Michael Signer

Michael Signer

North America Policy Director, Airbnb


In 2022, Mike became North America Policy Director for Airbnb, the publicly-traded travel and hospitality technology company whose community includes millions of guests and hosts around the world.  He oversees a team of dozens of skilled public policy professionals representing the interests of Airbnb and our thousands of guests and hosts in thousands of markets across the United States and Canada, spearheading additionally the company’s work on issues from economic empowerment, housing affordability, and trust and safety.

From 2017 - 2022 he was Partner, VP and General Counsel of WillowTree, the country’s largest independent digital design agency, where he sat on the firm’s executive committee. Among other responsibilities, he was lead negotiator for many multi-million dollar agreements with Fortune 500 companies, founded and led the Social Impact practice, and led the development of a new 85,000 square foot headquarters involving state and local support. Previously, he served as Founder and Managing Principal of Madison Law & Strategy Group, PLLC, from 2010 - 2016, where he practiced corporate and regulatory law, where his clients included the southeast’s largest hedge fund, a major alternative energy company, and dozens of early-stage technology companies. Earlier in his career he was counsel to Governor Mark Warner of Virginia, where his work included complex matters including death penalty appeals and National Guard and homeland security, and an attorney at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr in Washington, D.C., where he was a member of the firm’s Public Policy and Strategy and Government Litigation groups.  

From 2016–2018, he served as the mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, a AAA-bond-rated city that was ranked the #4 city for entrepreneurs by Entrepreneur magazine during his tenure and where his accomplishments included expanding the city’s technology tax credit, spearheading initiatives to support political refugees and immigrants, protecting historic neighborhoods from gentrification, and expanding voter registration.. He served during the violent Unite the Right rally of 2017, after which The Washington Post wrote that he was “one of [Donald] Trump’s strongest critics.” Afterward, he founded and chaired Communities Overcoming Extremism: the After Charlottesville Project, a bipartisan coalition including the Anti-Defamation League, the Ford Foundation, the Charles Koch Institute, the Fetzer Institute, and New America. National Public Radio featured Mike’s work “sharing painful lessons from the fight against hate.”

He is the author of three books: Cry Havoc: Charlottesville and American Democracy under Siege (PublicAffairs, 2020), Becoming Madison: The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father (PublicAffairs, 2015), and Demagogue: the Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). He has written for the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and Time, and has been interviewed on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, The Rachel Maddow Show, AC360, and NPR.  He teaches  at the University of Virginia’s Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy and in the fall of 2022 will be the Inaugural Democracy Fellow in the Program on Democratic Resilience and Development Fellow at Reichman University in Israel.  

He is a recipient of the Levenson Family Defender of Democracy Award from the Anti-Defamation League, the Courage in Political Leadership Award from the American Society for Yad Vashem, and the Rob DeBree & David O’Malley Award for Community Response to Hatred from the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Forward Magazine has named him one of 50 most influential Jewish leaders in America. He is an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow.  He has been profiled by the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, CNN, and the Guardian.

He holds a J.D. from the University of Virginia, a Ph.D. in political science from U.C., Berkeley, and graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, where he was a work-study student.  He was raised in Arlington, Virginia, where he attended public school.

He lives with his wife and their twin boys and their dog in Northern Virginia.  In his spare time, he enjoys running, reading, cooking, painting, and outdoor activities with his boys.