RWA News

Meet & Greet with Terry McAuliffe

Join Randy Wright for an intimate meet & greet with Virginia’s (hopefully) next Governor, Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday, June 19th.

This event will be held at the Azalea Inn, located at 2344 E. Little Creek Road in Norfolk and will begin at 6:00 P.M.

The Azalea Inn’s famous pizza and soft drinks are free to event attendees.

Norfolk Sister City Association And Norfolk England Committee Present: Norfolk England Valentine Dinner – Will You Be There?

This Valentine’s Day RWA President Randy Wright will be attending the Norfolk Sister City Association and Norfolk England Committee’s Norfolk England Committee Valentine Dinner. The event will be at the Sewell’s Point Golf Club and the guests of honor are Captain and Mrs. Gary Doyle (UK NLR SACT). It will be a fantastic time and seats are still available. Check out the information below:

Norfolk Sister City Association and Norfolk England Committee
cordially invite you to join us
Thursday, February 14, 2013
6:30-9:30 PM
Sewell’s Point Golf Club
660 Ruthven Road, Norfolk, VA 23511
Norfolk England Committee Valentine Dinner
Guests of Honor:
Captain and Mrs. Gary Doyle (UK NLR SACT)
The evening shall include:
Hors d’oeurves, one complimentary bar drink,
Buffet including entrees: beef carving station, salmon and chicken
Assortment of salads, vegetables, rolls and dessert
Soft drinks, Tea and Coffee and Cash Bar
Music, dancing and special Valentine gift for the ladies
Cost: $65 per person
or by mailing check made payable to:
NSCA, PO Box 3074, Norfolk 23514
Questions? Please call 627-0530

Sen. Warner Says Fiscal Uncertainty Could Have Significant Impacts To The Hampton Roads Economy

In a statement issued by Sen. Mark Warner yesterday, he stated his concern for the impact of the fiscal uncertainty in congress and its impact on Virginia. Sen. Warner even went as far as to single out how Hampton Roads would be impacted with defense cuts and the multi-billion dollar shortfall in Navy operations and maintenance. He mentioned that already the Navy is planning to defer maintenance, including canceling ship repairs for the second half of the fiscal year.

Congress rang in the new year with a political compromise to avoid what had come to be known as the fiscal cliff. While we avoided a tax increase on most Americans, we also pushed off once again many of the tough decisions required to get our country back on a responsible fiscal path.

If Congress and the White House are unable to agree on debt reduction measures by March, America will face a triple threat: a congressional vote to raise the debt ceiling, across-the-board spending cuts required by the sequester and the expiration of the law that keeps the government funded.

The dysfunction in Washington continues to drag down our recovery. It has added to consumer and business uncertainty, and it’s keeping the economy in low gear.

The indecision also poses a significant threat to our national security. As it is, the Pentagon is operating on last year’s budget. And this white-knuckle game of chicken over the automatic sequester cuts, in particular, could require the Pentagon to ground aircraft and call ships back to port.

If Congress fails to step up, these fiscal challenges will require Pentagon budget planners to find billions of dollars in savings almost immediately, with hardly any flexibility to prioritize the cuts.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appropriately has ruled out cuts to ongoing combat operations in Afghanistan, as well as cuts in pay and benefits for our warfighters. But that means automatic sequester cuts will dig deeper into other programs. As Navy Secretary Ray Mabus recently told me, “How can a shipyard deliver 92 percent of a ship?”

In Hampton Roads, automatic cuts could mean an immediate, multibillion dollar shortfall in Navy operations and maintenance. Already, plans are being made by the Navy to defer maintenance, including canceling ship repairs, for the second half of the fiscal year.

Additionally, procurement in major combat systems could be canceled – along with the significant per-unit cost savings negotiated as part of these multi-year contracts. For instance, the Pentagon negotiated nearly $4.5 billion in savings through a multi-year contract to build Virginia-class submarines – and those savings could be lost if the Navy disrupts the terms of the agreement.

The sequester was intentionally designed to be an unacceptable financial tool – an option no reasonable policymaker would ever willingly choose to use. But by continually pushing off the day of reckoning, we essentially have further amplified its potentially destructive impact: Even deeper cuts may be required over an even shorter budget period.

The sequester’s impact on military readiness could be disastrous. We will have fewer resources to keep our pilots trained or our warship crews capable of full combat operations. It will rob Army units of important training resources as they to prepare to deploy for combat.

Another area of deep concern is the potential layoffs of federal employees and private-sector contractors. Our civilian workforce is composed of hardworking individuals who deserve better. And Virginia’s defense contractors cannot be expected to make smart decisions about their businesses if they lack clear guidance on the short- and mid-range budget outlook.

That’s why I continue to push for a broad, bipartisan approach that, once and for all, strikes a responsible “grand bargain” on all of these fiscal challenges. If we can summon the political will, there is a path forward to begin reining in our nation’s deficits and debt without lurching recklessly from crisis to crisis.

Over the past two years, our bipartisan “Gang of Six” in the Senate managed to move within sight of the goal line on a grand bargain, based on the framework spelled out by National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, commonly called the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

We produced a balanced package of spending cuts, improvements to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and broad-based tax reforms to generate additional revenue by making our tax code flatter and fairer.

Ultimately, congressional dysfunction and partisan politics short-circuited the work of the Gang of Six. But I firmly believe we can solve our deficit and debt challenges without threatening our national security, holding back our economic recovery or sacrificing investments in programs that will help our economy grow and create jobs.

As Congress prepares to enter yet another round of discussions about federal spending, the automatic cuts and raising the debt ceiling, I believe all of us should be able to agree at least on this much: The full faith and credit of the United States is not a bargaining chip.

Continuing to play games with America’s fiscal future will cause both short- and long-term damage to our national security. And neither the safety nor the financial well-being of the American people should be used as leverage by politicians angling for temporary partisan advantage.

Source: The Office of Senator Mark Warner, Commonwealth of Virginia 

Light Rail Referendum Passed In Virginia Beach

The Tide is one step closer to expanding to Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach voters approved a nonbinding referendum on the light-rail system. Sixty-two percent of voters approved the Virginia Beach light rail referendum in the recent election. The ballot question asked if the Virginia Beach City Council should adopt an ordinance to support expanding the Tide from Norfolk. The Tide launched in Norfolk last year, it was the first light rail system in Virginia. Expansion supporters believe expanding the light rail system to Virginia Beach would positively impact economic development in Hampton Roads and decrease traffic congestion.

On election day, Randy Wright and Associates President, W. Randy Wright spoke to citizens entering the polls about voting ‘Yes’  for the referendum to expand the Tide.

“Today is an extremely important day for the future of light rail in Hampton Roads. Virginia Beach residents have the opportunity to support completion of the study which will create the footprint for riders to one day ride from the Virginia Beach oceanfront to Old Dominion University and on to the Norfolk Naval Base,” said Randy Wright, known as the Father of Light Rail in Hampton Roads.

Mr. Wright was instrumental in the development of The Tide in Hampton Roads. Randy Wright and Associates offers urban development and transportation consultation services. Contact us to launch your next multimodal transportation project. 

Macarthur Squareimage credit: TrackTwentynine on Flickr

Development, Transportation, and Government Relations consulting firm, Randy Wright & Associates, launches a new information portal at

Introducing the Online Birth of Randy Wright & Associates

Development, Transportation, and Government Relations consulting firm, Randy Wright & Associates, launches a new information portal at

NORFOLK VA, JULY 23, 2012: Google once said upon its launch of the Google+ social community, “Among the most basic human needs is the need to connect with others.” We agree. And we also agree that since a business is made up of people, this same concept reigns for business-to-business connections. Today, those connections increasingly happen online and so we have launched our new website at to make it even easier to share information with you.

Our goal with the new Randy Wright & Associates website is to keep you apprised of our activities, tell you about the fun projects and amazing clients we work with, and to make sure you can answer the question, “What are Randy and his team doing these days?”

Along with our website (again it’s at please visit our blog at as we are constantly uploading new photos and articles. Our Facebook Page at, our Twitter Page at, and our JASEzone Page at are also great ways to stay in touch.

Randy Wright & Associates is a development, transportation, and government relations consulting firm focused on public/private finance and land planning. The firm provides a unique range of services to builders, developers, and municipalities by joining together the experience of finance options and government contacts. The consultants at RWA have experience in residential, commercial and urban development projects in Virginia and across the United States. For more information on Randy Wright & Associates, visit

Media and interview requests for W. Randy Wright and Randy Wright & Associates should be directed to JASE Group LLC at for scheduling.


Introducing the Online Birth of Randy Wright & Associates


Google once said upon its launch of the Google+ social community, “Among the most basic human needs is the need to connect with others.” We agree. And we also agree that since a business is made up of people, this same concept reigns for business-to-business connections.

Today, those connections increasingly happen online – and who are we to fight the trends? We have launched our new website at to make it even easier for you to see when we’re smiling and laughing, and to share information with you.

Our goal with the new Randy Wright & Associates website is to keep you apprised of our activities, tell you about the fun projects and amazing clients we work with, make sure you can answer the question, “What are Randy and his team doing these days?” and give you a way to share back with us your thoughts and comments on how we’re doing.

Along with our website (again it’s at please visit our blog at as we are constantly uploading new photos and articles. Feel free to leave us a comment on one of the topics we are discussing. You can interact with us on Facebook at and, of course, LIKE our page so we can stay connected. We are also on Twitter at and JASEzone at

I have been friends with some of you for many years. We have been through some very exciting times and have accomplished things together that we only dreamt about in years past. I look forward to working with you and even sharing personal time with some of you in the coming months. Thank you for your support.

God Bless,

Featured Photo: Presentation of the Downtown Norfolk Council Peter G Decker Jr Downtowner of the Year Award

DNC President Cathy Coleman, RWA President W. Randy Wright, DNC Chairman Donna Phaneuf

Downtown Norfolk Council President Cathy Coleman, RWA President W. Randy Wright, Downtown Norfolk Council Chairman Donna Phaneuf

A Special Donation to the American Cancer Society from the Downtown Norfolk Council in Honor of W. Randy Wright

Dear Ms. Wills,

It is with great pleasure that we present the enclosed donation to Relay for Life of Norfolk and Virginia Beach in honor of our 2012 Downtowner of the Year Recipient, W. Randy Wright.

We are very pleased that Mr. Wright selected the American Cancer Society to receive this donation. We know it is something very close to his heart and we hope this contribution helps you further the good work that you do for our community.

Cathy Coleman
President & CEO
Downtown Norfolk Council

to: Ms. Elisa Wills
Executive Director
American Cancer Society
4416 Expressway Dr
Virginia Beach, VA 23452

cc: W. Randy Wright

An Independence Day Message From Randy Wright & Associates

Another Independence Day is here and with that comes all the normal 4th of July festivities. Food, family, friends, cookouts, and fireworks usually end up on the list. We wanted to take a moment during this joyous holiday to reflect on what this day means to us and we do not think it could have been reflected more appropriately than the message from our president.

“Two hundred and thirty six years ago our country was founded, on principles of freedom, democracy and inclusion as no other country before us had ever done. We have our challenges and tribulations yet more people have died trying to get to America than any place on earth. Let us celebrate our Birthday and dwell on what is great in America not what might be wrong. God Bless and have a wonderful July 4th.” -Randy Wright, President, Randy Wright & Associates

We also wanted to take a moment to thank those who have served or are serving to protect this great nation and all that it stands for.

Please be safe, responsible, and enjoy this time with family and friends. Thank you for your support and God Bless the USA!

4th of July American Flagimage credit: jkgreenstein12 on flickr

Downtown Norfolk Council Elects New Leaders

Our friends at the Downtown Norfolk Council recently announced their new leadership team that began their term on July 1st. The DNC has issued this press release:

Downtown Norfolk Council Elects New Leaders

Nearly 600 people attended the Downtown Norfolk Council’s Annual Meeting on Wednesday, June 27th. In addition to the recognition of the 2012 Downtowner of the Year, former Norfolk City Councilman Randy Wright and the recipient of the DNC’s Distinguished Service Award, Architect Thom White, the annual election of officers and directors also took place.

Elected as the Chairman of the Board for a term beginning on July 1, 2012 is Ray W. King, an attorney with LeClairRyan. Mr. King has been an active participant in the Downtown Norfolk Council for several years having served as chairman of the DNC’s Walkability Committee and also on the DNC Executive Committee since 2010. Ray has worked in the legal profession in downtown Norfolk since 1982. Other officers of the corporation elected at the Annual Meeting are: Vice Chairman, James Wofford, General Manager, MacArthur Center; Treasurer, Peter J. Henry, Virginia Asset Management and President & Corporate Secretary; Cathy Coleman, Downtown Norfolk Council.

Newly elected members of the board are:

  • Allison Dunleavy, TowneBank, Norfolk
  • Robert Friedman, Harbor Group International, LLC
  • Taylor Harrell, Southern Bank & Trust Company
  • Randy Lyall, Lyall Design
  • Ray Mattes, Retail Alliance
  • Tim Peters, Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel
  • Sarah Pishko, Prince Books & Coffeehouse

W Randy Wright to Attend GreenTech Automotive MyCar Electric Vehicle Launch

Randy Wright & Associates President and Gulf Coast Funds Management Board of Directors Member will be attending the MyCar product launch event in Horn Lake, MS.

Norfolk VA & Horn Lake MS, June 30, 2012: RWA President, W. Randy Wright, will be attending the upcoming product launch event for the MyCar electric vehicle from GreenTech Automotive at the Horn Lake Facility. Mr. Wright is a proud member of the Board of Directors of Gulf Coast Funds Management LLC, the Management Company of funds that invest in GreenTech Automotive Inc.

Featured speakers include: The Honorable William J. Clinton, 42nd President of the United States; The Honorable Haley R. Barbour, 63rd Governor of Mississippi; The Honorable Phil Bryant, Governor of Mississippi.

Other distinguished members of the Gulf Coast Funds Management LLC Board of Directors that will be attending with Mr. Wright are: Board Chairman Sudhakar V. Shenoy, Founder, Chairman and CEO of IMC, Inc.; Board Director Kathleen Blanco, Former Governor of the State of Louisiana; Board Director Margret Richardson, Former Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service; President & CEO Anthony Rodham.

Founded in 2009 by accomplished entrepreneurs Terry McAuliffe and Charles Wang, GreenTech Automotive is a U.S.-based automotive manufacturer dedicated to developing environmentally friendly, energy-efficient vehicles for world-wide distribution. For more information on GreenTech Automotive, visit

Randy Wright & Associates is a development, transportation, and government relations consulting firm focused on public/private finance and land planning. The firm provides a unique range of services to builders, developers, and municipalities by joining together the experience of finance options and government contacts. The consultants at RWA have experience in residential, commercial and urban development projects in Virginia and across the United States. For more information on Randy Wright & Associates, visit

Media and interview requests for W. Randy Wright and Randy Wright & Associates should be directed to JASE Group LLC at for scheduling.


A Heartfelt Thank You From The Father of Light Rail

The Father of Light Rail, RWA President W. Randy Wright, with the Peter G. Decker Jr Downtowner of the Year AwardW. Randy Wright sends a ‘Thank You’ to his family, friends and supporters after being honored as Downtown Norfolk Council’s Peter G. Decker Jr. Downtowner of the Year.

Norfolk, VA, June 29, 2012: Randy Wright & Associates President, W. Randy Wright, was recently honored by the Downtown Norfolk Council as their 2012 Peter G. Decker Jr Downtowner of the Year at the DNC 2012 Annual Meeting in Norfolk VA. Before a crowd of more than 500 Hampton Roads business professionals at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, Mr. Wright, known as The Father of Light Rail, was presented the award as the first recipient of the Peter G. Decker Jr Downtowner of the Year Award. Mr. Wright was nominated for this distinguished honor by Mr. Peter G. Decker Jr and Mr. Alan Nusbaum, both of which are past honorees of the Downtowner of the Year Award.

“I want to say thanks to the near 600 people who were present this afternoon to celebrate the presentation,” said Randy Wright after the June 27th ceremony. “This was without question one of the most extraordinary honors of my life. I am most humbled to have been selected and deeply touched. My heartfelt thanks to those who came from all over Norfolk. God Bless you and let’s continue to make our City a great one.”

Randy Wright & Associates is a development, transportation, and government relations consulting firm focused on public/private finance and land planning. The firm provides a unique range of services to builders, developers, and municipalities by joining together the experience of finance options and government contacts. The consultants at RWA have experience in residential, commercial and urban development projects in Virginia and across the United States. For more information on Randy Wright & Associates, visit

Media and interview requests for W. Randy Wright and Randy Wright & Associates should be directed to JASE Group LLC at for scheduling.


2012 Downtown Norfolk Council Annual Meeting

Virginia House Joint Resolution No. 852: Commending W. Randy Wright

News source: Virginia General Assembly

Commending W. Randy Wright.

Agreed to by the House of Delegates, February 13, 2009
Agreed to by the Senate, February 19, 2009

WHEREAS, W. Randy Wright of Norfolk is the 2008 recipient of the Outstanding Contribution by an Individual award by the Virginia Transit Association; and

WHEREAS, a lifelong resident of Norfolk, Randy Wright has served the citizens of Norfolk as a member of the Norfolk City Council since 1992; and

WHEREAS, as a member of the Virginia Transit Association and the Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) board of directors, Randy Wright was instrumental in helping HRT and the City of Norfolk obtain a full funding grant agreement from the Federal Transit Administration for Virginia’s first light rail system, known as The Tide; and

WHEREAS, Randy Wright has been a leader on local, regional, state, and national boards and commissions, serving as a member of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, chairman of the Transit Board Members of North America, and chair of Norfolk’s Economic Community and Business Development Committee; and

WHEREAS, Randy Wright recently received the Outstanding Planning Leadership award from the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association for his instrumental role in the ongoing revitalization of the Norfolk community and creation of the area’s first Traditional Neighborhood Design; and

WHEREAS, Randy Wright was honored by the Tidewater Builders Association with its prestigious Stanley Award for leadership; and

WHEREAS, an articulate and knowledgeable leader, Randy Wright has served the citizens of Norfolk with skill and dedication for over 20 years; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That the General Assembly hereby commend and congratulate W. Randy Wright on being the recipient of the Virginia Transit Association Outstanding Contribution by an Individual award for 2008; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to W. Randy Wright as an expression of the General Assembly’s admiration for his outstanding achievements and gratitude for his commitment to his fellow citizens.

Wright honored as Norfolk’s Downtowner of Year

News source:

By Harry Minium
The Virginian-Pilot
© May 15, 2012

W. Randy Wright has never lived downtown and only worked there as a city councilman. He began his political career by running against the city’s establishment and its focus on revitalizing downtown.

Once elected, he pushed for tax cuts and more funding for neighborhoods such as Ocean View, which angered some of the city’s movers and shakers.

But Wright very quickly became a supporter of the revitalization of downtown. He threw his support in 1994 behind the then-controversial MacArthur Center shopping mall and later took on a passionate crusade to bring light rail through downtown to the Virginia Beach border.

Now, his name will be added to a noteworthy list of Norfolk leaders who have been named Downtowner of the Year.

The annual award, which Wright will receive June 27 at a banquet at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, is given by the Downtown Norfolk Council to business and political leaders influential in improving downtown.

“If it were not for Randy Wright’s tenacity, we would not have light rail,” said Cathy Coleman, the Downtown Norfolk Council’s president and CEO.

Mayor Paul Fraim described Wright as “the face of the effort” that brought the transit system to the region.

Looking back on his early days as a councilman, Wright said he never wanted to hurt downtown – he just wanted more money for the city’s suburban neighborhoods.

“I always believed that downtown is everyone’s downtown, just like the beach in Ocean View is everyone’s beach,” he said.

Wright cast a critical vote to spend $100 million of public money to help build the mall. He also helped bring the battleship Wisconsin downtown and voted for the cruise ship terminal and a renovation of Town Point Park.

His support of The Tide, a $317 million light-rail line that connects the city’s medical center through downtown to Newtown Road, also helped cost him his council seat.

He was defeated by Tommy Smigiel in 2010. His loss came shortly after more than $100 million in light-rail cost overruns were made public. Smigiel said Wright was too focused on downtown and not enough on Ward 5.

Wright said light rail was only a part of the reason he lost, but he acknowledges the cost overruns, which are now estimated to be about $87 million, were fatal in that election.

“I knew the political risk when I took on that project,” he said. “People told me I had to be crazy to take it on because light rail is not anywhere near Ward 5.

“But I have no regrets because we defined the future of Norfolk and this region for the next half a century with the creation of light rail.”

Wright was nominated for the honor by two former award winners – Alan Nusbaum, chairman of the board of S.L. Nusbaum Realty; and attorney Peter G. Decker Jr., who penned his nomination letter in November, shortly before he died on Feb. 3.

The Downtown Norfolk Council is a private, non-profit group composed of hundreds of business, civic and political leaders that seeks to promote downtown.

Harry Minium, (757) 446-2371,

Randy Wright was determined to rise – and did

News source:

By Harry Minium
The Virginian-Pilot
© September 20, 2009

W. Randy Wright often mangles the English language, and even in a suit can look disheveled. He lacks a college degree and often raises the ire of others with blunt, in-your-face talk. Raised in a poor family in blue-collar Norview, Wright excelled at bowling in high school, not academics.

Yet, he now mixes confidently with the city’s business and political elite.

Wright, a city councilman since 1992, is one of the region’s most powerful political leaders and a catalyst for some of Norfolk’s most ambitious projects: among them, MacArthur Center, East Beach and the revitalization of Ocean View.

Next year, light rail, a project that Wright pioneered, will begin rolling through Norfolk. It’s a project that some say will be Wright’s legacy.

Yet he is also Norfolk’s political bull in a china shop. He relishes political controversies and plays politics like a contact sport.

“So many people have underestimated Randy over the years, to their detriment,” Norfolk attorney Peter G. Decker Jr. said.

He has successfully defended his council seat in four elections and intends to run again next spring.

Many would like to see him go. Others know better.

“One of the first things I did when I decided to run for governor was talk to the mayor of Ocean View,” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said. “Anyone running for political office in Virginia seeks Randy’s support. He has a loyal following.”

Wright was the third of four children born to parents who dropped out of high school to work during the Depression. His mother, Billie, became a housewife. His father, Buddy, a Navy veteran of World War II, maintained furnaces for the Army.

Formal schooling was not a priority in the Wright household. The family lived in a three-bedroom cottage on Winward Road in Norview.

Wright’s older brother, Bobby, wore hand-me-downs from a cousin. Randy Wright wore what he called “third-me-downs” after his brother outgrew them.

Standing just 5-foot-8 and 112 pounds as a high school senior, he was often picked on. “You took a licking and kept on ticking,” Wright, 63, said.

He graduated from Norview in 1964 and went to work as an apprentice printer. He spent days in the shop, his nights going to school and weekends with his wife in a rental house in his old neighborhood.

Although his family was apolitical, politics intrigued him, and when he was 21 he registered to vote.

In 1968, he went to see former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, then running for president, at a rally at Foreman Field. Wright voted for Wallace, a former segregationist.

The next year, he voted for Henry Howell, a supporter of civil rights, for governor.

Wallace and Howell had one thing in common: They were populists who railed against the establishment

“That appealed to me,” Wright said.

It’s an appeal Wright adopted in his political career.

In 1973, his son Eddie was born, and a few years later he and his wife bought their first home, in the Tarrallton section of the city. Finally, after years of struggling, Wright felt like he was middle class.

Out of curiosity, he began to attend Roosevelt Area Civic League meetings. It would prove to be a pivotal decision.

Civic league officer Joanne Wall liked the questions Wright asked at meetings, and within a few months she asked him to be civic league president.

“I told her I’ll do it only if you can’t find anyone else,” he recalled.

His political career was thus launched.

He learned that he could give a good speech and used that strength to capitalize on discontent over high real estate taxes.

In 1978, he and others formed the Norfolk Tea Party, an anti-tax group that attracted national attention when Wright, dressed in Native American garb, and others threw tea into the waters of the Hague.

Wright was bitten by the political bug. He wanted to run for council but knew he couldn’t unless he had his own business. “You can’t be on the City Council and work for someone else,” he said.

Longtime friend Bob Hicks came up with a plan to enable Wright to run: He told him to buy a printing company.

Wright did so in 1984, and not long after that, he and his son moved in above the Granby Street business. He and his wife had recently separated and Wright couldn’t afford anything else.

He didn’t let his finances slow down his political ambitions, though.

In the early 1980s, he helped lead a successful fight to end busing for integration in elementary schools, which he said unfairly forced students from the Ocean View, Bayview and Roosevelt neighborhoods onto buses, while allowing upper-income kids to walk to school.

His stance was popular on the city’s blue-collar east side but engendered hostility in black neighborhoods.

In 1986, he ran for the council. It was then that Mabel Carnes, one of Wright’s early supporters, told him he needed a makeover.

“I looked at him and said, ‘If you’re going to go somewhere, you’ve got to change a few things,’ ” she said.

“At times, he looked like John Travolta in ‘Grease.’ ”

She taught him to chew without his mouth open, pronounce words correctly and wear a coat and tie.

The tips almost worked.

On election night, Wright lost by fewer than 500 votes. He was devastated but not defeated.

A few weeks before the election, he had met Arlene Brooks, a Virginia Beach real estate agent, on a blind date. “He took me by the hand and he never let go of my hand that night,” she said. “He was so romantic.”

Within a year, they were married.

He continued hosting town hall meetings, all the while plotting his next political race.

Wright knew the best way to get elected was to eliminate the city’s at-large system, which the city’s business establishment had used to maintain control of the council. So he began meeting privately with some of the city’s most influential black leaders, who thought the system discriminated against African Americans.

It was the first time that Wright had spent time with many of the leaders, who were suspicious of him after he fought to end busing.

“We started to know each other and found out we had much more in common than not,” Wright said.

Eventually, James Gay, Herbert Collins and others filed a lawsuit that after eight years, forced the city to adopt a ward system. Gay and Collins, both now deceased, credited Wright with providing invaluable help. “He was with us all the way,” Collins said.

Collins and Gay won their lawsuit in 1991, and a ward system was introduced in 1992. Wright ran in Ward 5, castigating the city’s “shadow government” for spending too much money downtown and not enough in Ocean View.

He won easily and was ready to shake up City Hall.

A few days after he won, Wright and his wife strolled past 90 acres of slums in East Ocean View. He told her he was going to propose tearing down all 1,600 residences there, mostly apartments, and build anew.

“They’ll never let you do it,” she said.

A year later, he announced plans to replace the apartments with a neighborhood called East Beach. Most residents and landlords wanted to stay. Some threatened Wright, who needed police escorts for public hearings.

Wright remembers a man at one of the meetings asking him, “Are you going to allow me to keep my home?” Responded Wright: “No, I’m not.”

“It was a very difficult thing to say.”

Wright’s biggest battle was with the housing authority, a state agency that redeveloped East Beach. The agency wanted a South Carolina group to build East Beach. Wright wanted a conglomerate led by Virginia Beach developer Bart Frye.

“I wanted a local developer who would be invested in the project,” he said.

Housing authority officials, including board chairman Doyle Hull, protested, as did many prominent city officials. But with the backing of Mayor Paul Fraim, Wright got his way.

Hull was so upset, he asked not to be reappointed to the board. David Rice, who headed the housing authority, also left, Hull said, “because of Randy’s meddling.”

“We lost some of our very best people.”

East Beach established Wright’s reputation as a hard-nosed politician, said Bob Layton, a housing authority commissioner and a longtime ally.

“He got tremendous pressure from the heavyweights in the city to back off, to leave this alone,” Layton said. “But he simply believed what he was doing was right. Time has proven him correct.”

Over time, he became more powerful.

He opposed spending money downtown, saying it should go to neighborhoods, and pushed ordinances that forced bars, used car lots and pawn shops to seek city permission before opening.

He lobbied for dredging Pretty Lake and replacing the Shore Drive Bridge with a taller one, which gave owners of hundreds of middle-class homes access to deep water. The city has poured $200 million into Ocean View since he was elected, mostly for tearing down blighted housing, strip bars and seedy hotels.

Wright’s most controversial decision may have been a petition to rescind a council decision allowing Calvary Revival Church, a majority black church, to build a 3,000-seat cathedral in Roosevelt Gardens in 1993.

He was conflicted on the issue, he said, because of his deep religious faith. He has long attended weekly Bible study with an interracial group, including Del. Algie T. Howell Jr.

Yet he fought the church with zeal, gathering more than 20,000 signatures on petitions that would have forced a referendum on the issue. Sensing defeat, the church agreed to build a school on the site instead.

Councilman Paul R. Riddick bitterly criticized Wright, calling him a racist. Today, Riddick is one of Wright’s closest political allies.

“Randy is not a racist,” Riddick said. “I know him much better now than I did then.”

Wright’s growing power eventually led to a miscalculation. In 1995, he ran for clerk of the circuit court and claimed just a third of the vote citywide. “I ran for financial reasons,” Wright said.

Even so, he was re-elected to the council by a large majority in 1998.

Two years later, he was tested again. He and Fraim backed different candidates for a superward council seat. Barclay C. Winn won thanks in large part to huge majorities in Wright’s ward. The day after the election, Wright and Fraim mended their relationship by having breakfast.

Said Wright: “Paul and I, we’ve lifted this city on our shoulders in many cases to move it forward. In East Beach, he never flinched. He stood with me 100 percent.”

Wright also stood with Fraim. He supported tens of millions of dollars in city subsidies for MacArthur Center, an unpopular vote in his ward. It marked a reversal for Wright, who previously had railed against downtown spending.

After Winn’s election, Wright turned his attention to light rail, a subject he says is his passion.

He came by his love for mass transit as a boy. His parents didn’t drive, so he learned to get around by bus. He became intrigued with light rail in 1996 when he took a train from Anaheim to Los Angeles while in California for a conference.

Few gave Norfolk a snowball’s chance of succeeding with light rail. Virginia Beach, the state’s largest city, had said no to light rail in a 1999 referendum. That didn’t stop Wright.

He traveled the nation, buttonholing federal officials in hotel lobbies from New York to the West Coast, even if they could talk for only a few minutes.

“I learned that the powerful people you need to see are never in Washington,” he said.

He personally oversaw cost reductions for the project, helped engineer a merger of the region’s mass transit agencies and even came up with the name for Norfolk’s light rail: the Tide.

“Randy is the reason Norfolk has light rail,” said former Republican Rep. Thelma Drake. “He was relentless.”

Next year, Norfolk will be the smallest city ever to have light rail funded by the federal government, which is paying about half the cost of the $288 million project.

Virginia Beach is considering a proposal to extend light rail to the Oceanfront.

Many know of Wright’s work in Ocean View, Fraim said.

“But light rail, someday, will touch every community in this region,” Fraim said.

Political life has been good to Wright. He owns a small but successful print shop near Military Circle. His wife is a successful real estate agent.

They own four homes, two in North Carolina. Their principal residence, on Little Creek Inlet, east of East Beach, is assessed by the city at $816,600.

Wright travels extensively, dotes on his grandchild, Tyler, and makes no apologies for the wealth he has amassed, saying he and his wife earned every dime honestly.

Even so, some say Wright is too close with developers who do business with the city, including Ocean View residents Ronnie and Judy Boone.

“He’s been in office too long and controls things too tightly in Ocean View,” said Bill Kerry, a Wright critic who lives in East Ocean View.

Wright acknowledges being friends with the Boones and others but said those relationships have helped the city.

“When I was first elected, you couldn’t get a developer to do anything here,” he said. “I had to knock on doors and build relationships.”

Those relationships, among other things, have taken a toll on his popularity. In 2006, Wright defeated a relatively unknown candidate with little money by just 521 votes.

Wright apologized to his constituents for not paying enough attention to their needs and reconstituted the Norfolk Tea Party as the Norfolk Tea Party II. In 2007, the group forced the largest real estate tax reduction in city history.

Wright, who employs a polling agency, said his standing has improved since 2006.

Kerry disagrees, saying that if Wright runs for re-election in May, he will lose.

“People are tired of him,” he said.

Tommy Smigiel, a Granby High School assistant principal, announced last month that he will run against Wright.

Wright said he’s ready for the competition.

In the meantime, he’s ticking off a “Bucket List” of 60 things he’s trying to do before he dies, most with his son, Eddie. They have already watched a championship boxing match in Las Vegas, visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, played at the “Field of Dreams” baseball stadium in Iowa and herded cows on a dude ranch.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that no matter how tough things get, you’ve got to have fun,” he said.

Still, there’s nothing he likes better than the trappings of politics. That was never more evident than during a visit to downtown two years ago by Prince Philip, husband of England’s Queen Elizabeth.

As the prince, Wright and others were being led in to a private dinner, Wright beamed.

“Not bad,” he said, winking, “for a poor boy from Norview.”

Pilot writer Meredith Kruse contributed to this report.

Harry Minium, (757) 446-2371,

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