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Mayor Stoney’s big sweep of City Hall got our attention

RICHMOND, Va. -- Four top-ranking Richmond department heads, gone in one day?

"This is what change looks like," Richmond mayor Levar Stoney told us when we rushed to City Hall Thursday afternoon after getting tipped to the shake-up in progress.

Forty days into his come-from-behind walk into office, Mayor Stoney has broken out the promised push broom.

"This is what I ran on," Stoney told me, "on shaking up City Hall and putting in the proper people in the right places. And that's what we're going to do."

It's one of the biggest all-at-once sweeps ever.

Mayor Levar Stoney

Mayor Levar Stoney

Clearly he and his office had prepped for this.

We were quickly given details about smallish severance packages for three of the department heads, along with names of interim replacements.

Gone are Dr. Emmanuel Adediran, Department of Public Works Director (who was a key figure in former Mayor Dwight Jones' church-work-on-city-time-scandal); Johnny McLean, Human Resources Director; Debra Gardner, Human Services Director; and Robert Creecy, Chief of Richmond Fire Department. (Creecy is of retirement age and had run afoul of some members of RFD.)

Not since Doug Wilder's landmark 2005 coronation as Richmond's first elected mayor in 60 years have we seen this kind of jolt.

And Wilders' troubled reorganization was spread out a bit more and came as the city shifted its form of governance.

(L to R) Emmanuel Adediran, Robert Creecy, Debra Gardner

(L to R) Emmanuel Adediran, Robert Creecy, Debra Gardner

Back then Wilder pledged a vigorous City Hall house-cleaning. A New York Times headline at the time proclaimed: "For a Clean Sweep of Richmond, Former Governor, Now Mayor, Wants a Bigger Broom."

Wilder was always ready to take a swing - and a punch.

"I'm not cotton candy that'll disappear as the weather gets hot," he famously told a reporter.

But Wilder got tripped up by his own broom, and the entrenched problems at City Hall continued for 12 more years.

Enter the youthful Stoney, backed by prominent Democrats such as Senator Tim Kaine and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, among many others.

Former Wilder advisor Paul Goldman told me Stoney had to sweep now, during his post-election honeymoon and mandate period, thereby setting the tone for his administration.

It's part of a promised performance review, Stoney told me.

His team is "looking for top performers and under-performers," he said. "And right now, I can't predict whether or not there will be more . . . That remains to be seen."

Please! He needs to sweep more and sweep again!

Please trim vast city bureaucracies and inefficient operations. Flush out those deep-rooted sweetheart contracts. Push that broom into our nightmarish poverty housing system that haunts our streets and our schools.

Build some sort of working, hustling relationship with our elected school board. (That's where Wilder's sweeping backfired.)

Could Levar Stoney be the one to finally sleek down and clean up our city government?

No, one seismic sweep won't fix City Hall.

But it certainly got our attention.