Richmond Mayoral Candidate Interview: Jon Baliles

Photo by Jay Paul

At Grid, we believe that everyone in Richmond has a superpower — a unique combination of personality traits and aptitudes that they bring effortlessly to everything they do. What’s your superpower and how will you share it with RVA?

I listen and don’t react impulsively. Therefore, I don’t decide on an important issue until I’ve done my homework. I hear all of the facts and arguments in order to see what’s the best path forward. I’ve done that on Council and will do so as Mayor.

Journalist and Congresswoman Clare Booth Luce once told John F. Kennedy, “A great man is a sentence.” Can you sum up your purpose in a single line? Let’s hear your sentence.

Jon Baliles loves Richmond and uses his skills and his passion to make it a better place for all of us.

Let’s chat conflict. How do you handle it and how do you make sure you’re listening effectively to others when conflict arises?

Always listen first. Hear what the problems are before trying to apply solutions. Keep an open mind and remember that everyone has unique life experiences and there is rarely a one size fits all answer. Conflicts are settled through compromise and understanding. If those are absent, that means you aren’t listening closely enough.

What defines good citizenship and how do you model it?

Good citizenship is being involved in making your street, neighborhood, or city better. Volunteer time and effort to create a better world for others around you, as well as yourself. There is an army of people already helping make RVA better and there are thousands more ready to pitch in if we have inspirational and determined leadership.

Tell us a story about a solution to a problem in Richmond that you made better, faster, smarter, and less expensive.

I led the effort on City Council to set up the online check register of every payment our city government makes. Now when you want to know this information, you can find out in seconds at no cost. That wasn’t possible before.

Photo by Jay Paul

We’re proud of our makers and doers in Richmond — people who roll up their sleeves and get stuff done. Tell us about the last thing you made with your hands or created.

I planted my vegetable garden earlier this year. Tomatoes, eggplants, herbs, and about five different kinds of peppers. I have been growing my own garden for 15 years.

Please share an example of a solutions-­oriented Richmonder — or Richmond organization — engaged in innovative practices that have influenced you.

The Richmond City Health District. They’re focused on their mission, measure outcomes, deliver results, and know where they need to improve. City Hall can learn enormous lessons from their example.

If you could change one event in Richmond over the past 10 years, what would it be?

Outlaw rain during Folk Festival weekend.

Who is your favorite Richmond mayor of all time, and why?

Tim Kaine. He listened to people, worked hard, and put the city first. The city didn’t make wasteful multimillion dollar deals when he was mayor. He was too smart for that.

If you could paint a mural depicting the future of Richmond, what would you paint and where would you paint it?

It would be a mural along the floodwall on the river using the skills of Ryan McGuiness, Kehinde Wiley, the Few and Far Women collective, and Ed Trask for good measure. I don’t know precisely how it would look but know it would be awesome, just like Richmond’s future.

Photo by Jay Paul


Hometown: RVA

Neighborhood: Grew up in Stratford Hills. Museum District resident since 1997.

Favorite Way to Volunteer: Service on Board of Childsavers and the programming committee of the Folk Festival.

Listening Style: Frequent

Preferred Mode of Transportation: My canoe, which means I am on the river. Otherwise, my bike or my trusty 2003 Toyota Corolla.

Best Locally Made Product: The love and pride so many people have for everything RVA.

Favorite Spot on the River: In my canoe, wherever the current takes it. The rocks at Choo Choo Rapids rocks are a great hangout spot.

Go-To Restaurant: Stella’s. Lunch/Supper.

The Book You’ve Gifted Most to Others: Abraham Lincoln: A Team of Rivals.

Three achievable goals that you plan to champion over the next year, regardless of who becomes mayor?

1. Dedicated formula of funding for schools so the focus is on accountability and moving the needle, not budget squabbles.

2. More active lifestyles for kids to help improve long term health outcomes.

3. More urban agriculture projects across the city from small gardens to year round operations including the city and non-profits.