Dan Williams is Media Relations Director for the Mayor of Cleveland
A few weeks ago, people around the country were worried that the City of Cleveland, Ohio might not be prepared to handle the issues that would surround the Republican National Convention.
But Dan Williams, a Penn Yan native, was among those who felt the city was well prepared. That’s because as Media Relations Director for the Mayor Frank Jackson Administration, Williams had first hand knowledge of the work that went into preparing for the event over the last two years.
Within a few months of his start in Cleveland, city officials began working with the Secret Service and multiple other agencies to be prepared, Williams says. But as tensions increased around the nation over terrorist attacks, Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the police ambushes in Dallas and Baton Rouge and the potential for other civil clashes, the questions he fielded most often from the media related to the city’s preparedness.
Whenever there was a terrorist attack such as those in Belgium and Turkey, the Cleveland team pulled out the plan and determined their plans were solid, he says.
“As it turns out, there was an abundance of preparation,” he says, adding that the incidents that did happen were minor.
One of the innovations that really paid off was the addition of a new patrol. “Who would have thought a bicycle patrol would help control so many people,” he asked, explaining Mayor Jackson ordered 300 bicycles after seeing how effective they have been in Seattle.
While he was not officially connected to the convention itself, his days during the week of July 18 were long and busy. Officially working 12-hour shifts that began at 6 a.m., he was often still found on the job after 8 p.m. he says.
Now that the city can boast about the success of hosting a major event, the administration is looking forward to Cleveland being the choice for other large conventions and conferences.
“The hope is this will help bring in conventions and other groups... As people begin to look at venues between March and November, Cleveland should be at the top of the list,” he says, pointing out the facilities, favorable weather, and the city’s large theater district — the largest outside New York and Los Angeles.
Williams, who started the job in September 2014, was impressed with Mayor Jackson’s vision for the city. “They have made such tremendous improvements,” he says of the city leaders who have helped Cleveland recover from its rust belt history to launch high-tech and medical initiatives that are key to the city’s economic development plan.
Ironically, Cleveland has its own 2020 Vision — a familiar concept here in Penn Yan.
An important part of that plan is working with philanthropic organizations to help blossoming businesses. “We want to make it possible for people who don’t have much except an idea to get started. It’s fun to watch this unfold before you,” he explains.
Williams, the son of former Penn Yan Academy teacher Ronald Williams, graduated from PYA in 1974 and earned a bachelor’s degree in Bible and Theology from Baptist Bible College, Clarks Summit, Pa., before enlisting in the U.S. Army. He graduated from Officer Candidate School as a 2nd Lieutenant and rose to the rank of Colonel before retiring in October 2013. He also earned a master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College in 2009.
He served two tours of duty in Iraq and as a public affairs officer, Chief of Public and Congressional Affairs and served two tours of duty in Iraq, including time as a Media Relations Officer. He served as editor of the Army’s and Defense Department’s newspaper at Fort Lewis, Wash., managed three museums and 53-person band, and developed media relationships.