"Conversations with the Dean" series welcomes Anthony Williams, former mayor of Washington, D.C.

October 17, 2017

image of Dean Weil and Anthony Williams speaking in armchairs in front of a crowd in Zinner Forum

Heller Dean David Weil held the year's first "Conversation with the Dean," a speaker series featuring public figures, policymakers and advocates in social justice fields. The inaugural guest, former Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony "Tony" Williams, joined the Heller community in Zinner Forum on Monday, October 16, 2017. Williams currently serves as chief executive officer and executive director of a D.C.-based nonprofit organization called the Federal City Council. 

Weil and Williams spoke at length about the latter's career as a public servant in the nation's capital, where he first served as the District's chief financial officer, and later as a two-term mayor. As CFO, Williams inherited a city government on the verge of bankruptcy and suffering from extreme levels of inefficiency and disorganization. Within two years as CFO, the city recovered and began to generate a budget surplus, a success which launched Williams' campaign for mayor in 1999. 

close-up of Dean Weil and Anthony Williams speaking to each other

Williams stressed the importance of understanding the city's history in connecting with his constituents and in developing meaningful, sound policy proposals. As mayor, Williams spoke of his desire to bring people back to live in Washington D.C. from the suburbs. "By the time I took office in D.C., people were just starting to come back to the American city," Williams said. "I'm not the kind of person to give a big political speech and motivate thousands of people. I needed to understand the political history of D.C. The history of forming a union, maintaining a union, the history of the Civil War, Emancipation, the collapse of Reconstruction, freedmen pouring into D.C., the fight for civil rights, the fight for full representation, all of that has a big, big power in D.C." 

Weil and Williams went on to discuss Williams' family, his political savvy and his current work in the nonprofit sector. "The first person I thought of when planning this series was Tony Williams," said Weil, who joined the Heller School in August. The next Conversation with the Dean will be held at 12pm on November 29, and will feature Chris Lu, former deputy secretary of labor and former cabinet secretary to President Obama. 

A full video of the their hour-long discussion with Anthony Williams can be viewed below.