Published October 3, 2010
There are unconfirmed reports that the Obama administration is interested in Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams succeeding Ed Montgomery as director of recovery for auto communities and workers, the so-called auto czar position.
Montgomery, appointed by President Obama in March 2009 to guide the recovery of the auto industry which had collapsed, left to become dean of public policy at Georgetown University. He had previously served in the Clinton administration. General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. received billions from the federal government to prevent them from completely shutting down. The two companies are on the road to recovery.
It’s not known how far talks between administration officials and Mayor Williams have progressed, but it appears that there will soon be a meeting in Washington.
If Williams does get the high-profile post, it will be a good thing for the Mahoning Valley, whose economy depends, in large part, on the stability of GM’s Lordstown assembly plant. The facility has gained worldwide attention because it is producing the highly touted Chevrolet Cruze. The Cruze is now in showrooms around the country and is seen as GM’s best chance to grab a large share of the compact car market.
Williams, who began his second four-year term as mayor in January, would be replaced by council President Charles Sammarone if he decided to go to Washington.
One of the auto czar’s chief duties is to ensure that displaced employees and struggling communities have access to federal stimulus money and assistance for job re-training and other such initiatives.
With Williams in the position, the Mahoning Valley would be assured of having an advocate for the GM Lordstown plant — another product line is essential for its future viability. In addition, his familiarity with the region’s economic revitalization efforts and the difficulties old industrial communities face in competing in the high technology-based global economy could help in the formulation of national policy.
If President Obama offers Williams the job of auto czar, the mayor would be hard pressed to say no.