With David Nygaard gone, we can at least be glad that Virginia Beach will still have LGBTQ representation on its City Council, in the person of former Hampton Roads Pride President Michael Berlucchi.
On Tuesday, Virginia Beach’s City Council voted 9-1 to appoint Hampton Roads LGBTQ activist Michael Berlucchi to fill a vacant seat on City Council. This appointment came in the wake of not one but two vacancies on the Council, both of which occurred since the start of 2019.
The first of these vacancies came when a panel of Circuit Court judges ruled that David Nygaard, Virginia Beach’s first openly gay council member, had made an invalid claim to residency within the district he’d been elected to serve. Nygaard, who’d faced multiple legal challenges to his office since his narrow electoral victory last November, had only been seated on the council two months earlier.
Berlucchi was not nominated to replace Nygaard — that council seat was filled last month by retired attorney Guy Tower. Instead, Berlucchi was appointed to replace a second City Council member, Shannon Kane, who resigned her seat last month after moving out of the city’s Rose Hill District. Berlucchi’s appointment to the seat means that, less than two months after Nygaard’s removal from office, Virginia Beach’s City Council once again has LGBTQ representation.
Berlucchi, currently the Community Engagement Manager at Nofolk’s Chrysler Museum of Art, has also served as the president of Hampton Roads Pride, and on Virginia Beach’s Human Rights Commission. He also co-chairs Virginia Beach For Fairness, an LGBTQ advocacy group created to lobby Virginia’s General Assembly to pass statewide anti-discrimination housing and employment laws for LGBTQ citizens of the Commonwealth.
However, Berlucchi’s time as president of Hampton Roads Pride was not without controversy; his decision to allow Gays For Trump to have a booth at Hampton Roads Pride in 2017 was widely criticized. This was partly due to that group’s connections with Scott Pressler, an anti-Muslim activist with connections to ACT For America!, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. That said, Berlucchi has maintained a non-partisan position in his pro-LGBTQ activism, and received an OUTstanding Virginians award from Equality Virginia in 2018.
Berlucchi made no overt mention of his LGBTQ activism in his stated priorities for his time on Virginia Beach’s City Council, instead naming his top priorities as:
- Storm water, recurrent flooding and sea level rise;
- Jobs and a vibrant economy supported by strong schools;
- Public safety.
Berlucchi’s interim term will extend until a special election to be held on the first Tuesday of November 2019. According to the Virginian-Pilot, Berlucchi intends to run for a full term in the election.
Photo by Glenn Bashaw, via Facebook