Local political leaders and University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg lampooned outgoing D.C. mayor Anthony Williams Wednesday night for what they called his bland personality and frequent travel at a roast honoring him in his final weeks in office.
The roast was part of a gala to benefit Southeastern University, a private, non-profit school of 1,000 students that offers associate, bachelors and masters degrees. The event, which several hundred attended, took place at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel near Adams Morgan.
“We want our students to be the beneficiaries of the legacy Mayor Williams leaves,” said Charlene Jarvis, president of Southeastern University. Williams was elected mayor in 1998.
NBC4’s Tom Sherwood, who served as the event’s emcee, introduced Trachtenberg as president of “the only real estate development company in America that has ‘University’ attached.” Trachtenberg drew some of the loudest laughter of the night when he said Williams was “more macho than Carol Schwartz multiplied by Linda Cropp,” a reference to a city council member and the city council chair.
Trachtenberg also joked that since there are presidential searches ongoing at both GW and American University, Williams should consider applying for those positions when he leaves office.
“Besides, the great thing about being a college president, Tony, is that no one will ever find fault with you,” Trachtenberg said. “They won’t even ignore you because they won’t know you’re there. Trust me: a quiet, non-controversial fellow like you will fit right in, like Larry Summers at Harvard,” Trachtenberg added, referring to the school’s former president who generated headlines when he attempted to explain why there are more men than women in science.
When Trachtenberg left the stage after giving a five-minute speech, Sherwood said, “While I was up here, four more blocks of Foggy Bottom disappeared.”
Humor aside, Trachtenberg said in an interview with The Hatchet before the event that he has no idea whether Williams is on a list of candidates being considered for GW’s presidency and does not plan to play a role in the search.
Other local leaders also joked about Williams’ career options once he leaves office.
“Mayor Williams could become a stadium parking lot attendant, but to qualify, he must first submit a parking lot,” joked D.C.’s non-voting congressional representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, referencing the ongoing controversy about underground versus above-ground parking at the new baseball stadium. She also said Williams could join presumptive new mayor Adrian Fenty’s team as “his hair stylist in charge of buff and shine.” Fenty’s head is shaved.
Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans joked that Williams could join Al Gore as a motivational speaker, a reference to what some consider his bland style.
Fenty, grinning as he took the stage, announced, “I’ve been waiting a long time for this.” He told Williams that once he presumably takes offices, “I hope to get the same type of helpful, encouraging advice you gave me during the campaign.” Williams endorsed Fenty’s opponent, Cropp, in the Democratic mayoral primary.
Despite the light-hearted humor, roasters and attendees alike praised Williams for improvements they said he has made to the city.
Michael Akin, GW’s director of Foggy Bottom and West End affairs, said Williams helped transform D.C., but Councilmember Fenty, who will likely become mayor upon winning the general election in November, brings “a different style” and should be “interesting to watch,” adding he may be good for the city as well.
Bernard Demczuk, GW’s assistant vice president for District of Columbia affairs, used to work in D.C. government and said he first became acquainted with Williams when the current mayor became the city’s chief financial officer in 1995. He said Williams came off as brilliant, experienced and funny when they first met.
“It was those qualities that told us we could work with him, and we’ve been pleased since.”
Fenty also ended his speech with positive words for Williams. “We are all in your debt and gracious for having had the opportunity to work with you,” he said.
At the end of the evening, Williams dished out his own brand of humor after spending the better part of an hour at the butt of his colleagues’ jokes. He poked fun at Fenty’s notorious love for his BlackBerry, Cropp’s tendency to discuss RFK stadium at length and Norton’s foul mouth. He concluded with words of thanks to those who had spent the night ribbing him.
“The greatest legacy we’ve left,” Williams said, “is that we’ve raised the expectations of our people.”