A Charlottesville man who criticized the City Council for declining to request a special election for treasurer is taking his cause a step further by running for the office.
John L. Pfaltz, who ran unsuccessfully for the council as a Republican in 2000, plans to run for treasurer as an independent the special election called for April 2, city Republicans said Thursday in a news release.
Pfaltz, 77, has been a vocal critic of what he saw as a move to ease a chosen Democrat into an elected office following the retirement of longtime Treasurer Jennifer J. Brown in October.
Democrat Jason A. Vandever, Brown's chief deputy, was tapped to serve as interim treasurer, but debate arose over how long he should hold the office without getting the approval of city voters.
Pfaltz demanded a special election, saying anything else would give the appearance of "blatant nepotism" because Vandever's father is former mayor and Democratic leader Tom Vandever.
A local judge called a special election following a push from Pfaltz and local conservatives, who asked the city to give voters a speedy choice rather than wait until November.
The move essentially overruled the stated position of the all-Democratic City Council, which voted unanimously to request that Vandever be allowed to serve out Brown's term in lieu of a special election that could cost up to $35,000. At the time, it was unclear anyone was interested in challenging Vandever.
Pfaltz said he's long been bothered by uncontested elections for constitutional offices.
"It shouldn't just be automatic," Pfaltz said.
Before ruling on the special election, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire wanted assurance that the race would be contested. Charlottesville Republican Committee Chairman Charles "Buddy" Weber told the judge someone would run, but the mystery candidate wasn't identified.
"I had a different person in mind to run but that person declined," said Pfaltz, who would not name the original prospect.
Pfaltz said he decided to run in early December. Weber assured Hogshire in late November that a candidate had been found.
A retired professor who taught computer science at the University of Virginia for decades, Pfaltz plans to officially announce his candidacy Friday morning at a caboose he restored off Red Hill Depot Road in North Garden, according to the release.
The treasurer is charged with collecting city taxes and fees as well as overseeing investments and retirement funds. Voters elect a treasurer every four years.
Brown cited health issues when she retired after nearly 20 years as treasurer. She was scheduled to face re-election this year.
No matter who wins the special election in April, a regular treasurer election will be held in November.
Vandever is the only Democrat who has filed to run in the special election, according to party officials, but he has not yet made a public announcement.
Jim Nix, co-chairman of the Charlottesville Democratic Party, said that while he and Pfaltz are close, he didn't expect Pfaltz to run.
"I really don't see that this fits into any career plan that he's ever hinted at to me," Nix said. "It's a reasonable guess that there was someone else in mind."
Nix said he understands how Pfaltz and others feel about the appearance of favoritism but he has "no qualms" about Vandever running.
"I can see where some people might feel that it was an inside job," Nix said. "But Jason is an eminently qualifed guy."
Though Pfaltz's involvement in the issue was rooted in his critique of the political process, he said his computing expertise and independent streak will be hallmarks of the campaign he'll kick off today.
"I think I can do a better job than has been done in the past," Pfaltz said.
With two candidates now involved, 2013 will offer the first contested city treasurer's election in decades.