VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A former council member has been appointed to fill a vacant seat on Virginia Beach City Council.
Virginia Beach City Council voted 6-4 Tuesday night to appoint Linwood Branch to the vacant Lynnhaven District seat. Branch served as the Beach Borough/District representative from 1992-2002. In 2018, he briefly threw his hat in the ring to become mayor but dropped out ahead of the election.
Council members John Moss, Sabrina Wooten, Aaron Rouse, and Guy Tower voted for former council member Richard Maddox instead of Branch.
The decision to appoint Branch came after a public comment period at the formal council meeting. While several spoke in support of Branch, including former Mayor Will Sessoms, several asked City Council not to appoint him because of his ties to the resort area.
Branch owns the Days Inn at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and is a member of the powerful Virginia Beach Hotel Association.
After public comment, City Council went into a closed session to deliberate. They then returned to vote in open session.
“I have tried to look forward where we are trying to go versus looking back to the special interest dominated past of city council’s in the past,” Moss said in prepared remarks after the vote. “We need to be moving forward. We really didn’t need another representative who was such a vested interest in the Oceanfront and who has often been a proxy and an advocate for special interests at the resort area.”
He said Branch was not the best candidate for the position and walked out when Mayor Bobby Dyer invited Branch up to speak.
“I want to thank the council, ” Branch said. “I want to come work on some specific issues, workforce development, community policing, the homeless issue … thank you very much the council members that supported me and the ones that didn’t I am going to earn your respect and support I hope.”
Branch will attend his first council meeting Oct. 12.
The seat was previously occupied by Vice Mayor Jim Wood. He was on City Council for nearly 20 years and left the position Oct. 1 after he got a new job with a large international company. The new position required extensive travel, forcing him to give up his City Council seat.
At Tuesday’s meeting, City Council also voted to rename the Thalia Emergency Medical Station to the James L. Wood Emergency Medical Station in honor of Wood’s service. Wood appeared surprised by the honor.