CHARLOTTESVILLE — Albemarle County employees will now get a floating holiday instead of a paid holiday for Thomas Jefferson’s birthday on April 13.
The county’s Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved the change, which county staff said was related to customer service issues.
“This does not prevent the county from taking appropriate measures to recognize Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to the community,” said County Executive Jeff Richardson.
The county’s Human Resources Department staff members are almost all school division employees. HR employees can choose to follow the school administration holidays — which have not had Jefferson’s birthday as a paid holiday — or the local government holidays.
HR is near the front of the building, and employees often end up directing community members within the building, especially on the April 13 holiday.
Richardson said that both last year and this year, HR employees observed people who came in the building and were trying to access county services. He said about 25 citizens came into the department and asked for help, and others were in the hallway.
“Some were irritated, several were irate,” Richardson said. “We put notes on our doors three or four days in advance of the holiday to say, ‘We will be closed on this day.’ HR said they had people come in and ask, ‘Why will you be closed this Friday?’”
County staff members have been looking at this proposed change for about a year, he said. The board had to approve the list of holidays before the start of the next fiscal year.
“We were not aware of anything else that might be going on in the community on a parallel track,” Richardson said.
The Charlottesville City Council has also discussed replacing Jefferson’s birthday with Liberation and Freedom Day on March 3. Councilors are scheduled to vote on the proposed changes on July 1.
Supervisor Liz Palmer said she thought the change was wonderful and that the complaints were not new.
“It solves a problem that I’ve been hearing about since I got on this board — since 2014 — and I really appreciate you taking the time to recognize Mr. Jefferson’s contributions to this community and that we will still be celebrating this birthday,” she said.
During general public comment, Craig Decker said this could be seen as a demotion of Jefferson’s legacy.
“I think this is a significant decision that many people aren’t thinking about the ramifications and I would hope that before eliminating it you would at least provide time for more input,” he said.
He said citizens and employees should be polled on the change and that the board should “look before you undermine your brand.”
“You should at least get the staff to look at what the impacts of this might be, and unforeseen ones, like the removing of the statue, we saw how many unforeseen impacts that had,” said Decker, referring to the City Council voting to remove statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
The floating holiday will need to be used between Jan. 1 and June 30 of next year. The board will also have to vote on a policy change at a later date.