RALEIGH — Randall Williams, a Raleigh physician known for his humanitarian work in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti, will run for mayor this fall, saying his blend of local roots and global experience has prepared him for the city's highest office.
Williams described himself as a fiscal conservative and touted backing from former mayors Tom Fetzer and Paul Coble, leading Republican figures in Raleigh politics for much of the 1990s.
Fetzer will serve as campaign adviser for Williams, an obstetrician and gynecologist making his first foray into politics.
"The thing I enjoy most is getting people to work together to transcend their differences, whether that's in Raleigh, Baghdad or Kabul," Williams said in an interview Monday.
Williams, 54, embraces his status as a City Hall outsider. He couldn't remember the last time he attended a City Council meeting, though he watched part of one on TV last month.
Asked for his views on the city budget, a proposed development code overhaul and upcoming transportation and housing bond initiatives, Williams said he's not ready to take positions.
"I don't come in painted into a corner with an agenda," he said. "When it comes to specifics, I don't want to stake myself out until I listen to all comers."
Williams said he would keep taxes low and create a "favorable" climate for businesses while pursuing public-private partnerships to ease the city's financial burden.
"Part of the reason I want (businesses) to have that money is so I can go ask for it as mayor," he said.
An avid runner, Williams pledged to start each weekday by jogging through Nash Square, in front of City Hall, where he would be available to talk with constituents.
Fetzer, mayor of Raleigh from 1993 to 1999, dismissed any notion that a Williams administration would amount to Fetzer, Part II.
He said Williams seeks to avoid partisan clashes.
"Randall's a whole lot smarter than me, for one thing," Fetzer said. "Randall was too busy delivering babies and promoting health care overseas to have been involved in much partisan politics."
Three in the race
Williams becomes the third candidate in the race to succeed Mayor Charles Meeker, who announced in May that he wouldn't seek a record sixth consecutive term.
The two previously declared candidates are Councilwoman Nancy McFarlane, who will run as an independent, and real estate executive Billie Redmond, a Republican.
Redmond pointed to her business background as CEO of a local commercial real estate brokerage with 30-plus agents.
"People can talk about being fiscally responsible," she said. "I've run a business. I know how to do it. I'm not talking about what I would do, but what I've actually done."
With four years on the City Council, McFarlane finds herself the most politically experienced of the trio.
"That's incredibly valuable," she said. "If you think about the city as a large company (and) you have a new CEO, you would hope it would be someone with experience in how the company works."
If no candidate surpasses the 50 percent mark in the Oct. 11 election, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff Nov. 8.
Susan Bryant, chairwoman of the Wake County GOP, said an anti-incumbent mood will favor newcomers. Redmond and Williams can draw contrasts with McFarlane, Bryant predicted.
"I don't think they're going to beat each other up," she said. "I think they're going after Nancy McFarlane. The best person wins and goes to the runoff."
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