Natalie Williams

Natalie Williams is a former aide to the late Marion S. Barry. (Courtesy Photo-Williams Campaign)

Natalie Williams, the advisory neighborhood commissioner for single-member District 8A07, is one of the candidates for the Ward 8 vacancy on the D.C. Council. Williams, president of the Ward 8 Democrats, wants to use her experience and political chutzpah and savvy to represent the ward at the John A. Wilson Building. The special election is on April 28 and Williams wants her neighbors to know she is the best candidate for the position.

“I am running because I see the struggles and opportunities of our ward,” Williams said. “My candidacy represents a unifying factor that is the key to the forward progress for all Ward 8 residents. Better education and training leads to better employment, which leads to a better quality of life for our entire Ward 8 community.”

Williams is the former vice president for public relations and communications for the United Medical Center and has served as the communications director for the man she wants to replace on the council: Marion S. Barry. In 2011, she ran for the president of the Ward 8 Democrats with Barry’s support and in 2012, she ran against her former boss for his council seat.

Williams was elected as the Ward 8 Democrats president in September 2013 and she didn’t hesitate to put her mark on the organization. She has had public conflicts with the organization’s second vice president, Trayon White, who is the ward’s former D.C. State Board of Education member and a candidate for Barry’s seat, and Markus Batchelor, who served as the interim president of the Ward 8 Democrats from July-September 2013 because the president, the Rev. Joyce Scott, stepped down.

At one point, the D.C. Democratic State Committee, of which Williams is a member, was involved in trying to resolve the conflicts she had with dissenting members. However, Williams said that controversy sometimes comes with leadership.

“Leadership is not always comfortable,” she said. “I wanted to move this organization to a place where it is relevant and represented in the ward and across the city. Sometimes you make hard choices and it requires that you operate in a manner that suggests you say what you mean and mean what you say.”

Mary Cuthbert, a veteran, tough-talking commissioner, has publicly disagreed with Williams’s decisions as the Ward 8 Democrats president. Cuthbert thinks that Williams shouldn’t represent the ward on the council.

“Natalie Williams is a carpet bagger,” Cuthbert, who is supporting Barry’s son, Marion C. Barry, for the council seat, said. “She’s only lived in the ward for five years when there are some people who are running that have lived and worked here for many years. Other than Natalie, how has she helped anybody else?”

The Rev. Anthony Motley, who was a strong political ally of Marion S. Barry, shocked some when he opted to support Williams instead of Marion C. Barry. “Natalie Williams is very thoughtful and a progressive-minded person,” Motley said. “She is a professional and is a capable and compassionate individual who will represent the ward well if given a chance.”

Ward 8 D.C. State Board of Education member Tierra Jolly, the only other ward-elected politician, is voting for Williams, too. “Natalie is committed to investing in the future of our children by working with education representatives and supporting policies and programs designed to improve the lives and educational outcomes of our children,” Jolly said.

On Feb. 28, Williams won the important DC Women in Politics Ward 8 Straw Poll, which had her competing against the other female candidates in the race.

While Williams has fought battles in the public arena, she recently took on a personal one: breast cancer. “When I was running for the council in 2012, I missed two doctor appointments,” Williams said. “When I went to the doctor, I took a mammogram which revealed a cancerous lump in my left breast. Instead of having that breast removed, I decided to have both removed.”

Williams said that she went through chemotherapy and “lost weight, lost hair, and lost friends but I didn’t lose faith.”

The breast cancer ordeal convinced her to start a foundation, the Natalie Williams Breast Care Foundation, which educates women of color about the importance of breast cancer screenings.

“We have changed the lives of thousands of women by encouraging them to get tested regularly and to maintain their health,” she said.