City Council Candidate Chat: Terrance Williams

This is the 11th in a series of conversations with candidates for Boston City Council. Here I speak with 4th District candidate Terrance Williams.

David S. Bernstein: Why are you running for City Council down there in the 4th district?

Terrance Williams: I’m running for City Council because my grandmother told me a long time ago, “When you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, do something about it.” I’m tired of our children getting the short end of the stick. I’m tired of our schools not preparing our children with a great education. It’s time for a change.

When you say “our children getting the short end of the stick,” are you talking about those in your district, or in Boston as a whole?

It’s Boston as a whole. Children in almost every community that go to Boston schools, from East Boston to Readville. East Boston might have a Tier One school, but that doesn’t mean their kids get to go to it. If you have a Tier One school in one community, why can’t we have Tier One schools in all of the communities? Why can’t the other schools be as successful as that school?

A lot of candidates, for mayor and council, are talking about the Boston Public Schools. Are you hearing any good answers out there?

There is no real solution. I don’t hear candidates talk about needing to work with the people in the community, about working with partnerships. I tell everybody, I don’t have the answers. What I try to do is sit down with people to come up with solutions. [Politicians] want to be the one to say “this is what to do.” Why can’t we all sit down and say “how can we make our schools better?”

With so many parents who want to put their children into private schools or METCO when they can’t get them into their choice of schools, does that suggest a lack of confidence in the system?

It’s a lack of confidence in our elected officials and departments. Our parents shouldn’t have to send our kids to METCO for a good education. My daughter went to METCO for high school. She should have been able to get an excellent education here in Boston. But they’re not preparing our children to move on to the next level. When it’s time for them to go to college, they don’t have a good experience because they’re not prepared in the high schools. They go to private schools or charter schools so they can be prepared when they go to college.

Tell me a little about yourself—you have worked for the Boston Water and Sewer Department?

I still work for Boston Water and Sewer. I’ve been there almost 25 years. I also work for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department. And I’ve been doing community organizing since I was 20 years old, and I’ve been involved in counseling children, combining academics with athletics. I started Mighty Mission, where we have had young kids go off to Division 1 schools. We had Shabazz Napier in the program, who is at the University of Connecticut now. We had my daughter [Shey Peddy], who went to Temple, and then was drafted by the Chicago Sky. I refinanced my house—I had a bunch of children; I told them if you all pass with a B-plus average and you make the nationals, I will pay for the trip for all of you to go to nationals. I refinanced my house so they could go to the nationals.

There are so many good programs like that around the city. Should the city be making it easier to get funding from the city or from businesses to fund those?

Well, the program has to be an excellent program. Anybody can start a program, and say give me money to run their program. But what is your program really doing? Is your program just focusing on athleticism, or is it focusing on academics? Because if it’s not focusing on academics, you’re part of the problem. They also have to be part of that child’s life. If that child is going to a bad school, and especially if that child only has a single parent at home, those programs have to become a father to that child. Those are things we have to come together on—your problem is my problem, your child is my child. I’m not in this for money. I don’t get paid to do it. My reward is to see your child succeed in life.

How long have you lived in the Four Corners area?

I bought my house in 1993, and I’ve been there ever since. I grew up in Mission Hill. My mentor when I went to Mission Church High School was [former state representative] Kevin Fitzgerald. He told us, when you graduate, I will show you the ropes, I will help you get a job. He showed me that you don’t have to live in his district for him to help. Anybody who comes to me, wherever they are from, I try to help. We need more of that.

You seem to be very invested in your community, but thinking of community as broader than your neighborhood.

We all need to think broader because it all has a domino effect. Whatever happens in somebody else’s community, that domino effect is coming down in everybody’s community. We all have to work together to stop that effect, right here, right now, so it doesn’t get passed along. We have to stop saying these slogans if we don’t believe them. We say “it takes a village to raise a child.” Who is the village—is it a certain part of the village, or is it everybody? Is it “Boston Strong,” or just certain parts of Boston that are strong? We have to all come together and say, if that side of town has a problem, it’s a problem for all parts of town, and should get the resources and attention to help.

I have to ask: Are you related to the Terrence Williams who played for the Celtics?

I’m not. Everybody out there says you’re Terrence Williams? We know you! I have to tell them I’m not the basketball player. I love my community, I love my people—and I went out and got signatures myself. I went and knocked on doors in the neighborhoods, to introduce myself, and explain what my agenda is. And I made a promise to go back, once I got all my literature together, to pass it out and ask them when they want.

There is an incumbent in the seat now, running for re-election and also running for mayor. Do you have any observation or comment you want to make about Charles Yancey?

I don’t have any bad feeling about Charles, but it’s a disservice to the community. Running for two offices means you’re not giving District 4 the right support and guidance. He’s been in office for 30-something years. It’s time to step down. It’s time to say OK, I had my run, it’s time to let someone with young ideas come in there and make changes. When I asked Charles what he was going to do, he said “My heart is in the run for mayor. All my energy is in the run for mayor. But my name is going to be on the ballot for District 4.” So what he’s telling people is that they have no choice—that he knows he’s got a paycheck coming from City Council, because there’s nobody out there who can beat him. But he’s got a surprise in store.


Read more Boston City Council Candidate Chats. This interview has been edited for length.