'It Makes Us Look Like Fools': Riverdale Developer Urged Roanoke Council Not To 'Fire' City Manager, Emails Show

Other Roanoke developers expressed mixed feelings about Bob Cowell’s departure, with a couple saying it was time the city manager moved on.

City Manager Bob Cowell, left, speaks with developer Ed Walker, right, during a November 2023 update on Riverdale, a mixed use development that aims to transform the former American Viscose Plant in Southeast Roanoke. PHOTO BY HENRI GENDREAU FOR THE ROANOKE RAMBLER

The developer behind Roanoke’s ambitious Riverdale project urged elected officials in May not to “fire” then-city manager Bob Cowell, just days before City Council accepted Cowell’s resignation, emails show.

Developer Ed Walker described the anticipated action behind Cowell’s departure as “among the most fundamentally unwise local government decisions of the last 50 years” and predicted Roanoke would be in “municipal ‘no man’s land’ for leadership for 8-12 months,” according to emails the city released in a public records request.