Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Doing "Good Business" for D.C.

BOND: Yes, and it turned out to be a great decision, a great decision and from that to mayor. How did that come about?

WILLIAMS: Well, again, nobody will believe this — that Jack Evans or Kevin Chavous or Harold Brazil, the guys I was running against — but I actually was drafted. I'm the only elected official right now, major elected official in the United States, who was drafted and then also won re-election as a write-in, so I definitely have pushed the envelope in terms of electoral politics. But there was a group out in Ward 7— and for viewers, they would know Washington, D.C. is organized north/south, this would be in the southeastern to far northeast part of the city. Some voters who were looking for something new, and one of the things I did when I was CFO and I think this was what — and I didn't do it — again, and I'm being very apologetic and defensive about this — but I did not do this because I was trying to run for mayor. I did this because I thought it was good business.

When I was CFO, one of the things I did religiously, assiduously, is I went all over the city to every group of over ten people and I gave my lecture. Oh, I said the same thing over and over. It was this lecture about how the District got into this predicament and what we needed to do to get out of this predicament, and what we needed to do from an overall broader kind of strategy to rebuild the revenue base of the city. Because right, you can't just fix the budget if you don't have any revenue, you know. So what did we actually do to rebuild the revenue base of the city? And I went all around and around the city, and I guess people liked what they were hearing.

BOND: And responded to you when you ran for the office itself.

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes, I had a huge head of steam and momentum.

BOND: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: I'll give you a statistic. We took off poll-wise. The polls never really closed. They just widened and then another — but another interesting, more interesting thing was that the — well, actually the poll, there was a big gap in the polls, but even then there was a big gap in the African American community. Men as opposed to women, upper income as opposed to lower income, so if you were male upper income, you were more likely to support Tony Williams. If you were female lower income, less likely to support Tony Williams. Because I had built this image of being cruel and indifferent, because one of the things I did when I was CFO is I — and I believe it was justified. I would've done it in a different way and probably the language and the rhetoric I used certainly could've been more sensitive of a very difficult situation for the people involved — but you know, but anyway, I'm trying to butter it up. I fired a lot of people. And —

BOND: I mean, everyone knows that the District's payroll was just over-stuffed with all kinds of people. I think at one time, every seven families in the District, one out of every seven families had an employee.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, or another way of looking at it is if there was one employee for every ten people. It's like, you know, when I worked at the Department of Agriculture, we had a big problem with the size of the Department of Agriculture, and there was a story in the Department of Agriculture where a farm agent out in Nebraska was crying and they said, "Well, why are you crying?" He says, "Because my farmer died." You know?

It was like one employee for every farmer in the country, so we kind of had one employee for every ten people. But, anyway, that built up a lot of animosity, but I was going to say that the interesting thing was up until September, we had raised almost a million dollars in small contributions. Can you imagine that? Of contributions of $500 or less.

BOND: Yeah. It was amazing. I was here. I lived through that. I was glad you did it and happy to see you. Sorry to see you go.