© 2024 WHRO Public Media
5200 Hampton Boulevard, Norfolk VA 23508
757.889.9400 | info@whro.org
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Why are there so many funeral directors in elected office in Hampton Roads?

Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander operates Metropolitan Funeral Services.
Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander operates Metropolitan Funeral Services.

They say the only sure things in life are death and taxes.

But you may be surprised how often the person arranging the funerals is the same one voting on that tax increase.

Browsing the bios of Norfolk’s City Council members, you may notice that mixed in with the elected lawyers and educators are not one, but two funeral home directors.

Both Mayor Kenny Alexander and long-time councilman Paul Riddick run competing funeral homes.

And this isn’t unique to Norfolk.

Councilman Lewis Jones in Virginia Beach runs Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home. In Portsmouth and Chesapeake, former mayors and vice-mayors were also undertakers.

And funeral director Thomas Blyley, once the vice-mayor of Richmond, spent 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

So why do so many undertakers end up holding elected office?

Alexander, Norfolk’s mayor, said it’s partly the public-facing nature of the job. “I think it’s trust … serving families in their time of grief, having the rapport, building that relationship with the constituency,” he said. Jay McIntyre is a funeral home director from Waynesboro and president of the Virginia Funeral Directors Association. He said lots of the skills of a good funeral director translate well to elected life. “A big part of our job is listening to folks,” McIntyre said. “It's natural that (funeral directors) are very well suited to be public servants.” And as for the pair of funeral directors on Norfolk’s council, Alexander said competition has never gotten in the way of governing.


Ryan is WHRO’s business and growth reporter. He joined the newsroom in 2021 after eight years at local newspapers, the Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot. Ryan is a Chesapeake native and still tries to hold his breath every time he drives through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

The world changes fast.

Keep up with daily local news from WHRO. Get local news every weekday in your inbox.

Sign-up here.