Lynchburg Mayor Stephanie Reed listens to council member Jeff Helgeson. Screenshot from video of meeting on Feb. 14, 2023.
Lynchburg Mayor Stephanie Reed listens to council member Jeff Helgeson. Screenshot from video of meeting on Feb. 14, 2023.

The day after last November’s elections, which saw Republicans win a majority on the Lynchburg City Council, Rep. Bob Good called council member Chris Faraldi to congratulate him on the sweep.

The Republican congressman from neighboring Campbell County had other things on his mind, though.

Chris Faraldi
Council member Chris Faraldi. Courtesy of Faraldi.

He quickly started criticizing Faraldi — one of two Republican members on the seven-member council before the election — for voting for the city’s budget, which he felt was excessive.

“I think you know that I was very disappointed that you did not vote against the recent budget,” Good said, according to a recording of the phone conversation that I was able to access through a Freedom of Information Act request. (Good’s office did not respond to a request for comment.)

In the phone call, Faraldi tried to explain that Lynchburg has multiple budgets — that he voted for the general fund budget because it included a real estate tax credit but voted against the capital improvement plan budget because he felt it was too high. “That tax break wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t motioned” for the tax credit, Faraldi said. “That’s a really powerful motion that puts the Democrats on their heels. I voted against everything else. … So to say I voted for the budget, I don’t want to say it’s misleading —”

Rep. Bob Good. Courtesy of the Good campaign.

Good did not seem interested in discussing those nuances. “It may not tell the whole story but it’s true you voted for the budget,” he insisted.

“I voted for the general fund,” Faraldi repeated — with a tax break.

Good then moved on to what seemed to be the main thrust of his phone call: who the new Republican council would elect as its mayor. “Now that we have the Republican majority for the first time ever, I hope you will support Jeff for mayor,” Good said — Jeff being longtime Republican council member Jeff Helgeson.

A long silence followed.

“Why would you have me do that?” Faraldi asked.

Good seemed surprised. “Why would I have you support Jeff for mayor? Who else would you support? Jeff is the conservative leader on the board. Jeff has been there the longest time. There are only two returning Republicans on the board.” (Helgeson and Faraldi were the only Republicans on the council before Marty Misjuns, Stephanie Reed and Larry Taylor won last year.)

Faraldi then outlined some policy differences he had with Helgeson. “I’m not comfortable just blanket doing that moving forward mainly because I support an elected school board — he doesn’t. I’m concerned he’s voted more times to increase his own starting salary than vote for an open and transparent school board policy.”

“Are you really going to try to attack Jeff?” Good asked.

“You misunderstand, I’m not attacking anybody,” Faraldi said.

“You just did, Chris,” Good replied.

“You asked me who I’d support,” Faraldi countered.

“Who else would you support?” Good wanted to know.

Faraldi said he’d vote for himself before he’d vote for Helgeson — and suggested that Helgeson had been ineffective during his time on the council. “Honestly, he was on there 20 years and it took me two years to get a majority and I was the one who vetted these candidates,” Faraldi said.

That’s when the conversation took a darker turn. “Chris, I’m going to level with you — I’ve always thought you were a self-serving, ambitious, untrustworthy politician,” Good said. “I’d like you to prove me wrong.”

This conversation went on — unproductively — for 27 minutes. 

“I want you to think long and hard about what you’re doing,” Good warned Faraldi. 

“Bob, I want you to know, by my heart, I’ve been 100% transparent with you. I don’t know why there has to be a conflict on this — I’m just stating why I have reservations, that’s all. It doesn’t have to be a visceral thing.”

“You’re telling me you’re not going to support somebody for mayor because they may not share your view on the school board — appointed or elected — and because they voted for their salary to go up?” Good asked. He also came back to complain again about Faraldi’s budget vote. “I think it was a huge mistake for any Republican to vote for that budget.”

Faraldi tried to probe why Good was so keen for Helgeson and gently tried to suggest that Helgeson — who comes across in the council meetings I’ve seen as quite combative — might not be the best persona for Lynchburg Republicans to project. “May I ask you in your mind if Jeff is mayor, how we maintain that majority in four years?” Faraldi asked. 

Good replied that “if Republicans do what Republicans are elected to do,” then “I believe Republicans will be rewarded with continued control of the board.” He cited Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (whom he is backing for president) as an example of strong conservative leadership. “It’s not time to reach out and find consensus with the two Democrats on the board,” Good said.

“It’s not so much the voting,” Faraldi said, “it’s the way it comes across. I know the city doesn’t respond well in the areas we need to win — which would be Ward 1 and Ward 2 — that would be galvanized by the way Jeff can be engaged on stuff.” Translation: Ward 1 is a swing area that is presently represented on the council by a Democrat. Ward 2 is a mostly Black part of town, where Faraldi pointed out that turnout was low in 2022 — but might not be if Republicans did something to inspire a voter backlash. Further translation: Helgeson may be such a polarizing personality that, if elevated to mayor, he might do Republicans more harm than good. 

“Let me counsel you, Chris,” Good said again. “Doing the right thing here positions you to be …  the vice mayor and the next mayor.” Translation: If Faraldi voted for Helgeson for mayor now, someday he might be in line to be mayor. 

Good went on: “I’m probably wading further into something I don’t have a vote in … [but] it’s inconceivable to me and unconscionable to me that three new Republican members” would not vote for Helgeson for mayor. “I can’t imagine what rationale they would have to not do that.” He mused that maybe even the two remaining Democrats on council would be “magnanimous” and support Helgeson, too. “Maybe they would vote and make it a 7-0 unified thing — I’m not going to talk to them.”

Events played out very differently. The new Lynchburg City Council did not elect Helgeson as mayor. Instead, on a 4-3 vote, council elected Reed, a council newcomer who had led the balloting in November’s election. By the same 4-3 vote, the council then elected Faraldi as vice mayor. Republicans Reed, Faraldi and the two Democrats were the four. Since then, Lynchburg’s council has been embroiled in one controversy after another. The Republican majority did do what it said it would do and lowered the real estate tax rate, a permanent cut and not just the tax credit that Faraldi got Democrats to approve in last year’s general fund budget. However, the Republicans on the council have often quarreled among themselves. The most infamous moment came when Helgeson was caught muttering into a hot mic that Reed was “the stupidest person on earth” and, according to the News & Advance reporter who was present, a police officer positioned himself near the two as they argued. “How dare you?” Reed demanded, to which Helgeson said, “How dare you, young lady?” Then there was the incident where the council voted 5-2 to adjourn before taking up a vote on one of Misjuns’ measures, which Faradli called “retaliation” because Misjuns had been rude to city staff members. That prompted the executive committee of Lynchburg’s Republican Party to vote to censure Faraldi, a measure that the entire Lynchburg Republican City Committee voted 38-0 with one absentation (Faraldi’s) to rescind Monday night at a specially called meeting. (In advance of the meeting, the executive committee issued a statement saying the larger meeting was invalid.) Del. Wendell Walker, R-Lynchburg, one of multiple Lynchburg Republican office-holders who attended the Monday night meeting, described what’s happening as “a family squabble.” To me it seems to be a struggle between mainstream conservatives (such as Faraldi) and more hardcore conservatives (such as Good and Misjuns and Helgeson) over what constitutes a Republican. Others in attendance in support of Faraldi included state Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, Sheriff Donald Sloan and Mayor Reed.

I cite the long interchange between Good and Faraldi above because it’s revealing as to the role that the congressman tried to play in determining who Lynchburg’s mayor would be — and it helps explain Good’s comments earlier this month in an interview with Lynchburg radio station WLNI. He blamed the conflicts on the council with its decision not to elect Helgeson as mayor. He likened the decision to elect Reed with the U.S. House of Representatives electing a “freshman moderate” as speaker of the House. “How ridiculous would that have been?” he asked. “That’s essentially what city council did.” He called Helgeson “the conservative leader, the presumptive mayor, been on city council 20 years or so, fighting the good fight” and said that by council electing someone else as mayor, “Republican voters were betrayed. … A freshman, brand new, that’s how things got off course.”

I have followed politics for a long time and I’ve never seen anything quite like this, so it seems worth trying to put all this internal Republican conflict in context.

  • The congressman’s involvement in city council politics — from the size of the Lynchburg budget to lobbying council members about who they should pick as mayor — is unusual, to say the least. I can’t imagine Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, calling up members of the Salem City Council to tell them who they should elect as mayor. Or Rep. Ben Cline, R-Botetourt County, either. It is more reminiscent of the old days of the Byrd Machine when U.S. Sen. Harry Byrd Sr. took an interest in making sure his allies were in positions of power across the state. In an interview with WLNI, Lynchburg’s new mayor did not much care for Good getting so involved. “Everybody stay in your lane,” she said.
  • Good is simply wrong in saying that it’s “ridiculous” that a brand new member of council was elected mayor. Every community has its own traditions, but there are plenty of examples elsewhere of first-time council members being elected mayor. Earlier this year, the Martinsville City Council unanimously elected newcomer L.C. Jones as its mayor. In 2020, the Salem City Council elected newcomer Renee Turk as mayor on a 3-2 vote over a four-term member of council. Somehow Salem managed to overcome that split vote without any public recriminations. In 2018, Charlottesville elected newcomer Nikuyah Walker mayor on a 4-1 vote over the senior member of council. Two years before, Charlottesville had elected another first-term council mayor, Michael Signer, as mayor. Lynchburg electing Reed as mayor on her first day on the council may be unusual in the Hill City, but it’s well within the tradition of nearby cities whose councils choose the mayor. Good may have thought that Helgeson was “the presumptive mayor” because of his seniority, but that presumption was rooted in hope only. He clearly misjudged how a majority of the council felt about Helgeson. Good is right that it would be shocking if the U.S. House of Representatives elected a freshman as speaker but he’s indirectly suggesting that local government should work the same way that Washington does.
  • Good sees the world in stark terms. We knew this already, but here’s more evidence. Early in his phone conversation with Faraldi, Good remarks that local elections are “mostly about the money” and seems to lament this. “We don’t get a lot of value-based issues to vote on,” he said. His extended complaint about the Lynchburg budget reflects this. He saw a budget he felt was too big and felt Faraldi should have voted no. Faraldi pointed out that, with a Democratic majority on the council then, it would have still passed — by getting involved, he was able to get the tax credit on the real estate rate. Faraldi saw a more nuanced, and practical, vote that resulted in smaller tax bills; Good wanted a more symbolic vote that would have resulted in larger tax bills. Those are two very different ways of approaching politics. Good’s reference to DeSantis is also telling. Good credited DeSantis’ bulldog personality with turning Florida from a swing state into a more reliably Republican one. That seems a simplistic misunderstanding of Florida politics, and perhaps politics at large. Florida has been turning Republican for a long time. It’s had four straight Republican governors, starting with Jeb Bush in 1998. It’s gone Republican in 13 of the last 18 presidential elections, starting with Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. If Florida is going more Republican now — and party registration is in the Republicans’ favor — it’s probably not because of a single governor. It’s likely because of Florida’s high rate of in-migration from other states, which brings in a lot of Republican-voting newcomers. Seen that way, DeSantis is the effect, not the cause. In a more closely divided state, his more strident version of conservatism (some of which may not be very conservative, but we’ll let that slide) might be counterproductive. That was the practical point Faraldi was trying to make about the prospect of a Mayor Helgeson in Lynchburg, but that’s not how Good sees the world.

How will all this Lynchburg infighting resolve itself? Ultimately voters will have their say. For that, Good may have a voice but he won’t have a vote: He doesn’t live in the city.

Yancey is editor of Cardinal News. His opinions are his own. You can reach him at