Published on: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 Takoma Park Newsletter

Mayoral race shaping up for fall

By Kevin Adler

Bruce Williams will not be running for a fifth term as Takoma Park mayor, he announced in late July.

“I’ve had 11 terms in office—22 years— including 10 years as mayor pro tem [while he was a councilmember representing Ward 3], and eight years as mayor,” Williams wrote in a Facebook posting that generated scores of thank-you messages about his hard work and advocacy for Takoma Park.

At least two current City Council members will be running for the seat in November. A few days after the announcement, Ward 1 Councilmember Seth Grimes and Ward 3 Councilmember Kate Stewart launched their campaigns.

Williams’ impact on Takoma Park can be seen in both its physical spaces and its well-known institutions and events. From unification in Montgomery County in 1997 to the renovation of the Community Center, Williams has been front-and-center on the biggest changes in the city for more than two decades.

Known as both a passionate advocate on social issues but also a pragmatic leader on economic ones, Williams was integral to economic development in Old Town and the new activity today along New Hampshire Avenue and in Takoma Junction.

He also supported the non-economic factors that make Takoma Park special: the creation of the Arts and Humanities Commission and the expansion of public art programs and youth sports, recruitment of volunteers, voting and more.

Williams says he understands that improving physical spaces can create an environment for more community activities, such as the upgraded auditorium in the Community Center. “It was not part of the original project, but is something I pushed for,” he wrote on Facebook. “The expansion of the vision that all of us bought into has resulted in this space that is than any of us imagined.”

Beyond Takoma Park’s physical transformation, Williams is recognized for a deeply personal decision he made more than 20 years ago. In 1993, he became the first openly gay elected official in Maryland, D.C. or Virginia. With his encouragement, Takoma Park became in 2004 the first jurisdiction in the state to endorse same-sex marriage.

In speaking openly about his life with husband Geoffrey Burkhart over the years, Williams reflected his lifelong beliefs in tolerance, acceptance and openness. Many people involved in Takoma Park activism would say these carried over to his dealings with constituents, city staff and the City Council.

“I’ve always tried to listen to what others say so that I can learn from them. I’ve tried to recognize that it is always better to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are, so that you can all shine,” he wrote.

Williams hasn’t revealed what he will do next, except to say that he will remain involved in Takoma Park.

This article appeared in the August 2015 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.