BERLIN – The Berlin mayoral election
officially became a contest this week when interim Mayor Gee Williams announced
his candidacy Wednesday evening in front of the Atlantic Hotel, joining former
Mayor Rex Hailey on the campaign trail.
“I will be a candidate for mayor
Williams announced to a large crowd Wednesday.
The town has speculated over
Williams’ plans for the last 10 weeks, ever since Mayor Tom Cardinale died unexpectedly,
and Williams, as vice president of the Berlin Mayor and Council, took over as
interim mayor until the fall election.
“I cannot begin to tell you the
number of people who have encouraged me to consider making this temporary
situation permanent,” Williams told the crowd. “Rarely if ever does a citizen
get the opportunity to test drive being the mayor of a town before deciding if
it is something he wishes to do.”
Williams spoke of the near
future as a special time of decision making for the town and townspeople, a
time when those decisions will have far reaching effects.
“Now is the time to decide if we
are prepared to keep Berlin
special as it grows,” said Williams.
Berlin, he said, could have a
renaissance, made possible by protecting and preserving each neighborhood.
“We must honor our past, but we
must not live in it,” he said.
Being mayor is like being the
head of a large, diverse family, Williams emphasized, and every member of that
family is respected. Every neighborhood is important.
Although the interim mayor made
few specific policy promises, Williams said that he has already begun working
with local law enforcement to eliminate the drug trade in certain parts of East
Berlin, an area that in the past has felt cut off from mainstream Berlin.
“We will never allow there to be
any second class citizens or any second class neighborhoods anywhere in our
community,” Williams said. “It is my pledge that every effort and lawful
strategy will be taken, without retreat, to remove these predators from our
streets, day or night, until every home and every neighborhood in Berlin is as
safe and free of criminal activity as my own.”
He also pledged to make Berlin greener and
protect the local environment.
“I am committed to being a fair,
firm and fearless advocate for the best interests of the citizens of Berlin,” Williams said.
Williams was endorsed Wednesday
night by several heavy hitters in Worcester
including two sitting Worcester County Commissioners.
“We’re all proud of you,” said
County Commissioner Bud Church, whose district encompasses Berlin. “I’ve always known Gee to be a
gentleman, honest and of immense integrity.”
Church said he could not imagine
anyone else in Berlin
with Williams’ experience or anyone who could do a better job as mayor. When
Williams took over after Cardinale’s untimely death, Church said he was ready
to endorse a mayoral run nearly right away.
“I’m here tonight to offer my
full support and pledge my full support to Gee in his race for mayor,” Church
said. “I’m sure you’re going to do very well.”
Commissioner Jim Purnell, who
lives just outside Berlin
and whose district lies adjacent to the town, recalled that Williams supported
his own first run for county office.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to help you,”
said Purnell. “I have no doubt in my mind you’ll do a good job.”
Worcester County State’s
Attorney Joel Todd, who grew up with Williams and his family and now lives in
Berlin, also stood up to endorse him on Wednesday.
“If you need something done,
he’ll take your call and he’ll get things done,” Todd said.
While Williams is known for
strong Democratic views, Todd said, “he’ll reach across the aisle to work with
Todd said his office and law
enforcement in Worcester County, already supported Williams’ drive to clean up
“He’s dedicated the latter part
of his career to the town of Berlin
on the Town Council. He’s done an excellent job,” Todd said.
Worcester County Sheriff Chuck
Martin also added his support.
“I fully expect him to fulfill his
obligations as mayor of the town of Berlin
with the utmost sincerity and he will leave us without embarrassment, with
people that know their jobs, and with employees that want to work for him,” he
Williams said later that he
plans to run on the issues and that personalities should not be part of the
contest. He does not plan to follow the classic Berlin campaign map and knock on doors all
“It’s a little late to start
introducing myself to the community,” said Williams, a lifelong resident of Berlin.
Williams said he would give up
his council seat before the election, leaving that slot open.
“If you make a choice like this,
you make a choice,” said Williams of his decision to run for Mayor. “You don’t
hedge your bets.