Proudly proclaiming his origins in the North Memphis "'hood," but boasting also a personal history that included charity work, service as an intelligence warrant officer in the Army, and an up-by-the-bootstraps rise from street-cop status to his current four years as president of the Memphis Police Association, Mike Williams formally threw his hat in the ring for Mayor of Memphis on Monday morning.
Williams made the announcement at the Beale St. headquarters of the AFSCME union, while backed by an enthusiastic chorus of supporters that included City Councilman Joe Brown.
While vowing to preserve Memphis' status as a "business-friendly" city, Williams suggested that his first priority would be the task of "giving citizens their vote back."
He spelled out that goal to include the possibility of restoring the charter of public schools in Memphis, the transfer of authority over industrial PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes) arrangements to the City Council, the freezing of capital construction projects until the city's debt-service payments reached an appropriate level, and a focus on rebuilding the city's infrastructure.
The MPA head also offered support for citizens protesting plans to demolish the Coliseum as part of a proposed Fairgrounds TDZ project. "How come you can't make the Coliseum work?" he demanded rhetorically.
Although he did not focus on the matter, Williams indicated in answer to a question that he would seek to amend the adverse changes in city employees' benefits that had put him at loggerheads with the administration of Mayor A C Wharton in recent years.
Noting the role of his Army service in smoothing out some of his own "rough edges," the MPA president proposed a city-sponsored "boot camp" as rehabilitation for struggling or troubled members of the city's youth population, and he said his administration would be guided by a "suits to boots" philosophy, whereby city officials could transition easily "from the boardroom to the streets."
For the time being, Williams said, he would continue in his role at MPA but "at some point" when his mayoral race became officials would take a leave of absence. He expressed confidence that he could raise enough money to run a viable race and said he thought he could attract to the polls some of the "83 percent" who haven't been voting.