Williams driven by desire to serve city

4/20/2017 | Payton North

Category: April

Marcus Williams
Reminder Publications photo by Payton North

Ward 5 City Councilor Marcus Williams, 28, has been in office for nearly two years. In the November 2015 election the first-time candidate celebrated his victory against incumbent Councilor Clodo Conception.  

Williams has lived in Springfield for his entire life. Following his graduation from the High School of Commerce, Williams attended Boston College where he received his bachelor’s degree. He attributes his desire to serve the public in office to a multitude of reasons.  

“Growing up in Springfield Public Schools, I participated in a lot of programs that opened me up to politics and the political process in itself. Of course, my uncle, Bud Williams, was on the City Council, now Sate Rep, so growing up going to his events and seeing how the interactions between the constituents and the legislator worked, that spawned some interest as well,” Williams added. “Overall, it was the desire to make a positive impact in my city, the city that I’m from, the city that I love.”

As a first-time candidate, Williams had to cover a lot of ground in Ward 5 to earn votes for the City Council position.  During his campaign, he spent most of his time on foot, traveling door-to-door to constituents homes introducing himself.  He attributes his win to his accessibility to the public.  

“Some folks invited me into their homes which was great just to sit and talk, and that expanded to me wanting to, if I did become a legislator into elected office, making sure that I stayed accessible to my constituents that voted for me. It certainly was one of the high points of when I look back at my previous election, staying in contact with my constituents.  Making sure that they saw that I wanted this job.”

Though Williams has a 9 to 5 job working as the grants writer for Way Finders, formerly known as HAPHousing, he still finds time to attend various meetings afterword to keep up with the activity in the city.  

“I can be attending a Pine Point Community Council meeting, a Sixteen Acres Civic Association meeting, or the Sixteen Acres Lions Club meeting, or Campus Neighbors, there’s a lot of community groups that I like to stay close to so that I know what’s going on in the community. I will say that the thing that stays most consistent is the fact that constituents reach out to me, they call me, they email me, and that keeps me honest in terms of making sure that they are my compass.”

Considering his campaign was based on a community outreach, it’s no surprise that Williams is the only councilor to have rotating community public office hours.

During these hours, Williams is accessible to the public to have a conversation with them and listen to their concerns.  

“Constituents will always express their concern to me in the community and I have no problem talking to them because I know those are the same votes that got me to where I am today, and I’m forever indebted.”

When he first began his term as the Ward 5 City Councilor, Williams didn’t have a lot of time to acclimate.  Regardless of moving right into the position, Williams adjusted quickly, and has made great strides during his term over the past year and a half.

He’s working to pass legislation that allows for food trucks in the downtown district with six carts or trucks in Riverfront Park and six to operate on Lyman Street. This will benefit young professionals and people who are on-the-go and don’t have time to have a sit-down lunch hour, he explained.

The Raymond A. Jordan Senior Center at Blunt Park is opening in the fall, which will absorb the Pine Point Senior Center as the land lord has other plans for the space. Williams was able to work with Mayor Domenic Sarno, Commissioner for Health and Human Services Helen R. Caulton-Harris, and former Director of Elder Affairs Janet Rodriguez-Denney to make sure that the Pine Point seniors would have a senior center to attend for the coming months until the Raymond A. Jordan center opens.

“This was a scary time for the seniors that go to these groups daily. It’s a lot of social cohesion that these centers bring, and they were scared that they were going to be displaced for months until the new center opened. They were excited to find out that they would be moving to another senior center in Ward 2 to continue to receive those services until the new center opened,” Williams added, “That was really big, and I was proud of the local politics working together across aisles.”

The Mary Walsh School unveiled the Bok program alongside Williams. The Bok program is a partnership between Blue Cross Blue Shield, Reebok, and the Springfield Public Schools that works to combat inactivity in the youth.

“It allows the youth and elementary schools to come to school earlier than the school day to participate in physical activity programming to start their brain cells and get all of that stuff working before the school day begins.”

Additionally, Williams is proud of bringing awareness to the blocked radio police transmissions this past fall. This spawned the council into taking a stance for the public to not stand by police injustices.

“I was deeply concerned about how pertinent news information was going to be disseminated to the public. That’s huge with blocked radio police transmissions because that information would not have been privy otherwise.  We love our people in blue, but there’s certain things that are unjust and can’t be done, it doesn’t matter how you look at it or what race you are. The installation of the police commission is a high point and I think it’s going to still be a topic of discussion moving forward.

As for the future, Williams has several goals for the Springfield community. He’s noticed that Parker Street speeding has been a common theme of concern among his constituents in Sixteen Acres. Williams wants to draw more attention to the Parker Street speeding and encourage more staggered lighting, signage, and perhaps police presence to slow drivers down. Williams is also advocating for all ages, including senior services as well as additional after-school programs for students.

When Williams was younger he attended Thomas M. Balliet School.  Following conversations with parents of some students who now attend the school and Principal Jennifer Montano, Williams learned that the children are spending their recess playing on pavement.

“That makes me a little distraught because we can do better than that.  There’s resources available to make sure that we do do better than that. I’m going to be having a couple of meetings moving forward to see how we can get our resources together to make this a reality.”

Finally, Williams wants to increase community relations with neighboring colleges such as Western New England University, Springfield College, and American International College.  

“There are students there that don’t know about Springfield like they should.  I think that if we can start involving students in some of our civic organizations that we have with the Ward, I think that could bridge some of the complaints that I hear from constituents. Springfield is a beautiful city and it has a lot to offer, and the students have to take the first leap to explore the city.  With the help of the administration of some of these institutions, we can have a conversation and come to some kind of consensus on ways to alleviate some of the issues that I hear about.”

Williams said is looking forward to running for re-election this Novembet.  

“I would be honored and privileged to have the opportunity to represent my constituents in Ward 5 for another two years.  I certainly have been hitting the ground running and pushing certain legislation as well as making sure above all I stay in contact with constituents on a regular basis. I’d be honored to serve; no one owns any of the seats around here, but I would  be asking for the opportunity to remain in that seat.”

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