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Williams handles himself well



Published: Fri, December 20, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)


On the side

GOP holiday party: Chris McNulty, the Republican National Committee’s political director, will be the guest speaker at the Mahoning County Republican Party’s holiday party at 6 p.m. Dec. 28 at the Blue Wolf Banquet Center, 7095 Lockwood Blvd. in Boardman.

The event costs $35 a person. To make reservations, call party headquarters at 330-629-7006 or email Jill Downie at jdowniegop@gmail.com or you can mail checks to the party headquarters — P.O. Box 9012, Youngstown, Ohio 44513 — with a list of those in your group.

Rep. Johnson succeeds: A follow-up to the bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, to stop the federal Environmental Protection Agency from putting lead restrictions on new fire hydrants because they are occasionally used for drinking water in emergencies. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent Tuesday, and before that vote, the EPA said it would drop the requirement.

Time for R&R: I will be on vacation until Jan. 2 so there won’t be a column next week.

Former Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams’ hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works would have been perfect if the body had recommended his confirmation to head the Economic Development Administration.

But the hearing went so well for him that there is every indication the committee will make that recommendation next month. Williams will be confirmed by the full Senate shortly thereafter.

U.S. Sen. James M. Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and former committee chairman, told Williams, a Democrat nominated by President Barack Obama, that by being “mayor of a major city” that “when you walked in you were immediately qualified for this job.”

Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas said Inhofe “made a good point” about Williams.

The three other Obama nominees at Tuesday’s nearly-two-hour Senate committee hearing were grilled by Republicans on the committee about a variety of topics including fracking and fish.

Meanwhile, Williams sat there quietly after reading his prepared remarks, which lasted about 41/2 minutes.

Williams’ speech painted a glowing picture of Youngstown and what he and the city accomplished during his 61/2 years as mayor.

He acknowledged the “problems and challenges” Youngstown still faces without being specific, but he’d be crazy to bring them up during a Senate committee hearing.

After delivering his remarks, not one committee member asked him a question.

So how did it go so well for Williams?

First, he was proactive.

He was prepped for the hearing by EDA staff prior to the hearing.

Williams also met with as many members of the Senate committee as possible leading to his hearing.

While not the first person to do so, it proved to be effective.

“Hopefully that provided a level of comfort” to the members about what he’d do if confirmed to run the EDA, Williams said to me after the hearing.

“We talked about the importance of striking a balance between urban and rural economic development,” Williams said. “We talked about the role of the EDA in terms of infrastructure. The senators have an overall appreciation of what the EDA can do to help the economic environment.”

Also, Williams is well-liked and well-respected. I’m not contending he doesn’t have critics back home, but generally speaking people appreciate him.

That’s why he received praise and support for the Senate to confirm him from Ohio’s two U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Rob Portman, a Republican.

Republicans and Democrats on the Senate committee bickered Tuesday on the confirmation process — specifically last month’s vote to eliminate the use of the filibuster on presidential nominees to executive positions, and the number of presidential nominees at the hearing.

Williams would have eventually been confirmed by the Senate, but with the new limited filibuster rule, that will come a lot faster than what others experienced in the past.


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