Wilmington mayor opens up about the city, local economy and his job

(FILE/Nichelle Polston)

(FILE/Nichelle Polston)

Wilmington mayor Dennis Williams confirms that he has on his running shoes for the 2016 mayoral campaign trail but is running the race at a different pace.

“I’m definitely campaigning. See being an elected official, talking is one thing but delivering is another,” said Williams who admits to be very visible in high crime areas.

On Tuesday, in the News Journal’s editorial section, an excerpt from an article titled, “Mayor Williams, where is your courage?” criticized Williams who has been in office since January 2013.

It read, “Williams says he wants to remain mayor. We’ll have to take his word for it because, as unusual as it is to see him in public, Williams has been all but invisible on the campaign trail.”

“I go all over this city, but the most important place to me is where people are struggling and wake up everyday and have no hope,” said Williams who shared that his visibility is the norm and not because he’s up for re-election.

Southbridge, parts of East Side, Riverside and a residential community behind Gander Hill prison are just a few of the places the mayor identified.

WHYY and the News Journal partnered for a series of four debates for the Wilmington mayoral race. Williams hasn’t attended any of them.

“When you sit in a debate, you have seven other people trying to unseat you. I rather for those people tell the public what they are going to do and not try to mimic what they’re going to piggy-back off of me and what I’m already doing,” Williams said.

Mayor Williams also said the News Journal just won’t give him a fair shake.

“They don’t print any good things we say but if the sky fell in, they would say I did it and if there are beautiful flowers, then God did it,” said Williams who shared that he decided not to waste his time with “them” any longer.

In regards to crime, Williams said it remains a top priority. Earlier this year, the mayor hired Charles Ramsey, former Philadelphia Police Commissioner to work with the Wilmington Police Department to effectively address the violence.

“He’s doing a good job for us and he’s showing us some areas where we need to tighten up but some of the areas where we were already working on, he was pretty impressed with,” Williams explained.

According to Williams, Ramsey is impressed with the city’s Operation Disrupt initiative designed to deter and believes the city should keep it moving.

“That’s one of the things he did in Philadelphia was disrupt. Disrupt means exactly what it says, it is disruption,” said Williams about the initiative that deployed dozens of city cops on foot into areas of high crime until it became a financial burden to the city. Although it ended for a period a time, the operation is now active again.

Over the past year, Williams said the city has also started to see growth. There’s a new multi-use building project that will house residents and retail businesses at 9th and Orange Streets.  Construction is currently underway and the project should be finished by late 2017.

However, while attracting new businesses to strengthen the local economy is important, the mayor shared there’s also a need to make sure established businesses, such as Chemours at Dupont, stay.

“Even before Chemours decided to stay, our city wage tax was in the black. We brought in so many small businesses in that we offset the losses,” Williams said.

In the meantime, the September primary is just months away and there are seven democratic candidates vying for the mayor’s job but Williams said he’s up for the challenge.

“Everybody wants the world to love them, it doesn’t work. There are things that you’re going to have to do as a leader, people are going to dislike you for,” Williams said.

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