New Norfolk city councilman takes office; Martin Thomas Jr. reelected vice mayor

Josh Janney/The Virginian-Pilot/TNS

Norfolk’s city government kicked off the new year Tuesday by swearing in five City Council members.

Incumbents Thomas Smigiel Jr., Mamie B. Johnson, Martin Thomas Jr. and Courtney Doyle won reelection to four-year terms in November, while newcomer John E. “JP” Paige won the Ward 4 seat to replace longtime Councilman Paul Riddick, who did not seek reelection.

The five took their oaths of office before a judge at City Hall and accepted their official duties as mandated by the city charter.

“I’m overwhelmingly humbled by this,” Paige told The Virginian-Pilot after taking his oath. “But there’s much work to be done, and I’m here for that work.”

Paige, a bail bondsman, had never held elected office.

He said his priority is to “get in and learn” while promoting “a new vision, equity and transparency.” He said his most significant concern is addressing the gun violence plaguing Hampton Roads. He said “violence begets violence” and that if the matter isn’t addressed, the youth who are currently nonviolent are at risk of becoming violent to protect themselves.

He said he wants the City Council to be proactive on the matter.

“Instead of talking about what happens after a trigger is pulled, let’s get in front of it and talk about what happens before,” Paige said.

Later Tuesday, the council voted to keep Martin Thomas Jr. as vice mayor. Thomas, who has served in the role since July 2018, is a partner at the Decker Law Firm in downtown Norfolk. He was first elected to represent Ward 1 in a special election in 2016 and was reelected in 2018 and 2022.

Vice mayors are elected by the council every two years.

Josh Janney,