Williams Campaign Envisions National, not State, Competitiveness
That’s the warp speed vision of mayoral candidate Steve Williams, who has received endorsements from labor, business and non-partisan groups.
During a after council work session interview, Williams recalled the tough, “wrenching” process of how council members “stepped to the plate” and “held the line” rejecting both fee increases and service cuts.
When a pension miscalculation placed the city in the red, “We found out about it in July 2011, but by the middle of September had not received indication of how the issue would be addressed. Through the Finance Committee, we announced it to the world [saying] this has come to our attention , what’s going on, and it had to come public.”
Ultimately, the Finance Committee disagreed with the administration’s proposal, which contained permanent fee/tax increases. Instead, the committee and council grasped for a temporary solution.
“We knew this was a temporary problem. We enacted fee increases that expired June 30, 2012. I kept hearing there’s no such thing as a temporary fee or tax, we proved there is,” Williams said.
The candidate credits Jim Insco, the former council chairman, with adapting a legislature like committee system for Huntington’s council.
“When Jim Insco agreed for us to start a committee system, we [began drafting] policy. I don’t think there was a single policy brought to us that was not rewritten and revised.”
Having worked in harmony with council and the administration, the candidate stressed, “Leadership does not mean that you are doing it all yourself. It means , at least, you are pointing the direction.”
Williams believes that his cross section of labor and business endorsements for Mayor attest to “an affirmation of my leadership” shown on council and as chairman of the Finance Committee. “People were able to clearly hear my voice as one of eleven. My voice would be even stronger as the one at the [mayor’s] microphone.”
Since the 1986 charter change, this is the first time a council member has run against an incumbent mayor. Further, the current council has been , in Williams words, a “strong” one from “where practically all policy has emanated. We’ve led efforts for reforms within the budget, we’ve insisted on saying no on tax increases, we have held the line , when we were told the choices were “cut services” or “increase taxes. We said , you do not have to do either.”
The Chamber of Commerce endorsement was important to their message.
“We are trying to build a new, exceptional Huntington [where] labor and business can work together and demonstrate that to the nation and beyond. For the last 50 years, our city has been in a state of decline. Our expectations have also declined. We’re striving to get people to look at a higher calling and expect a higher level of excellence from all of us,” Williams said.
“We have had successes, but our danger is not setting the bar too high and not reaching it, but sitting it too low and hitting our mark. We fail if we are not compared to top cities around the country.”
His campaign has three co-chairpersons that “represent a significant investment” of what is important to the city’s future: H. Kathy Burns, former President of the Empowerment Zone who now works at the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Flexible Manufacturing represents community; Carl Eastham, retired firefighter, former President of the firefighter’s local, and former president of the Southwestern District Labor Council represents the labor movement; and Mark Bates chairs Republicans for Williams, a non-partisan component.
“We have a separate campaign strategy in every council district,” Williams explained adding that district captains will be announced Sept 28 during a rally at the Frederick. Each captain leads a district-wide “living room” campaign.
“We are talking with their neighbors in their living rooms with their neighbors about their concerns, their hopes and their aspirations. With all of us coming together, we have built a network so we can govern. If there’s something that needs to be done in the neighborhood, we have a network to bring that message to City Hall , to the Legislature or wherever. My living room campaign is something I have thought of for 20 years. I’m confident we will be successful [in winning], but, if we are not successful, we will have [still] organized the city to move forward and become a new Huntington.”
NEXT: Steve Williams discusses how the pilot Home Rule has worked and predicts the legislature will expand , yet tweak , it.