Meyera Oberndorf

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Meyera E. Oberndorf
Virginia Beach Mayor speaking at CCC Dedication (5853384487) (2).jpg
23rd Mayor of Virginia Beach, Virginia
In office
July 1, 1988 – January 1, 2009
Preceded by Robert G. Jones
Succeeded by William D. Sessoms, Jr.
Vice Mayor of Virginia Beach
In office
July 1, 1986 – June 30, 1988
Preceded by Reba McClanan
Succeeded by Robert Fentress
Member, Virginia Beach City Council
In office
July 1, 1976 – June 30, 1988
Member, Public Library Board
In office
1966 – June 30, 1976
Personal details
Born (1941-02-10)February 10, 1941
Died March 13, 2015(2015-03-13) (aged 74)
Charlotte, North Carolina
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Roger Oberndorf
Alma mater Old Dominion University (B.A.)
Profession public servant
Religion Jewish
Website [1]

Meyera E. Oberndorf (February 10, 1941 – March 13, 2015) was the 23rd mayor of Virginia Beach, Virginia. She was Virginia Beach's longest serving mayor, and she previously served as the city's vice mayor. She was the city's first female mayor and was the first woman elected to public office in the more than 300-year history of Virginia Beach or its predecessor, Princess Anne County.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Though she was Virginia Beach's first directly elected Mayor, her role was primarily to serve as the chair during City Council meetings, of which she had been a member since 1976, and to officiate at a wide array of ceremonial functions. This is because Virginia Beach has a council-manager form of government. Virginia Beach is the largest populated city in the Commonwealth of Virginia.[2]

In 1989, prior to an annual end of the summer event sponsored by African American college students, Oberndorf announced that the event had grown too large to handle and was not welcome in the city.[3] Combined with city officials denying use of public facilities for the event and new ordinances which led to the arrests and citations of hundreds of attendees for mostly minor offenses such as jay-walking and loud music, Oberndorf's statement heightened racial tensions which exploded with the "Greekfest" riots in which over 100 beachfront stores were damaged. Despite her claim that NAACP assertions of poor racial relations between the city and African Americans were "poppycock,"[4] city actions in 1989 and in the years following so damaged race relations that it wasn't until two decades later, at the tail end of Obendorf's long-time mayoralty, that Virginia Beach again began to have success drawing large numbers of African Americans to the resort beachfront.[5]

In April 2007, Oberndorf was criticized by Fox News Channel commentator Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly claimed she mishandled a situation involving illegal immigrant Alfredo Ramos, who was accused and later convicted of causing a fatal drunk driving accident on March 30, 2007. O'Reilly said that Virginia Beach should have reported Ramos to Immigration and Customs Enforcement once they realized he was in the country illegally, since he had prior alcohol-related convictions, including DUI and public drunkenness. However, Virginia Beach didn't learn of the immigrant's status until after the accident.

On November 5, 2008, Oberndorf was defeated by Will Sessoms, ending her two decade run as mayor. On December 10, 2008, before her term expired, the city council unanimously voted to rename the city's Central Library the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library.[6]

On March 4, 2013, the Diocese of Richmond and Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia presented Oberndorf with the Bishop's Humanitarian Award for her public service.[7] She was posthumously named one of the Virginia Women in History for 2016.[8]

Subsequent career[edit]

After leaving her position as mayor, Oberndorf appeared in a series of commercials for ABNB Federal Credit Union in 2009. Governor Tim Kaine appointed her to the Virginia State Library Board in 2009 and she served there until resigning in December 2012.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Oberndorf's husband, Roger, died from complications of a brain injury in October 2012. Following her husband's death, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. She was also a breast cancer survivor and had two daughters.[10] Oberndorf died at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 13, 2015, at the age of 74.[11]


  1. ^ "Official City of Virginia Beach Website". City of Virginia Beach. Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  2. ^ "Virginia Population Estimates | Demographics". Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  3. ^ Why Virginia Beach Happened. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  4. ^ Virginia Beach Is Quiet After Violence. The New York Times; retrieved 2013-09-01.
  5. ^ The painful legacy of 1989's Greekfest endures. The Virginian-Pilot; retrieved 2013-09-01.
  6. ^ "Central Library Renamed for Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf". City of Virginia Beach. December 10, 2008. Retrieved September 18, 2010. 
  7. ^ "WAVY-TV". Retrieved 27 February 2017. 
  8. ^ "Virginia Women in History 2016 Meyera Fran Ellenson Oberndorf". Retrieved 23 June 2016. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Former Va. Beach mayor's new challenge: Alzheimer's". Retrieved 23 June 2016. 
  11. ^ Fox, Andy. "Former VB mayor Meyera Oberndorf dies at age 74". Retrieved 13 March 2015. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert G. Jones
Mayor of Virginia Beach, Virginia
Succeeded by
William D. Sessoms, Jr.
Preceded by
Reba McClanan
Vice Mayor of Virginia Beach
Succeeded by
Robert Fentress