Roanoke City Council member Djuna Osborne will resign from her council seat this week.
Osborne, who was elected two years ago, said she is stepping down because the COVID-19 pandemic has required her to stay at home with her children while they attend school , and has forced her to make changes to accommodate clients at her counseling practice.
“It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation as a Roanoke City Council Member,” Osborne said in a statement released by the city’s community engagement office. “I want to be completely transparent with the residents of Roanoke. Due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, I, along with each of you, have had to make significant adjustments to accommodate the needs of my family. As a result, I am no longer in a position to meet the full obligation of my Council duties while also meeting my new obligation as a full-time stay-at-home mom and educator, along with the ongoing responsibilities of my private practice.”
Osborne’s resignation becomes effective at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Roanoke’s six remaining city council members will hold a special meeting Friday to discuss how to fill the vacancy.
Osborne’s departure from the council comes nearly six weeks before a council election on Nov. 3, when three other seats are up for grabs.
Osborne’s vacancy, however, will not add to the number of open seats on the ballot in November. According to the city charter and Virginia law, the council can appoint a person to serve out the remainder of Osborne’s term, set to expire Dec. 31, 2022, or it can call for a special election at a later date.
Osborne, a Democrat, was first elected in May 2018 by placing second in a field of seven candidates. She took office that July. She finished with 5,004 votes, running just behind current Vice Mayor Joe Cobb, a fellow Democrat. Independent incumbent Bill Bestpitch was reelected that same year.
With Democrats fully in control the past two years, the council has made some major changes and also has dealt with the economic fallout from the pandemic.
In 2019, the council voted to move local elections from May to November to coincide with national elections, which is why Osborne’s term will not expire until after the November 2022 election.
The council also made city budget cuts due to pandemic-related economic impacts earlier this year, as well as established a system for doling out nearly $8 million in emergency federal relief to businesses, groups and individuals.
Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea said he was surprised that Osborne is leaving the council, but that he respected her decision.
“I am saddened to lose her,” said Lea, a Democrat who is running for a second term against independent candidate David Bowers.
“She has been an integral part of our council. We’ve been through a lot the past two years, and Djuna was a major contributor. She had such a cheering personality and she brought a lot to council. We’ve worked very hard this year through the pandemic and we have made some tough decisions. We hate to lose her, but I wish her the very best.”
Eight candidates are running for three council seats in November. Incumbent Trish White-Boyd, who was appointed in 2019 following John Garland’s resignation, Peter Volosin and Robert Jeffrey make up the Democratic ticket and are contested on the ballot by Republicans Maynard Keller and Peg McGuire, Libertarian Cesar Alberto and independent candidates Stephanie Moon and Kiesha Preston.
Depending on the results of November’s mayoral and council elections, at least two and as many as four new members could be elected to the council.
Whoever succeeds Osborne could make that number as high as five.
“I am so incredibly grateful for the two years I have been able to serve the citizens of our City,” Osborne said. “Thank you for what we have accomplished together, and for your support and understanding.”
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