she has been asking Rowe to consider running for mayor for years.

“Now, more than ever, Portsmouth needs him,” she said.

Former Portsmouth Sheriff Gary Waters had previously said he would run for mayor, too. He said Thursday he is stepping aside for Rowe to run.

Candidates have until mid-June to file with the registrar’s office.

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