Arlington’s mayor-elect will soon recite his oath of office, and a new era in the life of the city will be launched.
Jeff Williams’ mandate, securing some 58 percent of the votes in the largest mayoral election turnout in the city’s history, is a clear message of support for new leadership to address issues that range from fixing potholes to luring corporate America to the city.
It’s been 64 years since a newcomer defeated an incumbent mayor. That happened when Tom Vandergriff replaced B.C. Barnes in 1951.
That, too, was the greatest turnout in the city’s history. The big difference, however, was that election saw 942 mayoral voters versus the almost 27,000 that showed up at the polls May 9.
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Times change. And so it is again as the city faces challenges and opportunities now consigned to a new leader.
Make no mistake, Williams eagerly sought those assignments and campaigned hard for the chance to take them on.
His ability to clearly articulate the path to the future was the focus of his campaign, and it obviously resonated with voters and nearly the entirety of the city’s private and public leadership.
The day after his landslide victory, an inappropriate cartoon was published on these pages depicting Mayor Robert Cluck with 23 colorful knives sticking out of his back along with a Julius Caesar quote at the moment of his assassination.
While I was depicted as among those wielding the blades, no one knifed Robert Cluck in the back.
However, a number of his friends at City Hall, from the hospital where he works and others close to him approached him last year and urged him to step down and enjoy the community’s salute to his 12 years of service as mayor.
Assuring him that his legacy was intact and that he would be long remembered as the mayor who worked with Jerry Jones to build the Dallas Cowboys a new stadium, it was nevertheless time for change.
Like him when he was first elected to the City Council, there were others now ready to offer their service as citizen leaders, and an orderly transition that would not divide the city could be achieved.
Given the results of the election, their insight reflected the collective wisdom of people whose advice was on target.
Now the tasks that Williams identified in his campaign are front and center on the agenda of the city. His approach will begin with an assembly of people ready to help identify the priorities that will be aggressively pursued as the future is shaped.
Voters have sent a new leader to the council table. Others around that table are ready to respond to that mandate. So is the city’s management team. That’s a good thing, because the needs are great, and there’s no time to wait or waste.
The new mayor’s long experience via his very successful career as a civil engineer, working with cities across the region and beyond, means there is no need for a period of learning the ropes.
Jeff Williams is ready on Day One. He has the support of his business associates and, most important, Arlington’s new first lady, Karen, and his entire wonderful family.
He’s used to a grinding schedule, having served in leadership roles in community service organizations across the city, his church and in conjunction with people in key positions of collaboration with the workings of the city.
The mantle of the public trust has been placed on his shoulders. It fits him well.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. firstname.lastname@example.org