MICHAEL SIGNER

Former Mayor, Charlottesville, VA

Michael Signer is an award-winning former mayor, an executive and attorney, and an author whose leadership in support of democracy and freedom, and against extremism and intolerance, has been recognized around the country. 

He served as Mayor of Charlottesville from 2016 to 2018, a AAA-bond-rated city of nearly 50,000 that is frequently ranked among America's best places to live and that has Virginia's lowest unemployment rate. 

He is the founder and chair of Communities Overcoming Extremism: the After Charlottesville Project, a project whose goal is to increase the capacity of leaders in the public and private sectors to address extremism through alliances and collective wisdom.  The project's sponsors and partners include the Ford Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, the Charles Koch Institute, New America, the Center for American Progress, the John Pritzker Fund, the Aspen Institute, and Georgetown University. 


Mike is a lecturer at the University of Virginia.  His books Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies (St. Martin's Press 2009) and Becoming Madison: The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father (PublicAffairs 2015) have been assigned in classes at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, James Madison University, and George Mason University. He has written opinion pieces and essays for The Atlantic,The Washington Post, Time, Vox, Democracy, and The New Republic, among others.

He is Vice President and General Counsel of WillowTree, Inc., a digital design agency with nearly 300 employees. He serves on the firm's executive team and directs many corporate and strategic matters, including the firm's Social Impact practice.

Mike served as Mayor during the violent "Unite the Right" rally in August 2017. He received the Anti-Defamation League's Levenson Family Defender of Democracy Award in 2017. He is the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of California Alumni Club of Washington, D.C. He is a member of the 2018 class of Aspen Institute Rodel Fellows. He was recognized by Forward Magazine in its "Forward 50" 2017 list of the 50 most influential Jewish leaders in America. He was a 2009 candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia. 

He has been profiled by CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian and interviewed by Meet the Press, Face the Nation, the Rachel Maddow Show, and NPR's Morning Edition. He has been an invited speaker at Princeton University, Georgetown University, James Madison University, Marymount University, Wake Forest University, Ryerson University, the Aspen Ideas Festival, South by Southwest, the Concordia Summit, Israel's Foreign Ministry, the Friedrich Ebert Institute in Berlin, the Anti-Defamation League, the B'nai Brith Youth Organization, and the Richmond World Affairs Council.

He has held many leadership roles in nonprofits and civic organizations. He has received senior appointments from three Virginia governors and served as counsel to Governor Mark Warner. He is the former Chair of the Emergency Food Network and former President of the Fifeville Neighborhood Association, both located in Charlottesville. He served on the Board of Directors of OneVirginia2021, which advocates for nonpartisan redistricting. As a law student at the University of Virginia, he founded the Coalition for Progress on Race and co-founded the Center for the Study of Race and Law. He was also President of the UVA Law Democrats and Co-President of the UVA chapter of the American Constitution Society.


He holds a Ph.D. in political science from U.C., Berkeley, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow; a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law; and a B.A. in politics, magna cum laude, from Princeton University, where he was a work-study student.


Mike was raised in Arlington, Virginia, where he attended majority-minority public schools. He and his wife live with their twin boys in Charlottesville. In his spare time, Mike enjoys running, reading, cooking, gardening, and serving as a jungle gym for his boys.

*Mr. Signer is appearing as a private citizen, not on behalf of the City or City Council of Charlottesville.