Former Mayor Jay Williams is supposed to be on the campaign trail, but with the destruction and damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, he’s spent the past several days working with elected officials in communities impacted by the storm.
“I’ve been responding to mayors across the country in the hardest-hit areas, providing assistance and trying to make sure their most important needs are addressed,” he told The Vindicator. “There are power losses, damage to infrastructure, and health and safety concerns. This was an unimaginable event.”
Williams is the deputy director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, a position that has him working in the White House. In the job he’s held since June 8, Williams heads a unit that oversees President Barack Obama’s relationship with elected officials from cities, towns and counties.
Williams has been in contact with officials in the states, primarily New Jersey and New York, where most of the damage from Sandy occurred.
“We’re giving them a variety of assistance, and the president has cut the red tape to provide financial assistance,” he said. Obama “wants to make sure red tape doesn’t get in the way of helping these communities. The first priorities are health, safety and the well-being of people.”
Williams returned to Youngstown last weekend to campaign for the re-election of the Democratic president.
“My trip was to take personal time with the campaign, but official duties take priority,” he said. “It’s going to be a very long time until things get back to normal” in places hit hard by Sandy.
“It’s a crisis of epic proportion, he said.”
If there is time before Tuesday’s election, Williams said he’ll campaign for the president.
Williams resigned Aug. 1, 2011, as Youngstown mayor after 51/2 years in office to be executive director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office for Auto Communities and Workers. He moved to his new job about 10 months later.