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Briefings: Williams Takes Control at the Springfield Council

by Adam Bass

Hail to the (legislative) chief. (still via Focus Springfield)

Springfield City Councilor Marcus William’s was officially sworn in as Council President on Monday afternoon, as the city begins its legislative session of 2021.  

Williams, who represents Ward 5 in the city, was elected unanimously by his colleagues as the city’s 36th council president. Last month he fended off now-former president Justin Hurst, an at-large councilor, and Ward 3 Councilor Melvin Edwards during a preliminary caucus.

The newly sworn in President thanked his colleagues, as well as family and friends that helped him get to where he was today.  In his remarks, he also stated his intentions to establish a COVID-19 task force committee in order to tackle challenges that the city had faced due to the virus, such as food insecurity.

“I am more committed than ever to leading this Council as this city heals.” said Williams.

In addition to Williams, the council also elected Councilor-at-Large Trayce Whitfield to be the next Vice-president.  Whitfield is the first Black Woman to hold the title in Springfield’s history.  This is significant as Springfield’s City Council has, until ward representation began a decade ago, has been predominately male. Only three women of color, including Whitfield, have been a city councilor in Springfield.

When a vice is virtue. Councilor Whitfield in 2018. (WMP&I)

Normally, the swearing in of officials would occur in person. However, due to the pandemic, it had to happen virtually.  

A tradition that occurs at this event is the “drawing of the seats. Each councilor draws a piece of paper with a number from one to twelve on it from a cigar box.  The number that they receive would designate where in the council chamber they sit. By extension, it dictates the order in which they vote.  Instead, a fourth grader had the opportunity to draw the numbers for each councilor. That led to a humorous moment wherein one councilor received seat “21,” a misreading of 12.

On Friday, Williams released his committee assignments. As promised, he established a COVID-19 committee with at-large councilor Jesse Lederman at the helm. Lederman was also returned to the chair of the Health & Human Services Committee, a post he held in 2019. Williams also revived the Elder Affairs Committee, which Ward 7 Councilor Timothy Allen will chair. The new president otherwise did not make many dramatic changes to the committee assignments from 2020.