|Mayor of Virginia Beach, Virginia|
January 5, 2009
|Preceded by||Meyera Oberndorf|
|Vice Mayor of Virginia Beach|
July 2, 1992 – July 2, 2002
|Preceded by||Robert Fentress|
|Succeeded by||Robert C. Mandigo Jr.|
|Virginia Beach City Council|
1988 – July 2, 2002
|Succeeded by||Ron A. Villanueva / Peter W. Schmidt|
|Born||c. 1954 (age 61–62)|
|Spouse(s)||Beverley (c. 1977–)|
|Children||Mollie S. Korte, Kate S. Napolitano, and Anne Douglas|
|Alma mater||Virginia Commonwealth University, B.B.A.|
|Occupation||Politician, Bank Officer|
William Douglas "Will" Sessoms, Jr. (born c. 1954) is mayor of Virginia Beach, Virginia (2008-) as well as president and CEO (2011-) of Towne Financial Services Group, a division of TowneBank of Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Sessoms previously served as councilman (1988–2002) and vice mayor of Virginia Beach (1992–2002). He declined to run for re-election as Vice Mayor in 2002. Sessoms served previously as president and director of the Virginia Beach region at TowneBank (2005-2011).
In 1988, he was elected to an at-large seat on the Virginia Beach City Council in a special election. He had been a member of the Virginia Beach Rescue Squad and a banker with Central Fidelity. In 1990, he ran in the May 1 election to retain his at-large seat on the city council. He and fellow at-large incumbent Nancy K. Parker won re-election over nine challengers despite public displeasure regarding Labor Day weekend riots the previous year.
On July 2, 1992, his city council colleagues elected him Vice Mayor by a 7–4 vote, although Sessoms had been maneuvering for a unanimous vote. While in office, he continued to serve as a Senior vice president in commercial loans at Central Fidelity National Bank. During his 1994 re-election, he was found to own stock in Philip Morris and have voted against an increase in the cigarette tax, the major source of funding for an economic development incentive fund. He was supported by both Republican and Democratic officials. He was again re-elected on May 3, 1994, and he received the most votes of any city council candidate. He considered contesting Meyera Oberndorf for Mayor in 1996, but stayed in office and was appointed to a third two-year term as Vice Mayor in 1996. At the time of his 1998 election, he was a banker for Wachovia. He won re-election on May 5, 1998. Citing family reasons and job pressures, fourth-term councilman and fifth-term Vice Mayor Sessoms declined to run for re-election in 2002.
During Sessoms' time on the City Council and his tenure as Vice Mayor, he was not widely cited outside of Virginia. However, in 1997, when Virginia Beach struck a deal with the PGA Tour to build a $10 million championship golf course, Sessoms was one of the city's spokespersons. The tour agreed to pay $6.5 million of the construction cost.
Sessoms decided to run for mayor in July 2007. By December 31, 2007, Sessoms had a US$321,000 to $5,600 fundraising edge. Sessoms announced his mayoral candidacy on June 25, 2008 and was endorsed by Doug McCain, who is a Virginia Beach resident and John McCain's son. Sessoms' highest previous office was Vice Mayor of Virginia Beach, but at the time of his election he was serving as the president of TowneBank Virginia Beach. Sessoms defeated five-term incumbent Meyera Oberndorf on November 4, 2008. Previous municipal elections had been held in May. Oberndorf had been mayor since it became an office decided by direct election in 1988. Sessoms was sworn in on January 5, 2009, and his stated agenda from his swearing-in speech was to create jobs, improve the environment and neighborhoods, purchase Norfolk Southern Railway right-of-way to build a light-rail line, and address problems with youth gangs. Mayor Sessoms announced a campaign for a third term in February 2016 and launched his campaign on August 26, 2016. The election date is November 8, 2016.
2014 conflict of interest allegations
On November 9, 2014, the Virginian Pilot reported that Sessoms had "voted dozens of times with the City Council on matters directly benefiting developers who borrowed at least $140 million from the bank. The votes violate Sessoms’ promise not to let his duties to the bank conflict with his public obligations, and some may also violate state law." John Holland, writing for the newspaper, said "a review of some 3,000 court, land and council records showed a pattern of such votes spanning his nearly six years in office." Subsequently, Virginia Beach councilman John Moss said "what the newspaper reported makes a prima facie case against the mayor, and that isn't going to just go away," adding "law enforcement officials must investigate whether Mayor Will Sessoms broke the law."
On November 11, 2014, on returning from an international trip, Sessoms issued a statement saying "I have been made aware of the recent stories and am taking this situation and these allegations seriously." Sessoms was subsequently suspended (with pay) by the bank, pending an investigation. On the following day, the City of Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney asked for a special prosecutor investigation if Sessoms broke laws by casting council votes in favor of bank clients. The Mayors of the neighboring cities of Norfolk and Suffolk, Paul Fraim and Linda Johnson, resigned their directorships at TowneBank on November 13, to “eliminate any perception of a conflict of interest and is not suggestive that any conflict exists.” A day later, Sessoms resigned his positions on TowneBank boards. On December 24, 2014, Sessoms resigned from TowneBank, in accordance with a new policy prohibiting senior bank management from holding elective office.
Married to his wife Beverly since 1977, the Sessoms have three children, Mollie S. Korte, Kate S. Napolitano, and Anne Douglas. His father-in-law is Roy B. Martin, Jr., former mayor of Norfolk, Virginia.
Sessoms is a Bachelor of Business Administration alumnus of Virginia Commonwealth University. Until September 1988, he was a member of the board of directors of the Princess Anne Country Club, which was at the time an integration target by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Early in his political career his continuing membership in the allegedly discriminatory country club and his decision to send his children to the private Norfolk Academy were raised as issues by his political opponents, claiming such actions to be "elitist".
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- Varner, Jesse (August 23, 2016). "Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms kick-offs reelection campaign". WAVY. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
- "Sessom's Council Vote Benefited Townebank Borrowers". The Virginian Pilot, John Holland, November 8, 2014.
- "Beach councilman wants inquiry into mayor's actions". The Virginian Pilot, John Holland, November 9, 2014.
- "Va. Beach mayor responds to conflict allegations". The Virginian Pilot, John Holland and Kathy Hieatt, November 12, 2014.
- "Va. Beach prosecutor seeks review of Sessoms' votes". The Virginian Pilot, John Holland, Gabriella Souza and Kathy Hieatt, November 13, 2014.
- "Norfolk, Suffolk mayors resign from TowneBank boards". The Virginian Pilot, John Holland, Gabriella Souza and Kathy Hieatt, November 14, 2014.
- "Virginia Beach mayor gives up TowneBank board seats". Kathy Hieatt, November 14, 2014.
- "Va. Beach mayor resigns bank job under new policy". The Virginian Pilot, John Holland, December 24, 2014.
Mayor Will Sessoms resigned from TowneBank on Tuesday after being asked to choose to either stay on as a bank president or remain as the head of Virginia's largest city. The departure comes less than a month after TowneBank changed its policy to prohibit senior bank management from holding any elective office, according to a bank statement and a regulatory filing.
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