Nancy K. O'Brien

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Nancy O'Brien
Nancy O'Brien in May 2012

Term Start 1976
Term End 1978
Preceded by Charles Barbour
Succeeded by Laurence Brunton

Term Start 1976
Term End 2000

Biographical Information

Spouse Francis Fife

Nancy O'Brien (b. 1936) served one term as a member of the city council (1976 to 1980),[1] was the first woman to serve as mayor of Charlottesville (1976-1978). [2]


O'Brien moved to the area in the late 1960s. After moving to Charlottesville, she joined the Women's League of Voters and was appointed Treasurer.

Through her political work, O’Brien met former mayor Francis Fife, who would eventually become her second husband.[2]

O'Brien was honored in 1993 by the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce with a Paul Goodloe McIntire Citizenship Award.[3] [citation needed]

City Councilship

In 1976, O'Brien was elected mayor at the beginning of her first term on July 2. [4] During her term, O’Brien advocated for a less siloed local government and increased citizen participation. She campaigned against the Meadowcreek Parkway, now known as the John Warner Parkway, and successfully delayed its construction for decades. She also pushed for Fashion Square Mall to be constructed in Albemarle County instead city limits. Though she was not on City Council when the decision was made to create the downtown mall, one of O'Brien's first official duties was to receive the last brick. [citation needed] While mayor, O’Brien also met Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip of England.

1976 election

Candidates Votes %
Laurence Brunton (R) 4,185
Edwin E. Gatewood, Jr (R) 3,519
Nancy K. O'Brien (D) 2,895
Towle (R) 2,849
Kneedler (D) 2,773
Lushbaugh (I) 2,438
Stroh (D) 2,088
White, (I) 1,171
Tomlin (I) 606
Source: City of Charlottesville [5]
Each voter could vote for up to three candidates in the 1962 election.

Other political activities

O'Brien served on Citizens for a United Community.[6]

O'Brien served for 17 years as the Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, and as a member of the Planning Commission. Nancy currently[when?] serves on the Department of Housing Authority and Community Development Board and the Virginia Housing Development Authority Board. She has also served as chair of the Advisory Committee for the Virginia Community Capital Bank.[7]

O'Brien founded the Leadership Legacy PAC to assist area women to run for state and local office.[7]

At a gathering of former mayors and former vice mayors in September 2015, O'Brien said the contemporary government in Charlottesville has too many committees. [1]

Frances Brand portrait

O'Brien is one of several people commemorated by the late 20th-century artist Frances Brand as part of her Firsts series.[8]

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Web. Former mayors and vice mayors offer advice to City Council, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, September 7, 2015, retrieved November 13, 2017.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Web. Mayorsville: Here, everybody's a mayor, Lisa Provence, News Article, The Hook, August 10, 2006, retrieved January 28, 2023.
  3. Web. Paul Goodloe McIntire Citizenship Award, Website, Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, retrieved November 13, 2017.
  4. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, July 2, 1976.
  5. Web. Election Results for May 4, 1976, City of Charlottesville, retrieved January 28, 2023.
  6. Charlottesville City Council Minutes. 7 Apr. 2003. City of Charlottesville, Virginia. 24 Mar. 2009 <>.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Profile, Democratic Party of Virginia, retrieved 18 Jul 2009.
  8. Branigan, Michelle Marie (December 1998). A Biography of Frances Brand, an American Painter and Social Activist (PhD). Indiana University.