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written by Linwood Norman

Our nation’s first elected Black governor, L. Douglas Wilder, returned to public service in 2005 as the first popularly elected mayor of Richmond, Virginia in nearly sixty years. Despite his landslide election, voters may have had little idea what they were getting themselves into, as many were ill-prepared for Wilder’s strong style of leadership. He had remarkable success in reducing crime, cutting government spending, and boosting economic vitality, but Wilder’s relationship with City Council and the School Board—and the disagreements that ensued from both sides—tarnished his record as mayor. Author and former press secretary to the mayor, Linwood Norman, skillfully recounts the turmoil of Richmond’s transition to the “strong mayor” model of local government during what was a memorable chapter in Richmond’s rich political history that is still deliberated today, more than fifteen years after Wilder’s charismatic tenure concluded. 

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Meet the Author

As Mayor Wilder’s press secretary, Linwood Norman was provided with an insider’s view on what compelled Wilder to take actions that were deemed courageous by some and abominable by others. A Richmond native with a master’s degree in journalism from Virginia Commonwealth University, Norman also served as the city’s director of communications during Wilder’s mayoral term. Other positions, spanning the public, corporate, and nonprofit sectors included senior communications advisor for the US Department of Health and Human Services; communications manager for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield; and communications director for ZERO—The End of Prostate Cancer. Earlier in his career, Norman was a reporter for the Newport News Daily Press; the Petersburg Progress Index, where he received a Virginia Press Association First-Place Award for Investigative Journalism; and a contributing writer for Richmond Magazine and Virginia Town & City Magazine.

Press Kit


Format: Paperback, Hardcover

Pages:  252

ISBN PB: 978-1-958754-93-1

ISBN HC:  978-1-962416-21-4

Release Date: 8/27/2024


“Mr. Norman delivers an unapologetically realistic description of former Governor L. Douglas Wilder’s career from his humble childhood to becoming Richmond’s first dynamic and controversial strong mayor. Norman takes you behind the scenes, giving you a glimpse of the man who defied conventional politics and blazed his own path to establish himself as arguably the most influential politician in the Commonwealth. This is great history!”

—Chris Beschler, director of energy resources, Rocky Mount, North Carolina (former deputy chief administrative officer, City of Richmond, Virginia)

“Linwood Norman’s detailed new book provides a clear recounting of the discipline, clarity, and reform that Governor Wilder brought to Richmond, Virginia, following his term as governor. His achievements as mayor were yet another legacy to be remembered. Norman’s book recounts this legacy with candor and detail and is not to be missed.”

—Eva Teig Hardy, former Virginia secretary of health and human resources

“Provides a candid and informative look at the history-making, distinguished former governor who became mayor of his home city, Richmond, Virginia, a place he loved. He was unafraid to make tough decisions designed to lead a more responsive and effective city government. This book captures Governor Wilder’s laser focus on accountability and results. You knew where he stood and where the buck stopped.”

—Robert F. McDonnell, former governor of Virginia

“Leadership matters regardless of structures or processes. This enjoyable new book focused on L. Douglas Wilder as the unprecedented and still unequaled ‘strong mayor’ reveals untold, inside accounts of his admirable challenging of the status quo in Richmond.

“I’ve always appreciated Doug Wilder’s prioritization of ‘necessities before niceties.’ The stories in this fascinating book give greater understanding of the undaunted, spirited leadership of Mayor Wilder who skillfully instilled accountability and integrity to entrenched, stolid bureaucratic governmental agencies that were failing to effectively and efficiently serve the people.

“This is a must-read for better comprehension of the dynamic responsibilities of essential local government, closest to the people, and in the midst of the historic evolution of governance in the City of Richmond.

“In unvarnished detail, this book provides a compelling look at Mayor Wilder’s immense impact on public safety and accountability in education, and how he left the City of Richmond in significantly better condition than he found it. Leadership really does matter!”

—George Allen, former governor of Virginia

When Mayor Doug Wilder Ruled Richmond is a must-read for both students and practitioners of public administration. It highlights the gnarly effects of city charter reviews and changes that invariably lead to unintended consequences, particularly with respect to the distribution of executive authority. In this case, just enough fragments of executive authority remained with the city council. This led to confusion with respect to executive versus legislative authority, and which made cooperation between the two branches of city government extremely difficult.”

—Harry Black, city manager, Stockton, CA (former deputy chief administrative officer, City of Richmond, Virginia)

A fascinating account of one of America’s most remarkable political figures. Linwood Norman reminds us in these pages that while all politics may be local, certain politicians make an impact far beyond their constituencies—and Doug Wilder was certainly one of them.”

—Jonathan Eig, author of King: A Life

“A must-read for those who consider themselves students of politics, generally, but southern and urban politics, specifically. There are few books about African American mayors written by political insiders that are at once scholarly, entertaining, and accessible to the general public. When Mayor Doug Wilder Ruled Richmond is an attention grabber chock full of nuggets to which only an insider would have access. Linwood Norman paints a portrait of a complex man whose personality is an acquired taste, yet whose commitment to the city in which he was raised was on full display every single day he served as mayor of Richmond. Wilder entered the mayor’s office as arguably the most accomplished African American politician in US history. With this book, Norman situates Wilder as one of the 21st century’s most important political figures.”

—Judson L. Jeffries, PhD, professor in the Department of African American and African studies at Ohio State University and author of Virginia’s Native Son: The Election and Administration of Governor L. Douglas Wilder

“Former Governor Doug Wilder was one of the most consequential Virginians of the past half-century. While we know a good deal about his landmark term as governor, there has been relatively little attention paid to his equally significant time as mayor of Richmond. Linwood Norman, Wilder’s former press secretary at City Hall, fills that gap with this compelling, fast-paced and well-written study of those roller-coaster years.”

—Stephen J. Farnsworth, PhD, professor of political science and international affairs and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington

“It is entirely fitting that former Governor Wilder’s actions as Richmond’s first strong mayor are now memorialized. Linwood Norman’s book offers numerous firsthand accounts of Wilder, serving as a reminder of how much he accomplished to move Richmond forward.”

—Thomas “Tommie” Binga, Virginia public school system

“Douglas Wilder is one of the most important—and fascinating—political figures Virginia has seen. This book, which focuses on his post-gubernatorial career as mayor of Richmond, is a worthy addition to the reportage on Wilder and covers ground that other authors have not.”

—Dwayne Yancey, author of When Hell Froze Over, The Untold Story of Doug Wilder

“Linwood Norman’s engaging new book clearly depicts Doug Wilder’s elements of leadership that were necessary to guide a ‘new’ Richmond. With vivid detail and behind-the-scenes context, When Mayor Doug Wilder Ruled Richmond shows how Wilder understood the politics of city government and could identify the real issues and solutions, even when his candor and practical approach many times flew in the face of the control biases held by council and the ‘establishment.’ Norman paints a highly entertaining portrait of a man who never quit in supporting the need for “strong mayor” governance in Richmond.”

—John C. Watkins, former Virginia state senator

When Mayor Doug Wilder Ruled Richmond is a must-read study regarding the realities of local government management. It deftly describes the policy aspects and drama of resolving a difficult issue like the city’s proposed performing arts project. Although many disagreed with his methods, Mayor Wilder dealt directly with this challenging issue. A time of action, not political messaging.”

—John Gerner, City of Richmond’s liaison consultant for Mayor L. Douglas Wilder’s Performing Arts Committee

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