10 Reasons Why Tony Williams Might Be AU's Next President
Mayor Anthony Williams is a short-timer now and some D.C. residents have started to wonder whether he, as did Sharon Pratt Kelly before him, will forsake Washington and start a new life somewhere else.
Despite numerous pledges to buy a house in the District, Williams never did move out of his Watergate-area rental. He seems to spend most of his time gallivanting around the globe. And he's hardly ever seen even at the site of his most historic and controversial achievement, the home games of the Washington Nationals.
Will Tony stick around town? And if he does, what will he do? The rumor for many months has been that American University is more than a little interested in hiring Williams as its next president. The last couple haven't exactly worked out terribly well.
Herewith, 10 reasons why AU would--heck, let's just say it: should--make the move:
1. Williams is a turnaround artist, a numbers guy who took the city from the financial sub-basement to a point where it is a respectable business destination with a pretty classy bond rating. A university that doesn't have a big endowment and has suffered some big PR setbacks could use someone with Williams' head for finances.
2. More overseas junkets! Gotta keep that frequent flier account cooking.
3. Williams is a builder at heart, with a successful track record for transforming a city that was once poison to developers. AU is sitting on tons of available space, including vast, open parking lots on Nebraska Avenue.
4. He'd finally have a house of his own in the District. The AU prexy job comes with house.
5. Williams has connections in city government. To transform the AU campus, using those parking lots and connecting to the main campus across busy Nebraska Avenue, the university needs to think beneath the surface--a tunnel under Nebraska that would allow AU to have a seamless campus across the avenue. A tunnel would ease neighbors' concerns about congestion by relieving much of the traffic now clogging the Ward Circle intersection. You'd need an ex-mayor to get a big change like that through the process. Condos, anyone?
6. The man would do wonders for the AU baseball program. Can you spell ballpark?
7. Bowtie look feeds AU's dreams of Ivy League stature. Yale degree doesn't hurt either.
8. Students, unlike voters, are already accustomed to being ignored.
9. Williams is funny, charming and persuasive in small group settings and would likely be effective with faculty, alumni and other university constituencies--as long as he doesn't have to do ribbon-cuttings. His sense of humor, which too often slipped by many D.C. residents, is well-pitched to an academic community.
10. American could hardly do worse than the last boss, Ben Ladner, who used the university's money on gifts for his children, personal travel and a French-trained chef to gin up lavish banquets for the prez and his guests, or Richard Berendzen, president in the 1980s, who got his jollies by making sexually oriented phone calls to strangers. He may not be the greatest politician of our era, but Tony Williams is an honest guy.
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