Open letter to Mayor Dwight Jones on J.R. Pope’s resignation

This is the email that I, Phil Riggan, submitted to Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, city council, Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities interim director Dr. Carolyn Graham and deputy director Roslyn Johnson (among others) in reference to the resignation of J.R. Pope:

I am saddened by the resignation of J.R. Pope as Director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities. My knowledge of his work, leadership and vision through many encounters with the man lead me to believe that he was one of the few department heads in the city that worked efficiently and competently.

I cannot ignore the findings of the report by the city auditor. They are an indicator that improprieties were happening under Pope’s watch and that he should have had better control. However, I don’t find these incidents to have been severe enough for Pope to resign.

The Mayor should not have accepted his resignation. Someone close to the situation has benefitted by Pope’s departure and it is at the citizen’s expense.

J.R. Pope may have been flawed — as the audit seems to illustrate — but the community and volunteer groups are not served by Pope’s absence as parks director.

The citizens of Richmond and the many volunteers that donate their time to help maintain and build trails, facilities, access points, clean trash and guide the future of the parks do not benefit from Pope’s departure. The work we provide to the city is a free community service, one that Pope helped to grow in his short five years as director. It would be a shame to think that inside politics would jeopardize the good work happening outside of the imperfect walls of City Hall. 

My knowledge of J.R. Pope’s time in Richmond has been nothing but positive. I became a volunteer for many “Friends” groups in Richmond in part because people like J.R. Pope and parks department mainstays Ralph White and Nathan Burrell convinced me that the parks were worthy of my time. I have bonded with many wonderful, caring people who together dedicate their free time doing work that would never have been accomplished if left to the City of Richmond.

I hope the City was right in allowing Pope to leave and that after a thorough and successful search we can all be happy with the next director. Please do not allow misguided inside politics or hidden personal agendas to dictate what should happen to our parks, our playgrounds and our river.

-Phil Riggan

I encourage you to send your own emails:


One response to “Open letter to Mayor Dwight Jones on J.R. Pope’s resignation

  1. Well said!
    While I fear that J.R.’s resignation is a fait accompli, voicing our outrage may prevent the departure of other city employees who have a positive vision for the future of recreation and park programs.

    In addition to providing a huge improvement to our parks, J.R. worked with community volunteers and foundations to support youth golf programs, summer camps, summer youth basketball, and cultural opportunities, like the city dance program.

    And let’s not forget our four footed friends who have great dog parks!

    To quote Maureen Egan, “Who shot J.R?”

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