The Mechanic The Robert Bobb Management Method: speak softly and carry plenty of pink slips

On Jan. 4, the community room in the Metropolitan Police Department’s 6th District headquarters swelled with nearly 100 fed-up residents of Ward 7. For the past several years, they had watched their once-thriving middle-class swath of D.C. take on the appearance of a blighted community. Vacant lots had become illegal dumping grounds. Abandoned cars had crowded the streets. Rental properties had become slums. Crime—especially juvenile crime—had grown unbearable.

This time, however, the gripes weren’t just about generic quality-of-life issues. This time, the residents had a name: Dixon A. Oladele, a homebuilder who had a history of run-ins with the city’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). Neighbors complained that Oladele had treated Ward 7 as his private preserve. He bought up property and promised to renovate existing housing or build new homes, but he often failed to secure legally required permits for his projects. He invariably left his work unfinished; Oladele’s incomplete structures littered the Deanwood neighborhood and had become magnets for drug users.

When residents took their concerns to the DCRA, Oladele was cited for violations. Between 2000 and 2005, the city collected more than $200,000 in fines from the so-called entrepreneur, according to the Washington Post. The citations, however, didn’t inspire Oladele to close down his operation.

Tired of formulaic responses to their problems, the members of the Far Northeast-Southeast Council invited Robert Bobb to its gathering.

A new player hired in September 2003, the city administrator was all muted force. He listened intently to the residents’ criticisms and, at evening’s end, pledged to return. But before he followed through on that commitment, he began a course of action that would seal his reputation as a kick-butt executive.

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Two days after the community gathering, Bobb called cabinet-level officials from various agencies to his suite on the third floor of the John A. Wilson Building. He sought to determine exactly what action had been taken to address the concerns of Ward 7 residents. Under the Neighborhood Services program, agencies are supposed to work across boundaries to provide a comprehensive response to a ward’s complaints. The managers claimed that they had been thinking about making certain changes, but none had advanced any specific proposal.

As Bobb’s forensics continued, he narrowed the list of bureaucratic suspects to the DCRA. The department had been a constant irritant to Ward 7 activists, and the frustration filtered through to the city administrator. In October 2003, Bobb and Ward 4 D.C. Councilmember Adrian Fenty had toured the burned-out remains of a property that had become a nuisance to community residents. After the tour, Bobb had chided DCRA Director David Clark and others, asking if they would like to live on either side of such a property—or if they would like their parents to live there.

By month’s end, Bobb had held two meetings with Clark and his immediate supervisor, then–Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Eric Price, to discuss Clark’s future. A few months later, the city administrator launched a probe of the management and programs at DCRA.

The breaking point in Bobb’s DCRA initiative came when he returned to Ward 7 for a firsthand look at the problems cited at the Jan. 4 community meeting. The city administrator says he saw no effort by DCRA officials to respond to residents. The visit, Bobb says, was “the last straw.”

Within days, Bobb demanded Clark’s resignation. The following week, longtime mayoral aide Patrick Canavan was named interim director of the agency. Shortly after, Oladele was arrested and charged with nearly 300 criminal violations of the city’s housing code.

“David Clark just threw up his hands. Robert Bobb had a sense of urgency,” says Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray. He adds that Bobb worked with him to develop a stronger law that could prevent an Oladele recurrence.

“[Bobb] means business,” says Beverly Good, treasurer of the Deanwood Citizens Association. “He said things were going to be done. And they were.”

That kind of decisive action echoes the boldness of Bobb’s boss, Mayor Anthony A. Williams. Circa 1995, that is. When Williams took over as the city’s chief financial officer, he reacted aggressively to the unyielding bureaucracy and mess he found. Tax records weren’t in filing cabinets—they were strewn on the floor. Tax refunds took more than six months to reach D.C. residents.

Williams responded, in part, by firing people. After less than a year on the job, he had delivered pink slips to 60 employees. Six months later, in January 1997, he fired another 168 District workers. This slash-and-burn approach to bureaucratic reform earned Williams a prolonged bout of litigation as well as a reputation as a no-nonsense manager—which he rode right into the mayoral suite.

Yet by the end of his first term as mayor, Williams’ fatigue had become palpable. He appeared distracted and oblivious to inept directors. He had no response to the mismanagement at such agencies as the Youth Services Administration (YSA). That agency, not unlike the DCRA, became a continuing saga, a municipal Days of Our Lives. “[The YSA] was an agency under siege—from the courts, the community, inside the government,” says Bobb, who calls the agency’s former state “totally mind-boggling.”

Now things are different. Bobb has injected adrenaline into the administration and returned it to its original mission of outing underperforming managers, correcting their blunders, and producing a lean municipal machine. Some say that Robert Bobb may be the Anthony Williams people thought they were getting when they elected the mayor.

Says Dorothy Brizill, head of DC Watch, a government watchdog group, “You look at all the years [of experience] he has as city manager and say, ‘That’s what the District really needs.’ Then you meet him, and you say, ‘For sure that’s what the Williams administration needs.’”

Says the mayor: “I hired Robert because I thought he would make an excellent city administrator and that he would bring flair, élan, and confidence to the job. I think he’s been wonderful.”

A 30-year veteran of municipal management, Bobb has worked over bureaucracies in Kalamazoo, Mich.; Santa Ana, Calif.; and Richmond, Va. From November 1997 through July 2003, he held the dual title of Oakland, Calif.’s, city manager and executive director of its redevelopment agency. His stint there included a few high-profile run-ins with Mayor Jerry Brown.

Now Bobb has graduated to the multi-billion-dollar corporation known as the District government, an anomaly of governance that combines the roles of city and state. When it comes to directing this corporation, Williams is the visionary, providing a road map of where the city should be headed. Bobb is the mechanic.

At a basic level, the mechanic ensures that the bureaucracy operates smoothly and at the least cost to taxpayers. But in the Pulp Fiction dimension of the job, Bobb executes assaults, shifts players, and protects the mayor.

Bobb’s days frequently begin at 5:30 a.m. at his downtown apartment building’s workout facilities, where he maintains his gym-polished physique. As he goes about his business, Bobb rarely smiles; he dresses in dark colors, has a penchant for cowboy boots, and uses his words and body language with precision. He’s been known to visit high-crime areas and group homes as early as 7 a.m. When he isn’t patrolling the city, he’s holding meetings with the hundreds of constituent groups that do business with the District or have a beef with some agency.

Earlier this year, he held a series of meetings with agency directors to develop the mayor’s budget proposal for fiscal 2006. The meetings began at 8 a.m. and continued until well after midnight, only to begin again the next morning at 9. “This has been week-to-week,” says one top-level manager who attended the meetings. “He is tenacious. The guy is so mission-driven. I haven’t seen anything like it. It’s grueling.”

But it’s what Bobb loves, says Kelvin Robinson, the mayor’s former chief of staff, noting that the city administrator and his boss “share a fascination with plumbing.”

Bobb’s passion for the pipes of government, as well as his years of experience, can mean trouble for managers who have grown soft and see their positions as sinecures endowed by District taxpayers.

“People who work hard love to work for [Bobb]. Folks who aren’t that way—well, some of those folks don’t like it so much,” says Ed Reisken, Bobb’s former chief of staff, who was promoted in February to deputy mayor for public safety and justice.

“When someone is not meeting [Bobb’s] expectations or giving a bunch of excuses, his tolerance for that is very low,” continues Reisken. “He jumped on me a couple of weeks ago because I hadn’t understood the urgency of a particular assignment.

“He makes it very clear, his dissatisfaction. It can be kind of hard in the moment, but I like knowing where I stand,” says Reisken.

And when Bobb makes a decision, says Deputy Mayor for Operations Herbert Tillery, “he doesn’t pussyfoot around.”

Take the case of James Buford, who served as director of the Department of Health from 2002 through 2004. Prior to being appointed to lead the agency, Buford had been its chief operating officer. He had come to the District highly recommended by Detroit’s outgoing mayor, Dennis Archer, after a stint as director of that city’s health department.

But from the start of his work in D.C., Buford seemed in over his head. He mishandled the contract with the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, a medical safety net for the city’s indigent and uninsured. For almost a year, the city could not negotiate a financial package with the group—a failure that left the Alliance sputtering.

Then came the mercury spill at Ballou High School in fall 2003 and the crisis involving lead-contaminated drinking water in early 2004. In each case, Buford failed to project the image—let alone the reality—of a health agency determined to protect the public from toxins.

One day in March 2004, Bobb was in his regular meeting with the deputy mayors. He began a monologue about “how we have got to stop allowing people we know are not performing well to stay in their jobs,” recalls one of the deputy mayors in attendance.

“He went on and on explaining about how it’s unfair to the citizens and to the manager [who isn’t performing well],” says the official. “And then he turned to Herb [Tillery] and says, ‘So, Herb, on Friday I want you to report to the Department of Health.’ It was just like that. Buford was out and Herb took over officially that following Monday as interim director.”

Bobb claims “a symphony of issues” led him to conclude Buford could not take the department “to the next level.”

Later that year, Bobb homed in on Chief Contracting and Procurement Officer Jacques Abadie, who had been allowed to stay on the payroll despite investigations that found he had mismanaged the government’s employee-credit-card program and failed to stop abuses of the city’s contracting laws. Tillery was on vacation in Myrtle Beach, Md., when he received word that, upon his return, he should report to the Office of Contracting and Procurement.

During his first 15 months on the job, Bobb was responsible for the dismissal of as many as 100 employees. To the casual observer, these swift, clean assaults may appear rash. Bobb does have a master’s degree in business from Western Michigan University, but he says he is guided by a combination of instincts and experience.

It doesn’t take long to evaluate someone’s capabilities, says Bobb: “You can look in a person’s eyes and see if they are really up to a task. Are they committed? Do they have the energy and stamina?

“You’re either in it fully or you’re not.”

The No. 2 man in the executive branch has been neck-high in municipal, bureaucratic crap. Still, he’s managed to make his mark on the government:

He created and hired staff for the Center for Innovation and Reform, an internal auditing unit conceived to expose the rot at various D.C. agencies and recommend improvements based on proven approaches elsewhere.

He helped direct the government’s response to the lead-in-the-water crisis.

He helped lead the administration’s efforts to win council approval for a new baseball stadium.

He is directing negotiations between Howard University and the Williams administration for a new hospital expected to be located at Reservation 13—the site of the old D.C. General Hospital.

He is aiding plans to protect the Sursum Corda housing complex at 1st Street and New York Avenue NW from the city’s runaway real-estate market.

He implemented a program known as “Hot Spots,” in which increased police presence is augmented by city agencies converging on selected neighborhoods to address physical conditions as well as public-safety issues that make the communities vulnerable to crime. (Bobb started a similar program during his years as Oakland’s city manager under the moniker “Crime and Grime.”)

He tightened spending at District agencies; in fiscal 2004 the city had a surplus that included more than $100 million in underspending by government agencies. The mayor’s fiscal 2006 budget, released earlier this week, is likely to win even more accolades due to its inclusion of tax relief as well as increased funding for select social-services programs. The budget also comes in well below the 4.7 percent hike-in-spending limit set by the council last year.

But perhaps Bobb’s most critical battle was one he lost: Last year, after the departure of two deputy mayors, he tried to persuade the mayor to abolish the deputy-mayor structure. He wanted the four deputy mayors to become assistant city administrators. That plan would have essentially placed all the control in his hands, as it had been in Oakland and other cities.

Williams wasn’t playing. He was enamored of the multihead management structure, used in various versions by previous administrations. So he told his city administrator no. But the mayor did permit Bobb to hire loyal replacements.

“I think it’s important for Robert to have a team around him in which he is confident,” says Williams.

This arrangement generated a question often whispered in the John A. Wilson Building: Who is actually in charge—the mayor or Robert Bobb?

Issue by issue, the answer fleshes itself out. In 2004, for example, the city was trying to find a school superintendent to replace the departed Paul Vance. The search involved various D.C. organs, including the schools bureaucracy, the Board of Education, and the D.C. Council. But the heavy hitter from the mayor’s suite played a special role, to say the least.

“This guy is running the government,” says one D.C. Public Schools insider, who requested anonymity. “It was obvious during the superintendent-search process. When he was at the table, everybody would defer to his judgment—including the mayor.”

Correct: Bobb has little competition in the Wilson Building. The mayor, in fact, has no legion of agenda-plotting political aides to challenge him. Consequently, Bobb is seen as implementing his own agenda.

“Sometimes, just getting in the way of the city administrator is important to preserving the mayor’s agenda instead of the city administrator’s agenda,” says a former senior-level government official.

“And you know what I say to that? Bullshit!” counters Bobb during a recent interview.

“I do not have an agenda. I’ve tied my success to Tony Williams’ success from Day One. [The mayor] brought me here to raise the bar, to improve our systems, make reforms that are necessary, and evaluate the effectiveness of our top leaders.”

Williams peddles essentially the same line: “He’s built on my vision,” says the mayor. “It takes a fast horse to make another fast horse run faster. You want people who have oomph and gravity.”

If Bobb appears at ease knocking heads in the mayor’s cabinet meetings, it’s because he’s used to scrapping when he has to. He tells this tale about the beginning of his stint in predominantly white Kalamazoo, when he was 20-something and not long out of college: Initially he was hired as assistant city manager. But the day he was to start the job, the city manager went on a three-month sabbatical.

The city commission appointed the director of planning the acting city manager. The guy refused to provide Bobb an office in the city manager’s suite. Instead, he banished the new assistant city manager to a corner room inside the Department of Personnel.

“Then he gave me the responsibility for the budget,” continues Bobb. “That was his first mistake. I negotiated with all the department heads to develop the budget. So I learned the city inside out through the budget process.”

The acting city manager’s second mistake was deciding to have Bobb do all the budget presentations before the city commission. “So I was developing a reputation,” says Bobb.

“I did all of this in three weeks,” he adds.

The acting city manager subsequently was appointed as permanent city manager. Though Bobb finally got an office in the city manager’s suite, the treatment he received didn’t improve.

“He gave me all the problems—all the dirty work—and I did it,” says Bobb. “By working on every problem project, I learned the city front to back.”

A little more than a year later, the city manager was booted out of office. Bobb was appointed city manager by a 4-3 vote of the city commission.

Moses Walker, the lone black city commissioner at the time, suggests that Bobb, who’s also black, was fighting racial discrimination in his Kalamazoo ascent. “If they had ranked Bobb fairly, he would have been named city manager from the start,” says Walker, who provided one of Bobb’s four votes.

Bobb recalls, “Those who voted against me said I had not come up through the traditional city-manager process. I was not going to let that guy see me fail.”

Failure was a luxury Bobb couldn’t afford. Too much was riding on his success, including the regard in which his family back home in rural Louisiana held him. The oldest of five children, he was very close to his grandparents and taught his grandmother, who was a domestic, how to read. On Sundays, he went to Catholic church with his parents and then to the African Methodist Episcopal church with his grandparents. He was the first man in his family to graduate from high school and from college. (He earned a degree in political science and Latin American studies from Grambling State University.)

Bobb’s early career struggles are reminiscent of Williams’ vault to mayordom: A number-cruncher, hired for what was expected to be some obscure position, learns the city government through the budget process, uses his spreadsheets to create public policy, develops a reputation by taking names and cleaning house, and endears himself to citizens by helping them understand how government works and allowing them to see and talk with him.

“We’re both very passionate about fixing urban government. We’re both strong on the financial side of our business. He’s a little more deliberate in his decision making; I’m the kind of guy that makes a decision and says, ‘Let’s move’ and correct whatever has to be corrected midstream,” says Bobb.

“We come out of different life experiences. But the combination of our experiences makes us a good team.”

Not surprisingly, the Robert Bobb Management Model has drawn concerns, complaints, and plenty of head scratching. WTOP radio ran a five-part series accusing Bobb of hiring several unnecessary consultants—people he knew in Oakland, whom the station characterized as an “Oakland mafia.”

Jane Brunner, an Oakland city councilmember, was brought in on a contract for up to $90,000 to help the District develop a labor agreement for the new baseball stadium. Melinda Yee-Franklin and Lily Hu, both of San Francisco, were hired on a contract for $25,000 to help Secretary of the District Sherryl Hobbs Newman plan a junket to China that was taken last fall by the mayor, councilmembers, and several others. Bobb wasn’t along for the trip.

“We only use consultants surgically, for very specific assignments. It’s not like we’re going out hiring big firms like KPMG, Deloitte Touche,” says Bobb. He adds that he is not personal friends with Brunner. “It’s not where I know your home number, I go to dinner with you, I socialize with you. Nothing like that at all.”

As for reports that there was a retainer, he says there wasn’t any. “You get paid for the hours you work. We are in total control of the product and the assignments.” Nor has Brunner gotten $90,000, as WTOP reported; she had been paid about $9,000 as of late February.

Bobb further explains that because the administration was having a difficult time putting the China trip together, he recommended Yee-Franklin and Hu, who had helped plan similar trips when Bobb was in Oakland. He says the District operates at a handicap because it doesn’t have trade offices in foreign countries as some states—such as California and Virginia—do.

“We’re never going to make an apology to anyone for how we work to improve how we do our business,” Bobb adds.

The consultant story bruised Bobb’s reputation as a clean, straight-shooting manager out to save District residents money. Moreover, accusations that his reforms have yielded no discernible or significant improvements also are damaging his image.

Consider the YSA reforms: Dysfunction in the agency has tested Bobb, perhaps like no other issue in his multicity career. When he was first hired, he faced a scathing report by the D.C. inspector general that documented the hellhole that was the city’s juvenile-detention facility, the Oak Hill Youth Center in Laurel, Md. There were fire and health hazards, breaches in security that allowed drugs and weapons to be smuggled inside the facility, rape made easier by improper housing arrangements, and insufficient staff training.

Moreover, a D.C. Superior Court judge was poised to place the YSA in receivership, urged on by advocates who had grown tired of the government’s continuing neglect and failure to comply with a decades-old court order growing out of a class-action lawsuit known as Jerry M. On Oct. 15, 2003, Bobb cobbled together a crisis-management team of sorts to address the YSA disaster. They hunkered down each week, sometimes twice a week, plotting a course to keep the agency from the court’s clutches.

In November, Bobb made one of his famous unannounced site visits to Oak Hill, and later he dropped in on several group homes that had also been subjects of inspector general reports. At the youth center, he pushed out the deputy administrator for secure programs and terminated the security agreement the city had with a private contractor, placing the Department of Corrections in charge of Oak Hill’s “external security.” He also fired Oak Hill’s superintendent, the deputy administrator for court and community programs, and the chief administrative officer—in one fell swoop.

After the Oak Hill dismissals, on Bobb’s recommendation, the mayor tapped Marceline D. Alexander as interim administrator of the YSA and Mark Back as the agency’s interim general counsel. That team, working with Bobb, a court-appointed special arbitrator, and juvenile-justice advocates, has been for the past year introducing reforms at the YSA.

One of the YSA’s most urgent matters was fixing Oak Hill’s decrepit physical plant. Boilers, for example, were supposed to have been purchased for installation at Oak Hill by Dec. 17 of last year. That date was pushed to Jan. 31.

The administration is also behind on its timeline for improving mental-health services at Oak Hill. An estimate of the services needed for patients requiring acute care was to be completed by Nov. 17, and pre-training was to be done by Dec. 22. Neither task was completed on time, according to the agency’s work plan dated Jan. 12.

“My general impression is that he has acted in good faith and tried to bring reform, but as of this moment it hasn’t happened,” says Peter Nickles, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the 17-year-old class-action case that is prompting the YSA reforms.

And it’s not just at the YSA that Bobb’s reform plans have hit roadblocks. On Jan. 7, 2004, under Bobb’s direction, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Director Anne Witt rolled out an aggressive reform plan, called “One Done,” that was supposed to make it possible for citizens to get whatever they needed during one visit to a DMV center. But the agency still has not opened the new inspection station on West Virginia Avenue NE that was expected to eliminate long lines at the single current station, in Southwest. Plans to transform the DMV neighborhood centers into full-service sites—capable of providing all necessary licenses, permits, and registrations—have yet to materialize. DMV spokesperson Janis Hazel says, “One Done is on the way.”

Not everyone has such faith. “The DMV is more dysfunctional than ever,” says DC Watch’s Brizill.

And then there is the DCRA. During a series of recent hearings before the council’s Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, it was revealed that the agency had issued hundreds of “opinion letters” that prevented tenants from exercising their right to purchase their apartment buildings when they were put up for sale. Furthermore, money collected by the DCRA had been mismanaged. A report from Bobb’s own Center for Innovation and Reform outlined other problems at the agency.

And yet Bobb’s dismissal of DCRA Director Clark wasn’t entirely punitive. Canavan, the agency’s interim director, retained Clark for several weeks, permitting him to finish a project that had been started under his watch. Later, the Washington Post reported that Clark would be transferred to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, reportedly to help with permits related to the new baseball stadium. (It should be noted that failing to adequately regulate the permitting process is the very thing that forced Clark’s resignation in the first place.)

But Stanley Jackson, the newly appointed deputy mayor for planning and economic development, denied on March 16 to the Washington City Paper that Clark worked out of his office.

“Clark is cycling out of the District,” says Bobb, explaining why the former DCRA director has been allowed to stick around. “He has no supervisory role, and he probably will be gone in another month or two.”

Folks who’ve seen reformers come and go in the District know better than to grade Bobb’s performance at midterms. “It’s too soon to say how effective his leadership has been and how successful he has been,” says Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson.

By District standards, Bobb has had a long honeymoon. It’s over now.

“I don’t mind,” he says, eating eggs and whole-wheat toast at the Willard Hotel. It’s 7:30 a.m., and he is squeezing in an interview before heading to a meeting at the Washington Convention Center. Dressed in his signature dark colors—black jacket, black sweater, no tie—Bobb is generally relaxed as he discusses himself and his tenure.

“I’m no neophyte to the pressures of urban government nor the political process,” he says.“My experiences are very broad. I’ve done major economic development, dealt with juvenile crime, high homicide rates. I’ve had my share of successes and my share of failures. Every time I have failed at something, I’ve picked myself up and used that as a learning experience to go forward to be better.”

His quiet tone turns testy when the topic changes to complaints about his tenure. He bristles at comments suggesting that there is nothing to show for his reforms. As he articulates his rebuttals, he stabs the table with his fingers. His demeanor squares with accounts from others who say he knows the dynamics of retribution. A contractor who has tangled once or twice with Bobb calls him “mean—Louisiana mean.”

Whatever his disposition, Bobb has a readymade spiel for detractors. “If we didn’t do the things we’ve done in YSA, we would have been right back under court order,” he says, to the charge that the city’s juvenile-delinquency services remain inadequate and chaotic.

And on health: “Take a look at the [Healthcare] Alliance contract that was spiraling out of financial control; spending was stabilized and that contract was extended. This year, we are going to be under budget, even though we have more of our citizens enrolled in the program. When I came here, Medicaid was all over the globe in terms of cost overruns.”

On the charge that the administration has no public-safety program: “Where were the critics when crime was spiraling out of control and we had only a 2 percent reduction? Now we have a 12 percent reduction. Communities that had been ravished by crime, we said, ‘Let’s not just send in the police, but send in the entire District government to clean up those [places] where black people live!’

“Take Sursum Corda, where young [Jahkema] Princess Hansen had been killed. We had three or four homicides there in January 2004 alone,” he continues, becoming increasingly agitated. “Now, overall crime is down 30 percent, and there have been zero homicides in that area,”

On the accusation that the administration leads the charge for gentrification: “Where were the critics when we were spending hours and hours working with citizens...trying to rebuild their communities vs. having their communities become high-rise expensive condos with the pressures of development coming right at them?

“I can’t wait to have this debate with those critics,” he says.

“Never have I worked for someone who has done so much for a town and gets so little credit. That is a total mystery to me,” says Bobb of Williams, taking a breath and leaning back in his chair to sip his coffee.

Thus far, Bobb has played the archetypal role of a right-hand man. He expresses no ambitions of his own and represents his own accomplishments as those of his boss.

If he separates himself from the mayor, he may end up profiling as a latter-day Tony Williams—namely, sticking around for a short time and then running for mayor. Some see signs of such a possibility in Bobb’s search for permanent housing, which could insulate him from any charges of carpetbagging. He recently made an offer on a house in Ward 4 that was $100,000 over the asking price; someone outbid him. “I’m going to buy a house in the District. I’m looking in Wards 7 and 8,” he says, adding that his wife and teen son, who have been living in Oakland, will join him at his downtown apartment in May.

But if Williams decides to run for re-election, any mayoral ambitions that Bobb might harbor will be put on hold. The mayor has said that he is thinking of forming an exploratory committee, and during his regular press conference a couple of weeks ago, he criticized some of the other likely mayoral prospects. Williams certainly has a solid record of achievement that could make him a formidable candidate, and he does have a legacy to complete—the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, a new baseball stadium, and the transformation of communities such as Sursum Corda.

When asked what he will do if Williams doesn’t run—will he look for another city manager job or try making the leap to mayor?—Bobb demurs.

“I always looked at this as not being at the end of my career but as being at the beginning of my career,” he says. “I’m always asking, ‘What’s my next move?’”CP

Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Darrow Montgomery.

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