Roanoke City Attorney William Hackworth Retiring

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William Hackworth
William Hackworth

by Valerie Garner

The tall lanky graying man that sits next to Director of Finance Ann Shawver during council meetings rarely speaks unless spoken to . . . Not your typical attorney.

William Hackworth, 63 is retiring as Roanoke City’s attorney after 23 years. He became a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington but says he hated the traveling. Hence the decision to accept a pay cut as a city attorney. Roanoke City struck his fancy and representing the city also gave him more time with family.

Hackworth is a graduate of Ohio State University, the University of Virginia School of Law, and the University of Virginia School of Government and Foreign Affairs. He served as an Assistant City Attorney for the city of Roanoke from 1978 to 1988, when he became County Attorney for York County, VA. before returning to Roanoke in 1998. He is a former president of Local Government Attorneys of Virginia.

Hackworth explained the process for his replacement saying, “Council will advertise for applicants … it can select an applicant from within or without. If the replacement process goes past

December, it will be up to Council as to whom it would appoint to act as acting city attorney.”

Hackworth loves the outdoors and plans to hike and travel for the better part of his first year in retirement. Then he will “write a few books” and expects “that will take me a while,” he said.

When asked what his most memorable case was when defending the city he said, “it was probably the challenge years ago when I was an assistant to the rezoning to permit the development of Valley View Mall. If I had lost that case, the City wouldn’t have Valley View Mall, and a lot of its spin off retail shopping.”

Hackworth has often had to spar with reporters (including this one) over Freedom of Information requests and closed session disclosure on council agendas. It was always respectful and peppered with  “good natured” digs.

Personally, I came to appreciate his quiet, dry sense of humor. We served on a FOIA panel sponsored by the Virginia Coalition for Open Government this past summer at The Roanoke Times. Megan Rhyne, director and moderator was at first concerned that we were going to get into a heated argument. She quickly found out after a few verbal pokes at each other and a beaming Hackworth that it was all a show even in disagreement.

In an email this week he said teasingly, “I think I’ll file a lot of FOIA requests when I retire!”