VIRGINIA BEACH — Will Sessoms has resigned as mayor of this city.
Sessoms made the announcement during an impromptu news conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
His last day as mayor is April 30.
“For the past 30 years, it has been my privilege to serve the city that I love. I grew up here and raised my family here. And now, my grandchildren also call Virginia Beach home. Over my lifetime, Virginia Beach has seen many changes, and I am proud to see that the City is continuing to make amazing improvements that will keep the city thriving for generations to come,” Sessoms wrote in an email sent to city employees prior to his public announcement.
Sessoms told city employees in the letter that he is stepping down “to pursue private sector employment opportunities.”
He did not elaborate.
During the announcement, Sessoms said the timing of his resignation, in the middle of his term, “is coming from the family side rather than the city side.”
Sessoms has served as mayor since 2008. He previously served on City Council as an at-large member for four years before being selected to be vice mayor in 1992, a role he held for 10 years.
Bumps in the road
In November 2015, Sessoms was charged with five misdemeanors related to alleged violations of the state’s conflict of interest laws. The charges followed a nearly yearlong investigation into votes he took on matters that involved clients of the Towne Bank, where he served as a president.
Sessoms could have been removed from office if found guilty of the charges; however, in December 2017, the mayor pleaded no contest in General District Court to one of five charges that he violated the state’s conflict of interest laws. The other four were dropped as part of a plea deal.
Sessoms donated $1,000 to the Virginia Coalition for Open Government and had a $500 fine waived as a part of the plea deal. Special Prosecutor Mike Doucette also asked the judge that Sessoms not be removed from office. Although the mayor openly contemplated not running for reelection in fall 2016 because of the stresses of that court case, he went forward with a campaign and won reelection.
What happens now?
Officials said the City Council must choose one of its members to fill the vacancy created within 45 days from April 30.
From May 1 until such time as City Council makes its selection, Vice Mayor Louis Jones will fulfill the duties of mayor.
In addition to appointing a member to serve as interim mayor, the City Council must also file, within 15 days of the vacancy, a petition asking the Circuit Court to order a special election. That election will be on Nov. 6, unless the City Council requests and the Circuit Court orders an earlier date.